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1 Jun

Mina Gerges is forging space for body diversity in

Mina Gerges is forging space for body diversity in

The model, who became the primary plus-sized member of the pit crew on Canada’s Drag Race, never felt seen or represented by the media and communities around him – here’s how he did something about it

“What does beauty appear like whenever you’re an individual of color and queer? What does it appear like whenever you’ve got stretch marks and brown skin, and also you’re happy with it? What does it appear like when you’ve got a story to inform, a robust voice, and a community to fight for?”

These are the questions that Mina Gerges, model and actor, explores and puts forth within the work he does, reimagining and reclaiming our currently limited and restrictive concept of beauty. Growing up within the Middle East, Gerges, now based in Toronto and Recent York City, felt alone and invisible, unrepresented by the heteronormative society around him after which later by the muscular white ideals that dominate many gay communities. 

In response to those experiences, he got down to create a future for himself where he could fearlessly express himself on his own terms, and uplift his community with him as he went. Last yr, Gerges made history when he became the primary plus-sized member of the pit crew on Canada’s Drag Race, while campaigns for the likes of Sephora and Calvin Klein have helped his mission to redefine male beauty standards and spread the message of body positivity and celebration of self. “I got to experience what it’s wish to create that meaningful representation,” he says of his time on Drag Race. “I used to be on TV for possibly 5 minutes, however the outpouring of support from 1000’s of queer individuals who felt seen for the primary time was truly incredible.”

From the colorful, expressive shoots done with publications like Teen Vogue to his recently introduced drag persona Nefertiti, there is a crucial joy present throughout Gerges work that could be very vital for him and purposeful. “Queer Middle Eastern identity is just talked about within the context of this constant internal struggle and lack of acceptance,” he says, “so I actively attempt to reject that narrative and construct a latest future through my work.” 

​​Here we chat to Gerges about his experiences growing up, his profession to this point and what advice he would give to anyone who’s combating their bodies. 

Do you remember the primary time you were conscious of your appearance?

Mina Gerges: I used to be at all times a much bigger kid and had relations or kids at college bully me for my appearance. But the primary time I became conscious about my appearance was once I was around 14 years old. I used to be coming to terms with my sexuality and wanted to seek out other gay men on the web. The Google images results for “gay men” showed me 1000’s of images all of extremely muscular, white men. No different body types and no men of color like me – nothing. That was the primary time I ever realized that my appearance is perhaps an issue, and that it would get in the best way of being accepted into the gay community. 

“The rise up I developed as a child fuelled my desire to alter a system that harmed me and so many others”

Growing up, what informed your understanding of beauty and identity and the best way you presented yourself visually?

Mina Gerges: On the time that I lived there, growing up within the Middle East meant being a part of a culture that was extremely repressive (there have been steps toward social change since I lived there). There was an enormous emphasis on conformity and discipline – being expected to act and dress a certain way that fulfills the religious, cultural, and patriarchal obligations imposed on us. Terms like “haram” are used often to shame us into obedience and it’s something I heard so much growing up as a female guy. 

I started to develop a way of rise up against that way of considering early on. I used to be inspired by music videos by female Arabic pop singers like Nancy Ajram and Haifa Wehbe, and would sneak into my mom’s room when she wasn’t home and placed on her red lipstick, dress up in her clothes, and lip sync as if I were within the music video. In these transient moments, I felt free, but I knew it needed to be my secret because being caught can be catastrophic. Because I learned from a young age that my identity needed to be kept a secret, my sense of self became intertwined with feelings of shame and internal conflict about who I’m and who the world around me wanted me to be. 

Why are you a model? What made you would like to turn into one?

Mina Gerges: I desired to get into modelling because I experienced first-hand the risks of the industry’s lack of representation and I desired to do something about it. As an adolescent, I’d obsess over these images I saw in magazines and campaigns – all of thin, white men. I desperately desired to appear like them because they were the one kind of representation available, which made me feel like I needed to appear like them with a purpose to be seen or valued. I ultimately developed an eating disorder trying to attain that body type, and it was fuelled by wanting to suit into the gay community which sadly puts muscular white men at the highest of the food chain. 

After realizing that no amount of weight-reduction plan or exercise will allow me to attain that not possible beauty standard, I worked really hard to decolonize my way of considering and learn to just accept my body. It shocked me that an industry that’s so complicit in making so many men hate their bodies was still refusing to alter and embrace different body types, so I made a decision to be that change myself. The rise up I developed as a child fuelled my desire to alter a system that harmed me and so many others.

How did you truly get into it? 

Mina Gerges: After I made the choice to get into modelling, I started to research and hunt down agencies that may represent me. Requirements are very clear on all agency web sites: it’s essential to be a minimum of 6 foot, size 30-32 waist, and have an ‘athletic’ or muscular construct. On the time, there have been no submissions for plus size men. Seeing this reinforced why I needed to do that in the primary place, so I started travelling to NYC to work with other creatives who shared an identical vision for a more inclusive world in fashion. I started carving out my very own space online and using my platform to create this representation alone terms. After a pair months, I got my first national beauty campaign with Sephora and got signed to a modelling agency in Canada, and several other months later, booked my first global campaign with Calvin Klein.

What advice would you give to any individual who’s unhappy with the best way they give the impression of being?

Mina Gerges: Visual culture, Instagram, and being online a lot throughout the pandemic have created an ideal storm that has intensified feelings of unhappiness with our bodies. We’re at all times subconsciously comparing our bodies to the pictures we see online and in magazines, and it feels suffocating. I at all times tell people to unfollow pages and other people who make them dislike their bodies, unfollow those “hot gay men” pages that only post pictures of muscular men, and as a substitute to follow individuals who appear like them and who make them be ok with themselves. The more we actively attempt to decolonize our Instagram feeds and hunt down folks that appear like us, who make us accept our bodies as a substitute of striving to attain an not possible standard of beauty, the higher we’ll feel about ourselves.

What advice would you give to young creatives hoping to get into the style industry?

Mina Gerges: That is what I tell myself as I navigate this industry, and it’s what I wish I’d heard once I first began: don’t be discouraged by rejection, and understand that rules are supposed to be broken. Find other creatives who imagine in your message and work with them to create the kinds of images you would like to see. Use Instagram and TikTok to share your work with the world and reclaim your voice; we now not need permission from fashion’s gatekeepers to be visible. Remember your purpose and stick with your mission, because nobody can take your voice away from you. Understand that not fitting into traditional beauty standards is your superpower; being unique is powerful, and that being different doesn’t mean there’s anything mistaken with you. Embrace your story, your life experiences, your voice, and the whole lot that makes you who you might be because that’s what makes you beautiful. 

How would you wish to see the style industry improve to be more representative in the longer term?

Mina Gerges: I’d like to see men with different body types being routinely included in campaigns, magazine issues, and Instagram feeds without their inclusion being a one time thing or for a special “diversity” feature. The style industry has been complicit in creating unrealistic beauty standards, and it’s responsible to reverse that damage. 

What are you currently working on?

Mina Gerges: My important goal this yr is to proceed working closely with local queer community organizations to construct a protected future for our communites. Before the pandemic, I could see the impact of this work on the lives of individuals with similar experiences and struggles like mine, so I would like to proceed uplifting these communities. It’s vital to me to make use of what I’ve built online to do something meaningful in the actual world, especially for young queer people of color like me. I spent the past yr in lockdown feeling broken, battling my very own demons, and dealing to regain my confidence. Once I get out of my depression and the world opens up again, I’m unstoppable!

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