Last year, the whole country (or at least the part that still believes diversity is a virtue) rejoiced as supermodel Halima Aden became the first woman to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant while wearing a hijab and a burkini, it was simply history in the making and a great stride for women everywhere and most importantly, inclusivity, something that has been unfortunately lacking in this country for a while now.
Aden’s brave statement raised the bar for the rest of the fashion and beauty industries, and in this free market society that can only mean more consumer benefits and Miss Minnesota USA is not done playing its part as a trailblazer in this evolution.
Last Sunday the organization broke down another barrier as they awarded the Spirit of Miss USA Award and Director’s Award to 22-year-old Mikayla Holmgren, a young and graceful dancer with Down Syndrome. This historic event was met with a standing ovation from the crowd who had just experienced history in the making, as Holmgren became the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in a Miss USA pageant, let alone win an award in one.
“I was super shocked, I was in tears,” Holmgren told BuzzFeed News. “I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It’s kind of crazy.” It is fair to say that a tear or two were shed during the evening as Holmgren took the stage.
Mikayla Holmgren said she was so shocked she cried when she won two awards at Miss Minnesota yesterday. She also made history as the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in a @MissUSA state pageant 👑https://t.co/dBqh8BP2FE pic.twitter.com/rdxXHmTzgF
— Brianna Sacks (@bri_sacks) November 27, 2017
Holgrem explained to the media that dancing and performing are means of expression to her and that she hopes that her involvement in the competition can educate people’s perceptions about her condition. “I want to show my personality. I want to show what my life looks like, being happy, and joyful. I want to show what Down syndrome looks like,” said Holgrem to People back in May when she was starting her application process.
“Mikayla is such an incredible and accomplished young woman,” Executive co-director of Miss Minnesota USA, Denise Wallace told People. “She is the epitome of what the Miss Universe Organization strives to look for in contestants.”
Mikayla Holmgren has become the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant pic.twitter.com/laQOQ1kmWS
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) November 27, 2017
The young woman’s inclusion in the pageant did not go unnoticed, her inspiring story reached many women who traveled to the pageant with their daughters in order to cheer Holgrem. “I was overwhelmed — I was full of so much hope and joy and excitement for her and our future,” said Lana Beaton to The Pioneer Press, while holding her 2-year-old daughter Clara, who has Down syndrome and accompanied her to the pageant.
— Good Morning America (@GMA) November 28, 2017
Article inspired by Refinery 29 // This Woman With Down Syndrome Just Made History In A Miss USA Pageant