This Woman Just Became The First Person With Down Syndrome To Compete In A Miss USA State Pageant

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Miss Minnesota USA — the same pageant that put Halima Aden and her hijab on the world stage — just broke another major barrier in the world of beauty. For the first time, a woman with Down syndrome not only competed in a Miss USA pageant, but also won two awards.

Historically, beauty pageants have not exactly been known for promoting an inclusive or diverse definition of beauty. But in the age of social media, contestants have started to use their global platform to promote important messages about body diversity and representation (see: Miss Universe contestant Davina Bennett nearly breaking Twitter by competing with her natural hair).

“You exude the spirit of Miss USA by always being true to yourself and putting others first,” Heitkamp said, according to Pioneer Press. “You have selflessness, humility and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and excitement in your heart.”

Holmgren, who competed in the special needs pageant Minnesota Miss Amazing in 2015, told BuzzFeed that she was overwhelmed to be participating in the Miss Minnesota USA pageant.

“I was super shocked, I was in tears,” she said. “I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It’s kind of crazy.”

Holmgren’s mother, Sandi, told CBS News that she’s proud of her daughter for forging a new path. “She’s going to be a leader and [she] stands firms for others that don’t maybe know how to achieve things,” she said.

Holmgren, who has been dancing since she was 6 years old, performed a dance routine for the pageant’s talent portion.

“Dancing is a good outlet for me. It’s how I express myself,” she told BuzzFeed. “It’s my talent and I want to show people what I can do and how I can give more.”

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