When Kara McCullough, a government scientist with the the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, was crowned Miss USA 2017, she helped challenge the perception of beauty pageants and the women who compete in them. Mikayla Holmgren hopes to further challenge that view in 2018 as the first Miss USA with Down syndrome.
Holmgren's path to the crown
At the end of April 2017, Holmgren's entry to the Miss Minnesota USA pageant was accepted, making her the first woman with Down syndrome to compete for the state's title. As far as pageant officials are aware, she's the first to enter into any Miss USA state competition, according to Teen Vogue. If she wins her state, she'll be eligible to go for the national crown in the 2018 Miss USA pageant.
This won't be Holmgren's first time on a pageant stage, however – in 2015 she won the Minnesota Junior Miss Amazing competition, a pageant for women with disabilities. Her show talents include dancing and gymnastics. She's also an artist, and currently studies at Bethel University. She hopes to be an art teacher once she graduates.
"Beauty is inside out," she told Teen Vogue.
She loves pageants, using them as a platform to bring her joy and enthusiasm to other people, she explained. She told the source that she loves to smile and doesn't feel nervous to compete. Her desire to be visible and to serve as a role model for kids with Down syndrome is plenty of motivation to keep her from worrying about the event.
"I want the whole world to see that I can do things that are hard and that people with Down syndrome are beautiful and talented," she said to the StarTribune.
— Bethel University (@BethelU) April 24, 2017
Paving the way for others
Holmgren is one of the latest in a series of people with Down syndrome who are working to challenge people's perceptions of the condition. Last year, Mickey Deputy, a woman with Down syndrome, competed in Indiana for a shot at the Miss America pageant, according to Today. Actress Jamie Brewer, who has played reoccurring roles on the hit TV series American Horror Story, became the first model with Down syndrome to walk at New York Fashion Week in 2015, USA Today reported.
"People with Down syndrome must be vigilant about staying healthy."
With better research and resources made available for people with Down syndrome, they're creating space for a bigger place in the mainstream. Society as a whole is learning that having Down syndrome doesn't dictate what a person is capable of doing or achieving.
As is the case for anyone, people with Down syndrome must be vigilant about staying healthy through proper nutrition and physical activity to keep them well enough to meet their goals, like Holmgren does for her dancing. Learning diet and exercise management techniques and healthy lifestyle habits should start early so that they are a natural part of daily life for people with Down syndrome. It will help them age into healthier adults who can participate in more activities and increase their independence as they partake in dance classes, sports leagues or work jobs.
Parents of children with Down syndrome should be sure to stay in contact with doctors and educators about meeting the fitness and nutritional needs of their child. As a team, they can all work together to find the right activities for a kid with Down syndrome so they can develop skills like Holmgren did, that leads them to their dream career path or allows them to participate in events like the Miss USA pageant.