Mikayla Holmgren, a dancer with Down syndrome, has entered the Miss USA pageant.


Holmgren revealed her bid for the Miss Minnesota USA to her local news channel. “Beauty is from the inside out,” she said. “I’m happy and joyful, it’s like beauty inside out. It’s almost gorgeous.” The 22-year-old is a university student from St. Croix, and is thought to be the first woman with Down syndrome to enter the competition. She is considered a “trailblazer” by Denise Wallace, the executive co-director of the Miss Minnesota USA pageant.

Holmgren is determined not to let the syndrome become a disability. “I want to do this, on my own, and I’m really, really proud of myself,” she said. She pursues dance, speaks with the Minnesota House and Senate, and is a mentor to young women. Last year, Minnesota was the first state to feature a pageant contestant to compete while wearing a hijab. Halima Aden was partially raised in a refugee camp in Kenya, and wore her hijab and a full-body burkini during the swimsuit round.

“I want the world to know that Down syndrome does not define me,” she said on her crowfunding page. “With your help, I can break through walls.”

“To have women from all walks of life truly be represented on stage shows that pageants are accessible for all and that beauty isn’t a box that we can fit in,” Jordan Buckellew, the director of Minnesota Miss Amazing, told the Star Tribune. His pageant is one designed for women and girls who have some sort of disability. “We’re stepping away from the Miss Congeniality vibe where everyone has blond hair and blue eyes. That’s not what we accept or define as beauty anymore.”

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