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The Violet Files

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The plus-size model and queer advocate on living authentically in the face of judgment, finding euphoria and empowerment in makeup, and how the industry can become truly inclusive.

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In celebration of diversity, individuality, love, gender expansiveness, self-expression, and Pride, VIOLET GREY spotlights the LGBTQIA+ creatives and activists who inspire us.

Mina Gerges is all about visibility and intersectionality. Raised in Egypt, where living as their most authentic self could have had dangerous consequences, the gender-fluid model, advocate, and designer now appears in publications like Teen Vogue and PAPER Magazine and has fronted campaigns for major international brands, all while becoming known on social media for celebrating plus-size bodies and creating bold, colorful makeup looks. Here, an intimate conversation with Gerges about feeling invisible, the transformative power of beauty, and finally being celebrated for all that they are.

  • 01

    VIOLET GREY: How would you describe your relationship to beauty products and the idea of beauty growing up?

    MINA GERGES: As I get older, I learn to be more secure and accepting of myself. I think it just comes with aging and recognizing that there’s so many things that make one beautiful that don’t just revolve around appearances. Growing up surrounded by Eurocentric beauty standards, I would constantly compare myself and wish certain features looked like what I saw in ads. Now, I recognize that we’re all different and that there’s so much more to us than how we look. We all have lived experiences and have had to overcome personal and professional hurdles to be who we are. That personal story is what makes us beautiful, not how chiseled our jaws are.

  • 02

    VG: Did you always feel like you could fully express yourself? Style, gender expression, verbally, and otherwise?

    MG: Ever since I was a kid, being creative and expressive felt instinctual to me. But I grew up in the Middle East, and despite being too young to understand why, I knew that I had to do it secretly. I used to sneak into my mom’s bedroom when no one was home and put on her red lipstick, try on her clothes, and pretend I was in a Nancy Ajram music video (my favorite Arab pop star). It was in those brief moments that I learned how freeing it is to be my authentic self, and I also learned how important it is to protect that joy and do it safely. Because of that, I learned that beauty and self-expression are transformative, and not just physically—it creates a euphoric feeling that is so empowering. I try to honor that journey and portray that feeling in all of my work.

  • 03

    VG: Do you like makeup? What is your relationship to it now?

    MG: My relationship to makeup has changed a lot over the years. I remember always being made fun of for wearing it, and having people I was dating become disinterested after seeing me wear it. That feeling of being rejected by people just for expressing myself emboldened me to become even more fearless and unapologetic—they’re gonna judge me anyway, might as well have fun and do what makes me happy.

  • 04

    VG: Can you recall a beauty look where you really felt like yourself? What was it, and where were you going?

    MG: My favorite looks are ones where I color my hair and do a bold graphic liner and a matching nail color. I love color, so any time I can use a lot of it, I’m obsessed. My beauty looks in drag also feel equally empowering and authentic. Every look is a reflection of a feeling I get when listening to a particular Arab pop star, a nod to how I first learned to express myself as a kid. Being able to transform into someone completely different—who still somehow really feels like me—is really special.

  • 05

    VG: How do you use beauty products and styling to express yourself or feel most like yourself?

    MG: I love using personal style and beauty together to communicate a certain feeling or message. I started making my own clothes because I could never find cute styles in larger sizes. It has completely transformed my personal style because, now, I can finally express myself in a way that overcomes the limits imposed on me by the absence of inclusive sizing. So when I create an outfit, I’m also envisioning a certain makeup look, hair color, or nail color that goes with it to fully communicate the idea or feeling that inspired the outfit in the first place. Usually, I’m trying to communicate a feeling of confidence or body acceptance, so I’ll pair it with some of my go-to beauty products like blush, lip gloss, or bold liner that make me feel cute.

  • 06

    VG: How do you think representation and diversity have changed in the beauty industry since you were young?

    MG: It’s super refreshing to see different people being represented in beauty, and in that sense, there’s been noticeable change from only portraying European beauty standards. It’s encouraging to see brands make changes, but I don’t think true inclusivity has become the standard. Many brands still don’t create inclusive shade ranges, and some campaigns will feature diverse models as a one-time thing, as opposed to consistently and frequently.
    Working in the industry myself, I’ve learned that it’s not just about who we see in the ads or in the content—it’s also about who works behind the scenes. There’s still so much room for improvement on that end, because is it truly inclusive if you cast diverse models but there’s no diversity in the internal teams?

  • 07

    VG: You're a plus-size model and activist for size-inclusivity. How does this work overlap with your relationship to beauty and expression?

    MG: There’s a lot of hesitation to celebrate different body types in both fashion and beauty. There’s a reluctance to embrace certain intersectionalities, and in my case, being both plus-size and gender-fluid—it’s crazy to see the hesitation to show both those things at the same time. While it’s common to see men in beauty campaigns now, the men are always thin. In that sense, the industry still gate-keeps who is allowed to express themselves and feel beautiful, and it’s incredibly frustrating because beauty is for everyone. One thing I’ll say—I’ve done three national beauty campaigns in Canada with the biggest beauty brands in the country, and people always tell me how refreshing it is to see someone who represents something different up there. If there’s one thing my career personifies it’s that change is slowly happening, and that our visibility is creating a more inclusive and intersectional future.

  • 08

    VG: Is beauty and makeup (or the absence of it) important to you for gender euphoria or expression?

    MG: To me, beauty is integral to my gender expression, my culture, and my religion. I grew up being made to feel invisible and knowing that being myself could endanger my life. Beauty became my way of reclaiming my story and finding my voice. I feel like I owe it to my younger self to be authentic and unapologetic, to make up for all the years where I was told I couldn’t exist simply for being queer and Arab. Whether it’s through my boy beauty looks or my drag beauty looks, it’s all a celebration of gender, culture, and freedom.

  • 09

    VG: What is the biggest challenge facing the LGBTQIA community today?

    MG: Having queer allies was fundamental in my journey toward both self-acceptance and in feeling protected from bigotry IRL. When I was coming to terms with my sexuality, having friends who stood up for me really helped. While there are so many issues facing the LGBTQIA community today, from my personal experience, seeing the erosion or reluctance of allIes to stand up for us feels really scary.