Mikayla Holmgren has become a national sensation, breaking boundaries and raising awareness by being the first woman with Down syndrome to participate in the Miss USA Minnesota state pageant. Since participating, Mikayla has been featured in interviews spanning everywhere from CBS News to NewsWeek.
I was lucky enough to get a chance to ask Mikayla some questions and learn more about this trailblazer.
Mikayla Holmgren, 22, is from Stillwater, Minnesota. When I asked her to tell me a little about herself, she said, “I am a 22 year-old dancer.”
Dance and gymnastics is a large part of who Mikayla is. “I have doing both since I was six years old. I have been on competition dance teams, Pom squads, cheer squads, Special Olympics,” Holmgren said.
Dance is something that Mikayla has enjoyed doing for most of her life. It was only natural for her to choose dance as her talent two and a half years ago when she first participated in Miss Amazing, a national organization that hosts pageants for girls and women with disabilities.
Miss Amazing was the first pageant that Mikayla participated in. The pageant provided Mikayla with a wonderful outlet her dance. It has also provided her with many new friends and new experiences.
“The best part of being involved with Miss Amazing is making new friends. I loved being able to go to National with my sister queens,” Holmgren said. “Since I can’t participate again until I am 24, I love coming back and volunteering. I love helping with the younger girls.”
Mikayla is an inspiration for young girls who are trying to build their confidence and step outside of their comfort zone. Her advice is pretty simple:
“Have fun on stage. Don’t be nervous. Just smile and have fun.”
There’s no doubt that Mikayla is living the advice she preaches. After participating in Miss Amazing and winning the Miss Minnesota Amazing pageant, she had an opportunity to take her pageantry skills to the next level… Miss USA.
It wasn’t always Mikayla dream to participate in Miss USA. She really just wanted to participate in another pageant since she enjoyed Miss Amazing so much.
“When the application came in the mail, I bugged my mom for three days to let me do it,” Holmgren told me.
With Mikayla’s persistence, her mother agreed that she should participate and they sent in the application for the Miss Minnesota USA, which was accepted! It was official, Mikayla was going to participate in a state-wide Miss USA pageant.
Prior to Miss USA, Mikayla had participated in two Miss Amazing pageants, both state and national. This gave her the on-stage and interview experience she needed to be a contestant in Miss Minnesota USA.
Although she was breaking barriers for women with disabilities, she didn’t let all of that pressure stress her out.
“Being a part of Miss USA was an amazing experience,” Holmgren said. “It was so fun to be able to try on all kinds of gowns. I had to learn walking in heels.”
But with all the gowns and glitz aside, it was really the people that made Mikayla’s experience so memorable.
“The best part was making new friends with the women there,” Holmgren explained. “They were so nice.”
Pageants have given Mikayla not only strength and confidence, but an entire community of friends. She hopes to continue to participate in pageants, possibly Miss USA again, but right now she focused on school. She is a student at Bethel University in their BUILD program (Bethel University Inclusive Learning and Development) and will be graduating in May with a certificate in Education. During her time there she has enjoyed living on campus, dancing on the university dance team and, of course, making new friends.
It seems like this is just the beginning for Mikayla. She told me that she has many dreams. Firstly, she is going to put that certificate in Education to work!
“I would like to have my own studio that teaches art and dance to people with special needs,” Holmgren said.
She also hopes to use her new-found stardom to help others, and have a little fun.
“I would also like to model and be on dancing with the stars,” Holmgren told me, “And to continue to inspire others.”
To keep up with all that Mikayla continues to accomplish, follow her on Instgram @mikholmgren_inspiring_others.