By Jennifer Mayerle

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — A Minnesota woman broke barriers over the weekend as the first contestant with Down syndrome to compete in a Miss USA pageant.

Mikayla Holmgren, a 22-year-old dancer and Bethel University student, took home two awards that evening.

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Days after making history, this trailblazer is still beaming.

“I’m loving it, I’m loving it,” Mikayla said. “I love pageants, actually. [Miss Minnesota USA] is so fun.”

She hopes her message that true beauty begins on the inside spreads.

“I have special needs and it’s really important,” Mikayla said. “Dream big without limits.”

Mikayla Holmgren (credit: CBS)

Mikayla made everyone smile as she walked and waved in her evening gown.

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“[Down syndrome is] not something that hinders or holds her back, so that’s really inspiring,” said her father, Craig Holmgren.

And there was not a dry eye when her mom, Sandi, joined her on stage while a letter was read honoring Mikayla with the Spirit of Miss USA Award.

“That just moves a mama’s heart to see that she was loved so much during this pageant,” Sandi said. “Before she went out on stage that night, she texted me she said, ‘I’m thankful I’m on stage tonight, I will be the awareness that people need.'”

In addition to the Spirit of Miss USA Award, Mikayla also received the Director’s Award.

“I’m going to keep them and keep them and keep them,” Mikayla said. “I love them so much.”

She said she’s grateful for the friendships she made during the Miss Minnesota pageant.

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Other high-profile pageants have reached out with invitations for Mikayla to participate.

Jennifer Mayerle