This woman just became the first person with Down's Syndrome to compete in a Miss USA beauty pageant
When you think of beauty pageants, it's hard not to think of snotty teenagers whose parents have built their ego up to a degree that they naturally think they are a lot better than anyone else to have ever existed. While this stereotype may be completely incorrect, beauty pageants are still often seen as a vehicle for feeding vanity, rather than serving any sort of significant purpose.
However, a pageant in Minnesota did serve a significant purpose for one woman, who became the first person with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant. Mikayla Holmgren, 22, from Stillwater, Minnesota, stole the show as she took to the stage in the Ames Center, Burnsville, as a contestant for the Miss Minnesota USA Pageant.
Not simply content with making history at the event, Ms Holmgren also walked away with the Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director's Award after she received a standing ovation from the audience who were packed inside of the center.
Presenting Mikayla with the Spirit Award, executive state director Denise Walla Heitkamp said: "You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile, and dance. You exude the spirit of Miss USA by always being true to yourself and putting others first."
"You have selflessness, humility, and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and excitement in your heart."
The Bethel University student wore an eye-catching, floor-length blue gown and had to wipe her tears away as she accepted her two awards. The young woman took up dancing at the age of six and caught the attention of the Miss Minnesota organizers after she won Minnesota Miss Amazing 2015, a pageant for women with disabilities.
Speaking of her daughter's accomplishments, Mikayla's mom Sandi Holmgren described the moment when her daughter received a latter about Miss Minnesota and wouldn't let up on the idea of competing.
"I wrote that she had Down syndrome and thought they would pass her by but they decided they wanted her to be a part of it," she said.
"I didn't realize it was part of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageant and it took me a few weeks to realize the enormity of it and what a big deal it was for her to be in."
Mikayla's inclusion in the event not only turned out to be a big deal for her, but also for plenty of other young women with Down syndrome, who came out to show their support for the student as she took the stage.
Although she didn't win the contest, with the crown going to Kalie Wright, of Eagle Bend, Mikayla says that she plans to continue inspiring others by continuing to compete in pageants in the future.
It's not the first time that the Miss Minnesota pageant has seen a "first". In fact, it's the second year in a row that there has been an inspiring contestant, with last year's semi-finalist Halima Aden becoming the first woman to wear a hijab and burkini during the competition. Due to her success last year, several other Muslim women followed her example and competed at this year's event.
Well done to Mikayla for breaking the stereotypes that are often associated with beauty pageants. No doubt she will go on to inspire plenty of young girls who have never felt like they could compete in such contests.