Instagram influencer Mina Gerges first went viral in 2015 for his hilarious recreations of celebrity divas’ artistic fashion photos. In most of them, he posed and dressed seductively like Beyoncé, Rihanna and Kim Kardashian, but often with a slice of pizza accentuating his curvy bod. Now, in a recent interview with Paper magazine, 23-year-old Gerges reveals the fame attracted homophobic and body-shaming commenters who compelled him to deactivate his account for eight months. But now he’s back and pushing back against gay body shame, an issue prevalent on the photo sharing platform (and in the LGBTQ community in general).
“Growing up, I never saw men who looked like me in magazines or in movies, so I always felt invisible,” Gerges says. “We’re used to seeing representations of men that set up impossible standards and imply that the only men who are entitled to being considered attractive and being seen by the public are white and thin.”
Gerges says that at age 20, he developed an eating disorder — something that affects the LGBTQ community at high rates than the general population — and started spending three hours a day at the gym, running 10 kilometers everyday staring at a picture of a man with six-pack abs every time he wanted to eat junk food.
“It makes me sad to think about how much I punished my body and hated it for its inability to look a certain way,” he says.
Indeed, a September 2017 study found that gay and bi men who watch lots of gay porn (filled with idealized muscular bodies) tend to experience more anxiety and body dissatisfaction.
From October 2015 to June 2016, he deactivated his account for a mental health break. But now he’s back in the spotlight for sharing his story of reclaiming his mental health and body.
I turn 23 today and I want to share a very personal journey with all of you. I've struggled with my body image and weight my whole life, growing up bombarded by unrealistic images of men with sculpted bodies all over magazines and billboards. I always wanted to look like them, thinking that was the only way I could be considered attractive. After these recreations went viral 3 years ago, I started to struggle with my mental health, and began seeking comfort in food. I put on a lot of weight (I love pizza, as you may already know). Gaining this weight never made me hate my body, but the online bullying I experienced took a huge toll on me. People commented on my photos everyday calling me fat and ugly, making fun of my stretch marks and love handles, commenting things like "wow you used to be hot what happened to you" as if I wasn't a real person who was impacted by these cruel words. It ruined my self esteem. I would get anxious before logging on because I knew I would see a hateful comment that'll ruin my day. I stopped going out in public because I was afraid people in real life were secretly disgusted by my body. I remember looking in the mirror before going out one night and literally breaking down crying because I couldn't stop thinking about people's mean comments. I deactivated this account for almost a year (October 2015 – June 2016) because I needed a mental health break and needed to regain my confidence, knowing that so many of you look up to me for that. Losing almost 60 pounds from Feb to September this year wasn't about one picture looking "better" – it was about learning to love my body and embrace that it's different. These stretch marks (and whatever else people bullied me for) are a reminder of my journey towards self love and my triumph over several eating disorders and body dysmorphia. I loved my body in the "before" picture and after this long struggle with loving what I see in the mirror despite being bullied for my body, here's to making 23 the year of self-love & body positivity ??
He lost nearly 60 pounds from February to September 2016, not to become more “attractive” but to embrace healthier living. And he’s trying to embrace his stretch marks and curves for the other queer men also struggling with body image issues.
“[Gay body shaming] filters into the kind of attitude people have when they write ‘no fats no fems’ in their dating app bios, and it’s evident when you see the Instagays who post shirtless pictures to their thousands of followers who idolize their bodies,” he says. “I hope that as a community, we can dismantle these problematic attitudes that so many have normalized and work to be more inclusive and diverse.”
Check out more amazing posts by Mina Gerges and his hilarious fight against gay body shame:
This is the scariest yet most empowering post I've ever made. I’ve struggled with my weight and body image my whole life. I grew up surrounded by unrealistic pictures of men and women that convinced me that I have to look like that to be considered attractive and desirable. Especially as gay men, where unfortunately so many of us struggle with achieving that unrealistic standard to feel beautiful. Trying to achieve this made me develop an eating disorder when I was 20 – I would starve myself, weight myself every morning, spend 3 hours at the gym and ran 10km every day, and hated myself if I ate something “unhealthy”, and still, never found happiness or satisfaction. Now at 23, I’m finally confident and comfortable in my skin, and she’s glowing ✨ The stretch marks and love handles I was bullied for are the very thing I feel empowered by now. I know I’ll never look like the dudes we see in billboards and fashion ads, and that’s okay because I’m still cute AF with my cute little belly and squishyness. Learning self love and being confident is such a beautiful thing, and I’m so lucky to be able to have this platform to share it with you guys. ❤️