Woman becomes the first Miss USA contestant with Down syndrome

Mikayla Holmgren made history on Sunday night when she became the first ever woman with Down syndrome to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant.

The 22-year-old, from Stillwater, Minnesota, received a standing ovation when she took to the stage at the Ames Center in Burnsville, where she took home the wards for the Spirit of Miss USA and the Director's Award.

Denise Wallace Heitkamp,executive state director, told Mikayla as she presented the award: “You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile, and dance. 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.”

Mikayla has never been one to shy away from the spotlight. Having entered into the world of performing arts and the tender age of six, she quickly developed a passion for dancing.

In 2015, she was crowned Minnesota Miss Amazing after winning the pageant for women with disabilities.

Speaking to BuzzFeed News, Mikayla's mother, Sandi Holmgren, described the moment her daughter received a letter about Miss Minnesota.

“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,” she said.

“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.”

Her inclusion in the competition marks a huge step forward for the pageant industry, as well as other young women with Down syndrome.