This woman has just become the first person with Down syndrome to compete in a state parade of Miss United States


Still wearing her tiara over perfectly combed blonde curls, Mikayla Holmgren could not stop smiling as she remembered how it was not only to compete but to receive two awards in the Miss Minnesota USA contest.

"I was super surprised, I was crying," the 22-year-old from Stillwater, Minnesota, told BuzzFeed News during Facetime since her celebratory dinner on Sunday night. "I went from a special needs contest to the biggest contest in the world, it's crazy."

In addition to winning the Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director's Award, Holmgren also made history as the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in a Miss USA contest across the country, according to The Miss Universe Organization.

"It's a lot of work," he said, laughing. "My mother and I were always shopping and then simulating interviews and getting ready and practicing everything, makeup and hair, just look at my face!"

Holmgren, who has been dancing since he was six years old, says he loves acting in front of the crowds and draws strength and joy from the stage.

"Dancing is a good start for me, it's how I express myself," he explained. "It's my talent and I want to show people what I can do and how I can give more."

Currently studying in the Inclusive Learning and Development program at Bethel University and plans to graduate in 2018. She lives on campus, interns at the university's child care center, and is also an ambbadador for Best Buddies, an organization Nonprofit that fosters the relationships and life skills of people with intellectual and developmental disabilities.

After winning Miss Minnesota Amazing, a contest for women with disabilities, in 2015, Holgrem said he knew he wanted to take on a bigger challenge. So when she received a letter by mail about Miss Minnesota in April, she "annoyed her mother" for days to apply it.

"I wrote that I had Down syndrome and I thought they would go with her, but they decided they wanted me to be part of her," her mother, Sandi Holgrem, told BuzzFeed News from the restaurant. "I did not realize it was part of the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageant, and it took me a few weeks to realize the enormity of everything and the great problem it was for her to be there."

Dressed in a blue dress, Holgrem Shocked and euphoric he accepted his awards on Sunday when the audience greeted her with a standing ovation.

"You make people smile every time you talk, live, smile and dance," Denise Wallace Heitkamp, ​​executive state director, said when presenting the Spirit Award: "You extend the spirit of Miss USA by being Always true to yourself and before others, you have disinterest, humility and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and emotion in your heart. "

After reading about Holgrem's participation in the contest, The Pioneer Press reported that several women brought their daughters, who are also Down Syndrome, to see her participate in the event.

"I felt overwhelmed," said Lana Beaton, who took Clara, her two-year-old daughter, to see the parade. "It was full of so much hope, joy and enthusiasm for her and our future."

Holgrem says he wants to "open the way" and show a different side of Down syndrome, where women and girls with developmental disabilities can participate. in the same beauty and talent events as any other person.

"I want to do some models and dance more," she said, noting that she choreographed all her routines. "I have a great future."

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