Model with Down Syndrome is applying for Sports Illustrated cover

Miss USA contestant, 26, applies to become the first Sports Illustrated Swimsuit model with Down Syndrome

  • Mikayla Holmgren, 26, competed in preliminary competition for Miss USA 
  • She was the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in Miss Minnesota 
  • Model has applied to appear in the annual Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue

A Miss USA contestant has applied to become the first model with Down Syndrome to appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated Swimwear edition.

Mikayla Holmgren, 26, from Marine St Croix, Minnesota, left the stage with two awards after impressing judges at the Miss Minnesota contest.

As part of her mission to make the modelling world more inclusive, she was the first woman with Down syndrome to take part in the beauty pageant.

The model has now applied to appear in the next bikini edition of Sports Illustrated magazine. 

Mikayla Holmgren, 26, (pictured) from Marine St Croix, Minnesota, has applied to become the first woman with Down Syndrome to appear in the bikini edition of Sports Illustrated magazine

Mikayla was the first woman with Down Syndrome to compete in the Miss Minnesota  beauty pageant. Pictured: Mikayla Holmgren at Minnesota state’s preliminary competition for the Miss USA beauty pageant in 2017, winning the ‘Spirit of Miss USA’ award and the Director’s award

Mikayla recorded a video explaining why she would be perfect – and why it’s time they made her the first model with Down syndrome to feature in the publication. 

‘To have Down syndrome in it is really to show others they can be more accepting.

‘Sports Illustrated Swim has been such a champion of the diversity of beauty. Now is the time to include someone like me,’ she said.

‘I am a dancer, a model, public speaker, and college graduate. I am the first woman with Down syndrome to compete in the Miss USA state pageant. 

Mikayla recorded a video application explaining to Sports Illustrated magazine why she should be chosen to feature. Pictured: Mikayla Holmgren getting ready for her Sports Illustrated audition tape

Mikayla said Sports Illustrated Swim have been a champion for diversity and mentioned that she has rocked a swimsuit in the Miss USA state pageant. Pictured: Mikayla at the pageant 

Mikayla (pictured) who graduated from the Bethel University B.U.I.L.D. Program in 2018, is also a dancer, choreographer and public speaker

‘I rocked my bathing suit on the stage. Now, it’s time to rock the magazine.’ 

Since starting her modelling career in 2015, Mikayla has featured in campaigns for Sephora, Rosedale Mall, and Sigma Beauty. 

She competed in Minnesota state’s preliminary competition for the Miss USA beauty pageant in 2017 and won the ‘Spirit of Miss USA’ award and the Director’s Award and is now waiting to hear if her application to appear in the next bikini edition of Sports Illustrated magazine has been successful.

‘It could be more accepting and help people to learn,’ Mikayla said.

‘People have a hard time – I can do it but I couldn’t do it before.

Mikayla (pictured) revealed she has many plans for the future, including to have her own clothing line and makeup


Mikayla said featuring in Sports Illustrated Swimsuit could help more people to learn and be accepting. Pictured: Mikayla getting ready for her Sports Illustrated audition tape

‘I did modelling for magazines and I just loved doing it. Modelling is a creative art.

‘It has been a good opportunity to have, to bring more excitement and be more involved and it’s really cool doing it.’

‘I haven’t given up hope yet! 

‘I want to have my own clothing line some day and makeup. I want to go more into fashion and be a designer and do something with children.

‘I want to achieve so much. I always dream big, I have goals and go do it.

‘There’s nothing stopping people from living your life today. Just follow your dreams’,’ she added.

Sports Illustrated Swimsuit was first published in 1964 and has recently been taking steps to increase diversity within the models in the magazine.

Muslim model Halima Aden, was pictured wearing a hijab and bikini in the 2019 Issue and plus-size model Hunter McGrady has also featured in the popular magazine. 

Ta-da! The Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue picked two winners for its SI Swim Search last year, including Tanaye White (pictured)

Go, girl! Tanaye and 57-year-old Kathy Jacobs (pictured) will both be Rookies in this year’s issue

The sports publication also included its first transgender woman, Valentina Sampaio, in July 2020, and she will feature in the magazine for the second time this year. 

She will be joined by fellow trans model Leyna Bloom, who is making history as the first ever black and Asian transgender star to be picked for a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit shoot.  

The magazine has also opened up casting opportunities to members of the public in recent years through its Swim Search – which sees people from all over the country, and the world, applying to be considered for a shoot in the spread. 

Each year, the publication releases a list of finalists, and six models are then chosen from that group to land a spot in the magazine. Often, a select one or two women are then offered a role as a Rookie for the following year – like last year’s winners, 28-year-old Georgetown graduate Tanaye White and 57-year-old Kathy Jacobs. 

Kathy is one of the oldest women to ever pose in the magazine – although Christie Brinkley holds the official title, having last featured in the magazine at the age of 63. 

Other famous faces that have appeared on the cover include Chrissy Teigen, Elle Macpherson and Tyra Banks. 

This year’s Swim Search has seen the first ever male model to be given a chance to feature in the publication: 21-year-old Lewis Freese, from Minneapolis, Minnesota. 

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