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Mikayla Holmgren made history in 2017 when she became the first-ever woman with Down syndrome to compete in the Miss Minnesota USA state pageant. Now, the 26-year-old hopes to make history again by becoming the first woman with Down syndrome to model in a swimsuit for Sports Illustrated.
Unfortunately, it won't be this year, as she recently learned that she did not make the top 15. But if her plucky, spirited attitude is any indication, Holmgren won't let the news sully her determination.
“It felt kind of bad,” Holmgren revealed in an interview with TODAY about not making the cut this year. “I’ll wait until next year to compete.”
Holmgren explained that she's eager to join the publication's roster of models to raise awareness and show other people with Down syndrome that the sky's the limit.
“I wanted to bring awareness for those who have special needs and want to do modelling, like me,” she said. “[I want people to know] I can do those things.”
Holmgren's mom, Sandi, admitted that she was initially surprised when her daughter expressed interest in wanting to model for Sports Illustrated, but has since shown her complete support.
“It gives another opportunity to show that those with Down syndrome have so much to share and give,” Sandi told TODAY. “They always say beauty is in the eye of the beholder and, of course, we’re prejudiced but we think that those with Down syndrome are some of the most beautiful people in the world.”
Just last week, Holmgren took to Instagram to share an emotional message, thanking her mother for her support in her bid to model for the iconic publication.
"Thank you, mom, for always being my biggest advocate and for letting me spread my wings. Even when I want to do the unknown. Thank you for believing in me!" she wrote.
“We just encouraged her to go after her dreams,” Sandi said about raising Holmgren. “When she was born this little preemie baby that had multiple surgeries and the doctors were like, ‘We don’t know if she’ll ever walk or talk.’ Here she is 26 years later just breaking barriers. She has a story to tell.”
She went on to explain that Holmgren's ability to break barriers will ultimately help end the stigma that surrounds Down syndrome and combat stereotypes.
“As soon as somebody hears the word Down syndrome they think almost the worst,” she explained. “People need to look past the label and see that there’s so much more inside of them that they need to share.”
Holmgren added that she believes her pageant experience and interest in modelling for Sports Illustrated helps others understand her condition and encourages open-mindedness.
"It was so good to be a role model and to stand out," she said. "I have hopes and dreams. I want everyone to be more empowered.”