Mikayla Holmgren, a 22-year-old from Stillwater, Minnesota, made Miss Universe history on Sunday. When she took the stage at the Miss Minnesota USA competition, Holmgren became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state beauty pageant.
While she wasn’t crowned Miss Minnesota—Kalie Wright took home that honor—Holmgren did win the Spirit of Miss USA award as well as the Director’s Award. It was the first time a contestant with Down syndrome won those awards.
“I was super shocked, I was in tears,” she told Buzzfeed News. “I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It’s kind of crazy.”
Holmgren had previously participated in pageants created for women and girls with disabilities, winning the Miss Minnesota Amazing competition. But this April, she received a letter encouraging her to apply to participate in the Miss Minnesota contest.
Mikayla Holmgren, the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA contest, is interviewed after the pageant in Burnsville. Holmgren, 22, of Marine on St. Croix, won the Spirit Award and the Directors Award. pic.twitter.com/GOx3kmTmfx
— Mary Divine (@MaryEDivine) November 27, 2017
The Bethel University’s Inclusive Learning and Development program student won over judges with her award-winning smile and dance performance. “Dancing is a good outlet for me. It’s how I express myself,” Holmgren, who has been dancing since she was six, told BuzzFeed. “It’s my talent and I want to show people what I can do and how I can give more.”