Mikayla Holmgren made history in 2017 after competing in a Miss USA state pageant.
A young woman in Minnesota is aspiring to take the fashion world by storm by becoming the first woman with Down syndrome to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue. There is nothing that can stop 26-year-old Mikayla Holmgren, whose mission is to "dream big without limits," from achieving her goals by breaking social standards. In 2017, she made history after becoming the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state pageant where she was presented with the Spirit of Miss USA award and the Director's award. Holmgren continued working on creating a new set of norms in the existing fashion industry and in a bid to do so, the young trailblazer sent her audition tape to Sports Illustrated recently for an opportunity to be featured in the magazine's next swim edition.
"Hi, SI. I am Mikayla Holmgren. I am from Minnesota. SI Swim has been such a champion of the diversity of beauty. Now is the time to include someone like me. I am a dancer, a model, public speaker, and college graduate. I am the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the Miss USA state pageant. I rocked my bathing suit on the stage. Now, it's time to rock the magazine," says the 26-year-old in the audition tapes she sent to Sports Illustrated on February 16. "All women deserve to be celebrated," she added. "We need awareness for those with special needs. Thank you, SI Swim."
During an interview with The Gazette, Holmgren explained what being included in the magazine's upcoming swim edition would mean to her and thousands of others like her. She explained that the move would help her inspire people to be stronger and more confident while creating a world that is more inclusive. This is also the reason behind her decision to compete in the Miss USA state pageant in 2017. The ambitious young woman plans on entering more pageants in the future. "I feel confident on the stage," she said, "and I want to spread awareness around the world."
"I was competing in this pageant because I gained more confidence, and to show others I can do this and learn new skills," she continued. Holmgren also recalled the moment she won the Spirit of Miss USA award and explained the significance it held for her. "The spirit award was so touching because my good friend wrote this letter about me, and I was in tears that I got this award," she shared. "Then I got my Director's Award. I worked so hard on my achievements and my goals and my path."
The 26-year-old graduated from Bethel University's B.U.I.L.D. Program and received a two-year certificate program for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Holmgreen is an unstoppable force that strives to serves as an inspiration for other people with Down syndrome. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every 700 people in the U.S. are born with Down syndrome. About 6,000 babies are born in the U.S. with this chromosomal condition, every year. "We tell all our people who have special needs or Down syndrome, go ahead and do it," shared Holmgreen while speaking to Gretchen Carlson during Friday's episode of the podcast PEOPLE Every Day. "Just follow your dreams and then do things."
Emphasizing her ultimate goal, Holmgren shared that she wants to inspire others through her pursuits. "Go after your dreams and your goals," Holmgren expressed. "Set your mind to it and just learn something new." Her mom Sandi is very proud of what her daughter has achieved so far. "She's a go-getter," she said, who instead of restricting her daughter allowed Holmgren to pursue her goals. "Then they achieve more than you can ever imagine. She's one that doesn't sit still long enough," said Sandi. Per reports, the 26-year-old has been featured in campaigns by Sephora, Sigma Beauty, and Rosedale Mall. "I love to model because I am a role model to so many people...," she said, adding, "I (also) love to model because modeling is a passion of art." While she is yet to hear back from Sports Illustrated, Holmgren said she isn't worried about the answer. "I just wait and see," she said, "and fingers crossed."