Minnesota woman vies to become first Sports Illustrated swimsuit model with Down syndrome

SAINT PAUL, Minn. (NewsNation Now) — A 26-year-old woman with down syndrome is making international waves as she competes to be featured in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition. Mikayla Holmgren says she wants to represent inclusivity. 

“I love being on the camera and I just want to do it. I just want to be more involved in modeling because I did a lot of photoshoots and a lot of radio shoots. And it stuck with me every time I go,” said the model.

“I want it to [add] more diversity … all women deserve to be celebrated,” she said.

She did Miss Amazing in 2015 and then competed in her first Miss USA state pageant. She made international headlines as the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the system for the title of Miss Minnesota USA.

“I got to see all my directors and all my friends. It’s cool. It’s really cool to be on a stage and to have fun … and cameras,” she said.

Mikayla has finished her video submission for Sports Illustrated. She even picked out the swimsuit she likes best for the audition with her mother.

According to the CDC, each year about 6,000 babies born in the United States have Down syndrome. Scientists estimate Down syndrome occurs in about 1 in every 700 babies.

“When we first found out, of course it was a shock. But fortunately growing up, I had a couple of women in my life who introduced me to people with Down Syndrome so I wasn’t afraid of out. So when she was born, that’s when we decided we wanted to treat her like any other child. Her Down syndrome was secondary, it wasn’t who she was,” said her mother Sandi Holmgren. 

Her mother says she still gets nervous when her daughter competes or models. Her hope is that she shines on stage through it all.

“Let them just try everything that they want to try. Let them find out what their likes or dislikes are.  And be super supportive of them and be their advocate and help them achieve whatever they want to achieve,” said Sandi Holmgren.

She says she wants to be in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition to inspire others to be empowered about who they are and encourage them to go for their dreams.

She says the two piece helps to show off her muscles and all her fitness training. Mikayla Holmgren says where she makes it or not, she will continue to share the message of inclusion.

Mikayla’s Sports Illustrated Submission can be found here


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