Mina Gerges Is Blazing a Trail
The model and content creator on embracing individuality, learning to love himself and channelling his inner star.
by : Yang Shi- Sep 27th, 2023
Spotlights, sequins and big hair—welcome to the dazzling world of Mina Gerges, the 28-year-old Egyptian-Canadian drag queen, model, influencer and fierce advocate for body positivity and LGBTQIA2S+ rights. A trailblazer in the realms of self-love and diversity, Gerges has made his mark as the first plus-size member of the pit crew on Canada’s Drag Race and the first Canadian male model to front three major beauty campaigns, for Sephora, Shoppers Beauty and Holt Renfrew (the latter in its latest Pride campaign).
While many of us may underestimate the intricacy of drag artistry on television, Gerges never fails to showcase the multi-faceted mastery behind it all—a mélange of costume and wig design, makeup expertise and the creation of a larger-than-life alter ego. “I’ve always regarded drag as the ultimate form of self-expression,” says Gerges. “When I invent a character, I want to embody a feeling—something powerful and potent.” These days, confidence is his attitude of choice. In a nod to his Egyptian heritage, he gave birth to a persona called Nefertiti, a voluptuous and colourful Egyptian goddess with a crown of big curls, high heels and an unapologetic flair. Yet despite his grandiose online presence, Gerges showed up at our shoot with the most down-to earth demeanour. He embraced everyone and set the mood with a playlist featuring the empowering voices of Arabic pop divas like Nancy Ajram and Haifa Wehbe.
Growing up in the Middle East, Gerges grappled with his identity and fought against the region’s taboo against homosexuality. (When he researched it online, he found it was only described in pejorative terms such as “pedophile” and “sinner.”) Facing discrimination from peers and wrestling with conservative parents, he developed a sense of self that was intertwined with feelings of shame and internal conflict. Yet this oppression acted as a catalyst for Gerges’ determination to carve his own path. “For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been someone who inherently strives for happiness,” he says. “I refused to be a victim. I wanted to become the best version of myself and embarked on a life free from fear. That’s when I ventured into the realm of drag.
During his teenage years, his two sisters played a pivotal role, helping him explore his interests and experiment with makeup and dressing up. “I remember dressing up as Nicki Minaj in the bathroom,” recalls Gerges. “One of my sisters was helping me take pictures; then we heard my dad come home. Immediately, we panicked and rushed to clean everything up, leaving no evidence behind—except for the photos on the camera, which my dad saw later.”
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Then his family immigrated to Canada when he was 14. He experienced culture shock at first but eventually found other young people who accepted him for who he truly was, and while attending university in London, Ont., he made loving friends who provided a nurturing community in which he could embrace his queerness. Later, in 2015, Gerges catapulted to fame when his viral recreations of celebrity red-carpet looks, which he’d posted on Instagram, were featured on Buzzfeed, capturing the attention of big names such as Beyoncé, Rihanna, Nicki Minaj, Kim Kardashian and Katy Perry. This was the moment when Gerges realized he wanted to pursue a modelling career despite the industry’s major lack of representation of people of colour, plus-size individuals and queer talents. The sense of rebellion he developed further fuelled his desire to change a system that harmed his communities. For three years, he dealt with rejection but refused to let the industry’s gatekeepers dictate his path; he made up his mind to become his own representative. “During the pandemic, I kept doing what I do on Instagram and would receive a lot of hate because I did not fit the traditional beauty standard of the thin, muscular white man,” explains Gerges, who did end up taking a several-month hiatus from social media.
Then Sephora came knocking and offered him his first brand campaign; his face being unveiled in the iconic Dundas Square was a breakthrough moment that would open the door to new opportunities. Since then, his star has risen, with features in Teen Vogue and Time and prominent ads for Calvin Klein and Holt Renfrew.
Today, having been featured in numerous global campaigns and endorsements, Gerges cherishes his queerness as a blessing and a guiding force. However, his most significant accomplishment is creating his own blueprint for success and serving as an inspiration to others. As for what’s to come, he wants to continue to collaborate with local queer organizations to build a safer future for LGBTQIA2S+ communities and debunk beauty conventions. “I witness the impact of my work on the lives of young people who have faced similar struggles,” says Gerges. “I always say that there’s nothing more powerful than being your authentic self. That’s your superpower.”
Robe (Evan Clayton) and jewellery (U3). Photography, Yang Shi; stylist, Amber Watkins (P1M); makeup artist and hair stylist, Brittany Sinclair (P1M)
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