Confidently Beautiful. That is the motto of the Miss Universe organization. If you’re not familiar with Miss Universe, it is a worldwide beauty pageant with participants from over 50 countries every year. The 2017 pageant, held Nov. 26, had 92 entrants.
Beauty pageants may seem all glittery and glamorous, but in reality, it is a long and almost degrading process. In the United States, first, the contestant must fit the set criteria; the contestant must be a citizen of the United States, be legally female, have never been married, never had a child or in guardianship of a minor, and the list goes on and on.
If you fit the extensive criteria list, next you must have competed in various competitions such as countywide, statewide, and eventually Miss USA prior to qualifying Miss Universe. Contestants go through rigorous training to look their best and be best equipped to face their opponents in an interview, evening gown, and swimsuit competitions.
Dating back to the ’50s, the contestants and criteria for this competition were rarely changed. Although, nearly 70 years later, the pageant criteria was altered for the first time. Mikayla Holmgren, 22 years old, was the first ever Miss USA contestant with down syndrome. She was picked to compete in the Miss USA pageant to represent Minnesota along with Meridith Gould, winner of Miss Minnesota 2017.
In 2015, Holmgren won Minnesota’s Miss Amazing at a pageant for women with disabilities. Two years later, she received a letter in the mail about competing in Miss USA. She told Buzzfeed, “I was super shocked, I was in tears, I went from a special needs pageant to the biggest pageant in the world. It’s kind of crazy.”
Holmgren has not only challenged societal beauty standards but she is also an accomplished dancer, choreographer and ambassador for Best Buddies International, a program which helps create a more inclusive world for people with intellectual & developmental disabilities, according to Now to Love.
At the end of the night, despite not winning Miss Minnesota, Holmgren reportedly took home the Miss Minnesota USA Spirit Award and the Director’s Award along with a standing ovation.
By taking a chance and stepping out of her comfort zone, Holmgren generated change and societal standards of beauty. She told the Today Show, “I want others to believe in themselves. I am thankful for the stage, a place for awareness of Down syndrome.”
Jaylee Cortes, said “Mikayla Holmgren’s courage is inspirational to others. By taking part in the Miss USA pageant, she has changed beauty standards and help others with down syndrome feel beautiful as well.”
Holmgren has taken the steps to take action in what she believes in an generate change, will you?