Mina Gerges is an Egyptian plus-size model and actor. He’s an advocate for self-love, body confidence, and self-expression. He’s modeled for brands like Calvin Klein and Sephora and has been featured in publications worldwide including Teen Vogue, PAPER, and Out Magazine. In 2015, his Instagram recreations of celebrity red carpet looks went viral when Buzzfeed ran an article on his account. Here we talk about how internet virality impacted him and how he normalizes having off days.
SE: Did your relationship with your body change after Buzzfeed picked up your images?
Mina Gerges: Having a lot of online attention from people meant being subjected to a lot of unwarranted and rude opinions about my body, which began to negatively impact my confidence and body image. Going viral meant people stopped seeing me as a real human and would leave the cruelest comments about my body on my posts. It was a constant stream of negativity about my weight, my body hair, and my sexuality and it got to the point where I felt so broken by people’s body shaming that I stopped leaving my house except to go to my university classes. I hated being in public because I believed people’s comments about me to be true. At a certain point, I couldn’t look in the mirror without visualizing people’s mean comments in front of my reflection.
Q: Were you a confident child?
MG: I definitely wasn’t a confident child. In fact, my weight was always a topic of conversation — a “problem” that needed to be fixed — throughout my entire childhood and teenage years. I was put on a diet when I was around 7 or 8 years old and was consistently forced to go on these diets until my late teens. It painted a picture that my weight and my body were a problem and that I couldn’t live my life without prioritizing weight loss as my purpose.
SE: When do you feel most at home in your body?
MG: Strangely, I feel the most confident when I’m at a photoshoot or creating body positive content. It feels so liberating and affirming to create the types of images I always needed growing up, and it genuinely makes me feel so confident and at home in my body.
SE: Why do you think people are able to connect with your images?
MG: I think the majority of men nowadays recognize that our body image is negatively impacted by how mainstream media portrays male bodies. We only see images of thin and muscular men, and rarely see images of normal bodies or plus-size bodies, which is incredibly frustrating. It sends the message that men are only supposed to feel confident or to like their bodies when they’re thin and muscular. We’ve also normalized things like diet culture and being ashamed of talking about our mental health, and it feeds into a culture of toxic masculinity. I think my work resonates with people because it directly challenges all these toxic ideas about masculinity and unattainable beauty standards that we’ve been forced to believe for too long. I think this idea of redefining outdated beauty standards shows people that they deserve to be confident and to love their bodies and encourages them to talk about their experiences with body image.
SE: Why was it important to you to be a part of The BodCon?
MG: It’s really important to share the experiences of the communities I represent and continue to challenge these perceptions about men who experience eating disorders and body image issues. I love being able to talk about my experience, advocate for others like me, and also let other people like me know they’re not alone in their experiences. It’s also really important for me to talk about the intersection of body image with race and my queerness, and I think it helps a lot of people like me feel seen in this conversation.
SE: How do you feel confident when you’re having an off or a down day?
MG: The most helpful thing I’ve learned is that it’s okay to have off days and to normalize that my relationship with my body will naturally come with its ups and downs. That understanding has helped me realize that what I’m going through is a normal thing and that I’ll get through it. It’s also been really helpful for me to completely disconnect from everyone and everything around me. Being online so much, and now more than ever because of the pandemic, I recognize that a big part of self-care means grounding myself in the moment.