Meet the Londoner embracing identity and ethnicity on Sephora's new billboards
The 24-year-old grew up in the Middle East and never thought he'd become a role model to other LGBTQ youth
When Mina Gerges was eight years old, he would make sure his parents were out the door before secretly rummaging through his mother's makeup drawer looking for bright, red lipstick.
"Her lipstick would bring out my hazel eyes … I always felt so beautiful," he recalled. "[Makeup] became a centrefold to helping me explore my gender and helping me explore everything that I love about being masculine and being feminine and blurring that line."
"Being a Middle Eastern man, I was always told that men have to be very masculine, men don't wear colours and men don't wear makeup," he said. "I grew up thinking there was something wrong with me."
"I was gay and I felt like it was this secret that I had to hide," he said.
But, Gerges isn't hiding anymore.
We are going to show this generation of young, queer Arabs that we can exist.- Mina Gerges
The Toronto-based actor and body positive model is among seven Canadians selected to share their stories of triumph through beauty brand Sephora's summer campaign We Belong to Something Beautiful.
"It's crazy to me that something that made me feel so ashamed growing up is something that not only I'm proud of but … can give young people hope," he said.
"I am not scared. This is who I am. I'm not going to hide it anymore and you're going to see that I'm not going to hide it because I'm on billboards!"
If you haven't already spotted Gerges all over social media and in TV commercials, you'll likely do so in the next couple of weeks when his face becomes plastered on buses, billboards, bus shelters and Sephora storefronts in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal.
"It still hasn't sunk in," he said.
Gerges said he can't stop thinking about the magnitude of being so visible after years of hiding his sexuality.
LGBTQ rights are heavily disputed in many parts of the Middle East, where being gay is illegal in some countries, he said.
“There’s something inherently radical about portraying the queer community in Arab countries, arguably one of the most underrepresented communities in the world.” I couldn’t be more proud to be in Sephora’s newest campaign. 🌟 <a href="https://t.co/9h55cVPmQc">pic.twitter.com/9h55cVPmQc</a>—@itsMinaGerges
Gerges said because of this he didn't have many queer role models growing up and that's something he wants to change for the next generation.
"I just hope that through my work, I can change people's minds and prove we exist and there's nothing wrong with us, despite what our culture says," he said.
"You don't have to give up fact that you are Arab or compromise any part of who you are in order to fit in. We are going to show this generation of young, queer Arabs that we can exist. We don't have to hide. This is who we are," he said.
Gerges is using his online platform that's garnered more than 100,000 followers to share personal stories related to beauty, identity and ethnicity.