A 22-year-old with Down syndrome graced the stage at the 2018 Miss Minnesota USA pageant, taking home two awards in the process.
The pageant was Mikayla Holmgren’s second, and she loved every moment of it.
“I love to be on the stage,” she said.
Holmgren, a college student, initially got the idea to participate in the pageant when she received a letter about it in the mail.
"She bugged me for three days that she wanted to do it and I kept pushing it off and then finally just to show her that I was applying for her, we went online and applied,” Holmgren’s mother, Sandi, told InsideEdition.com. “I specifically put in there that she had Down syndrome but thought they would push the application aside and they didn’t."
The 22-year-old participated in all three categories — interview, swimsuit and evening gown.
“Preparing is a lot of work,” her mother said.
Holmgren had a coach to help her prep in the six weeks leading up to the pageant.
“She had to learn how to walk in high heels, which is hard for any of us,” Sandi Holmgren said. “We practiced mock interviews and got used to getting interview questions.”
And Holmgren’s hard work paid off. She took home the Director’s Award and the Spirit of Miss USA Award.
“When they announced my name, I was in tears. I told my mom it’s very emotional. That came out of nowhere,” Holmgren said.
Sandi Holmgren hopes her daughter’s participation shows the importance of inclusion.
“It’s so important that our children are able to be included whether it’s in school or church or Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts. They just need to be included and accepted for who they are,” Sandi Holmgren said.