You Better Werk: Mina Gerges
Since their introduction in Season 2 of Rupaul’s Drag Race, The Pit Crew has presented an idealized version of what a gay man’s body should look like: masculine, muscular, toned and well endowed. Insert Mina Gerges, the first plus-size member of the Pit Crew on the show's spin off, Canada’s Drag Race. Having Gerges in the Pit Crew is a huge step forward in correcting the show’s inaccurate portrayal of what the LGBTQ+ community looks like.
“Because guys actually look like us, and we deserve to be seen,” Gerges responded when asked why they wanted to be in the Pit Crew. “I’m fighting for people to see the value in different versions of beauty and I think it’s important, especially when talking about body image that we don’t go ignored.”
And that is exactly what Makes Gerges a star; they continue to show up as their true authentic self, in spite of their struggles. “As a kid, I was often misunderstood and growing up in the Middle East, I felt like I couldn’t be my real self,” they explained. For Gerges, being visible wasn’t an option–it was their destiny.
“Growing up in a place where you can be killed for who you are, I had to make a decision that might have cost me my life. But, I decided to fight.”
That fighting spirit is what has continued to make them a success in the mainstream. From deals with Calvin Klein and Sephora to now being a member of Drag Race’s Pit Crew, Gerges says that none of it has been easy. “I’ve always fought for people to see my value in different versions of beauty,” they shared, noting that like many men of color, their voice was largely ignored prior to getting on the show. “No one listened to us...hence why so many of us feel so small. But I feel like the most beautiful thing I can do is to show the world that me and my body, our body, we deserve to be seen and heard.”
For Gerges, being on the show was their first step in showing the world that beauty comes in various shapes and sizes and has a multitude of colors. “When I heard that the show was happening, I thought, ‘well I’ve been doing all this work for inclusivity so why not?’” For them, being on the show was a step towards proving to themselves how much they had grown since the days of struggling with their body image and overcoming an eating disorder. “I had always been hard on myself in terms of how I look, so imagine walking into an audition room on a cold, rainy November day where there are 30 guys who look like the typical Pit Crew. They were taller than me, they were thinner than me. So it was very intimidating when they called my name.”
While Gerges shared that the hardest part of the process was being in the room, they also said that going for the opportunity is what helped them grow their confidence more than anything else they have ever done. “So, I’m thinking to myself that no one is going to find me attractive, something that very many gay men feel,” Gerges pointed out. “I kept looking at myself in the mirror and saying that I don’t look like these men, until I realized in that moment that I have something to offer too. I told myself to focus on my smile and how great my personality is. You know, that I am a good person. That me being there was not just about my looks.”
In this moment, it would have been very easy for Gerges to grab their things and leave, however it was a moment with a producer that really elevated their tenacity.
“A producer asked me why I wanted to audition and I told them plainly that in Drag Race, the Pit Crew is seen as the epitome of beauty, as something that all gay men should aspire to be. I said that my body is no less beautiful just because I have fat and stretch marks on my body...I deserve to be seen like everyone else.”
Though Gerges still struggles with the notoriety that the show has brought them (and all of the backlash that has come with it), they noted that they would do it all over again in a heartbeat. “Some folks say that I was a token hire and others have tried to knock me for being a bigger model,” they detailed when talking about the aftermath of the experience. “However, like I said before, I do what I do because though it has been hard to break through many of these glass ceilings, I want to use my platform to bring others confidence. I want to give and help open doors for other people.”
Gerges says that being so visible was hard, but it taught them the greatest lesson. “Doing the show taught me the importance of not comparing myself to other people,” they explained. “You have to be comfortable with owning the beauty you exude. I think a lot of queer people share the journey of being torn down and bullied our entire lives. We’ve been invisible and it is very easy to internalize all of that and feel like we are not worthy and feel like we are not beautiful. But I am here to tell you that you are.”
More, Gerges highlighted how important it is to never shrink yourself to make others comfortable. “For me, my entire life, I was told how to dress, how to act, and how I should behave,’ they shared. “People want to put you into a box because that is how the world operates. But remember that people want to force you into the idea of who they think of you are and who you should be. I’ve fought against that my entire life and plan to keep doing that in my career.”
When asking them what the greatest one should take away from their story, Gerges reminds us that liberation is about fighting to unlearn all of the negative things that society has put on to us. “We have to remember that the filth that we have internalized is not about us,” they noted.
“It’s about knowing that you are not alone. It’s about knowing that there is beauty in fighting to be seen because our super power is resilience.”