Woman With Down Syndrome Competes In A Miss USA Pageant For The First Time In History
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When you think of beauty pageants, what’s the first thought that comes to mind? If it’s only sparkly dresses and sequin bows then you’ve been greatly misled. Maybe back in the day beauty pageants were all about showcasing pretty ribbons, but these days it’s about that and so much more! For the first time in history, a woman with downs syndrome has been accepted to compete in the Miss USA State Pageant and you’ll be blown away by her can-do attitude. You’ll be shocked at everything she has managed to accomplish in just 22 years.

20. Beauty Pageants

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The beauty pageant world is way more than just pretty dresses, sequin bows, and makeup. While outer beauty does make its way in through the form of swimsuit competitions and hour-long makeup sessions, you’ll be surprised by how much of a difference beauty pageants can make in the life of a competitor. Here is the story of one woman whose beauty pageant experience will inspire you greatly.

19. Celebration of Women

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For those of you who may have your doubts, beauty pageants have greatly helped to celebrate women in so many forms. Beauty pageants have often honored women for their strong attitudes, smarts, talents and non-traditional beauty. It is because of this that young Mikalya Holmgren had the courage to apply to the Miss USA Pageant & she’s not the first to break the mold, as you’ll see next!

18. Halima Aden

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Halima Aden made waves when she joined the Miss USA Pageant as the first finalist to compete while wearing a hijab. Her career skyrocketed after that and she began to appear in huge campaigns such as Rihanna’s new beauty line, Fenty Beauty, and Kanye West’s Yeezy fashion show. It’s stories like these that encourage other women like Mikalya to seek out their dreams and boy did her dreams come true!

17. Meet Mikalya

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Meet Mikalya Holmgren, a 22-year-old from Stillwater, Minnesota. This year, Mikalya became the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the Miss USA pageant. However, she managed to accomplish even more than that during her time in the competition! Find out all about this extraordinary woman.

16. Life In The Spotlight

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Mikalya is not one to shy away from the spotlight as she has been in love with performing since she was a young girl. Mikalya has been dancing since she was six years old and she adores showcasing her talents for all to see. “Dancing is a good outlet for me. It’s how I express myself,” Mikalya was quoted telling Buzzfeed. “It’s my talent and I want to show people what I can do and how I can give more.”‘

But that’s only one of Mikalya’s amazing accomplishments and talents. You won’t believe what else she does.

15. Many Talents

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Mikalya currently attends school at Bethel University’s Inclusive Learning and Development program and is set to graduate from the program in 2018. While attending school she also interns at the university’s childcare center. But that’s not everything that this young woman has been up to and you’ll be shocked at the organization that asked her to represent them.

14. Brand Ambassador

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As an exemplary woman, Mikalya was asked to be the ambassador for Best Buddies, a nonprofit organization that consists of volunteers that work to create opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Of course, Mikalya accepted and she is proud to be the ambassador to an organization that is doing so much good in the lives of those in need.

Mikalya then began to look out for bigger opportunities to challenge herself.

13. Beauty Pageant Win

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Mikalya applied and competed in the Minnesota Miss Amazing pageant. This pageant is open to women with disabilities to help build confidence and allow them to grow their skills and talents. Mikalya took first place in the competition, but she knew she wanted to push herself even more. So she decided to make a HUGE life-changing decision.

12. Miss USA

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One day, Mikalya received a letter in the mail about applying to be Miss Minnesota in the Miss USA pageant. She knew she wanted to apply and she began to bug her mom day and night to allow her to fill out the application. Her mom was hesitant at first…

11. Sandi Holmgren

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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,” her mom, Sandi Holmgren, told BuzzFeed News. “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.”

No one expected what would happen next…

10. A Callback

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Finally, Mikalya got the answer that she had been looking for: a callback. ‘I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It’s kind of crazy,’ Mikayla told BuzzFeed. Mikalya was so excited and shocked that she broke down in tears. Check her out at the competition in a stunning gown.

9. The Competition

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The day of the competition had finally come and Mikalya was excited and prepared. She made huge waves but this wasn’t the end of her appearance at the Miss USA Pageant. No, in fact, this was only the beginning.

8. Two Awards

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Mikalya was asked to join the stage once again to accept not just one, but two awards: The Spirit of Miss USA Award and the Director’s Award. Mikalya was teary-eyed as she accepted the two awards. A huge smile was all over her face at this very proud moment. You’ll shed a tear when you read what the director had to say about Mikalya.

7. The Director’s Words

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You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile, and dance,” Denise Wallace Heitkamp, executive state director, said as she presented the Spirit Award. “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.”

But those aren’t the only kind words that Mikalya received that night…

6. Incredible Woman

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Mikayla is such an incredible young woman,” said the executive co-director of Miss Minnesota USA. “She is the epitome of what the Miss Universe Organization strives to look for in contestants.

Mikayla’s strength and tenacity have also begun to inspire other young girls with disabilities and she couldn’t be happier to hear that!

5. Big Dreams

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I want to be able to show others what inclusion is all about, that someone with special needs can go after their dreams,” Mikaylya said. Well, Mikalya can be happy knowing that she did leave many feeling inspired as the Pioneer Press reported some amazing news after it was known that Mikalya would be participating in the Miss Minnesota pageant.

4. The Pioneer Press

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The Pioneer Press quickly reported that Mikalya would be participating in the pageant and word spread amongst several women who have daughters with Down syndrome. They all ended up bringing their daughters to the event to watch Mikalya perform, hoping to encourage their own daughters that anything is possible if they just believe in themselves.

3. A Mother’s Joy

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I was overwhelmed,” Lana Beaton, who brought her 2-year-old daughter Clara to see the pageant, told the Pioneer Press. “I was full of so much hope and joy and excitement for her and our future.”

Some of the girls even went backstage and took photos with Mikalya as she was all dolled up! So what are Mikalya’s future goals? You’ll be amazed.

2. Trailblazer

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Mikalya wants to make a name for herself and show people that Down syndrome is more than what you read about in a science textbook. Mikalya hopes to “blaze the trail” for other girls with Down syndrome and encourage them to fight for their dreams, even if it is competing in a beauty competition.

1. Big Future

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I want to do some modeling and more dancing,” she said, “I have a big future.”

Mikalya continues to choreograph her own dance moves and look for more opportunities to showcase her talents and both her outer and inner beauty!