BURNSVILLE, Minn. (WSVN) — Mikayla Holmgren graced the Miss Minnesota USA pageant stage Sunday with her beauty and presence. And though she didn’t win, she is one of the latest contestants to break barriers in the competition.

Fox 9 reports that Holmgren became the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in a Miss USA state competition.

“Anybody that even spends five minutes with her knows that she is the right person to be the first to represent a community of people that need to see themselves doing something like this,” Miss Minnesota USA Executive Director Denise Wallace Heitkamp told the station.

While Holmgren did not win the title of Miss Minnesota, she did get a standing ovation as she received two major awards: the Miss Minnesota USA Spirit Award and Director’s Award, the Pioneer Press reports.

“You make people smile every time you talk, cheer, smile and dance,” said Heitkamp as she read from Mikayla’s nomination letter for the Spirit Award. “You exude the spirit of Miss USA by always being true to yourself and putting others first. You have selflessness, humility and the ability to overcome obstacles with a smile on your face and excitement in your heart.”

It wasn’t her first time on the pageant stage. Holmgren previously competed in both the state and national Junior Miss Amazing pageants, which recognizes girls and women with disabilities.

Holmgren says with her appearance in a state Miss USA pageant, which is part of the Miss Universe organization, she hopes she can inspire other young women and show that her Down Syndrom “does not define” her.

“With your help, I can help break through walls,” she told KARE.

Last year a Miss Minnesota USA semi-finalist became the first woman to wear a hijab during the pageant, with several others following suit at Sunday’s competition.

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