The latest Sephora Canada initiative is truly something special: standing fearlessly together, a group of inspiring collaborators are celebrating their differences and sharing their personal journeys in the new We Belong to Something Beautiful campaign, with an aim to highlight that there is no singular expression of beauty. Each collaborator has a video in which they speak their truth on the importance of inclusion and the struggles they have faced coming from marginalized communities and here at Vita Daily, we seized the opportunity to interview each participant to discuss what it means to be advocates within their communities, the importance of speaking their truth and why they chose to be a part of Sephora Canada’s We Belong to Something Beautiful Campaign. —Noa Nichol
Q&A With Mina Gerges
When this Egyptian-Canadian rose to viral internet fame, he was recovering from an eating disorder. Since then, Toronto-based Mina Gerges has inspired his followers by recovering from anorexia and learning to love his body.
Hi Mina! Please tell us a little bit about yourself to start :)
I’m an Egyptian Canadian actor and body positive model in Toronto!
How did your involvement with Sephora Canada's We Belong To Something Beautiful campaign come about, and how did you feel when you discovered you were going to be a part of it? Did you celebrate?!
The whole thing still hasn’t sunk in. Even now, when I’m walking in the mall and I see a huge billboard of my face at the Eaton Centre; I can’t believe that it happened. I keep watching the behind the scenes footage that my sister took at the shoot and it doesn’t look real!
What was your connection to Sephora before this campaign? For instance, did you shop there often?
When I first came out, I wanted to explore my femininity and my gender expression more, but I was really scared to walk into a makeup store and get judgement for it. It was really scary for me because Middle Eastern culture explicitly prohibits men from doing anything that’s considered “feminine” like wearing makeup. I used to ask my girlfriends or my sisters to come with me and pretend that we’re shopping for them. It was literally like an undercover mission just to buy me some lipstick! As I became confident in who I am, I began shopping at Sephora by myself. Last summer, specifically, I was posting a lot of makeup looks. I’d take inspo that I found on Tumblr or Instagram and go to Sephora to ask their staff what products I can use to recreate the looks. Sephora became a safe space for me, and I never felt judged shopping there. I actually made friends with their staff and we’d follow each other on Instagram so they could see the final looks I recreated with their help. To this day, Sephora is the only place I go to for makeup. That’s why it still hasn’t sunk in that I’m the face of a brand that’s been part of my journey toward self-love and confidence.
What does being part of this campaign, that celebrates the diversity and belonging of all Canadians and highlights that there is no singular expression of beauty, mean to you?
There’s such a huge Arab community in Canada, but there’s still zero representation of our community in the media. Our culture—even though we’re in Canada—still doesn’t accept LGBTQ people, and it makes it that much more important for us to be visible and for our stories to be told. Ever since I came out, I’ve been trying to make space for our LGBT community within a culture that erases us. Through unapologetically embracing my identity, I’m trying to reclaim my culture from the homophobia and toxic masculinity that’s engrained in it. I want every person who shares my identity to know that it’s okay to be different, despite how many times our culture or our family try to change us. This Sephora campaign is the first time an openly gay Arab person gets to unapologetically celebrate their identity; it’s a huge moment for the representation of LGBTQ Arabs. I know this moment is going to change how our LGBTQ people are viewed, and I hope everyone can hear my story and understand what challenges our community faces.
What do beauty, diversity, and inclusion mean to you?
I’ve always been different. I’ve always chosen to stand out and live my life authentically even when I had no one to look up to. But finding the confidence and courage to be who I am today came after years of resilience and overcoming negativity. Turning all of those hardships around and still standing strong is what beauty means to me. I’m now in a position to make younger LGBT Arabs know that they too, will one day, be okay despite whatever negativity they face. I never had a single LGBTQ Arab person to look up to when I was young, and it’s incredible to me that I get to be that person for younger members of my community. Boldly and unapologetically gay, and ALSO Arab, despite what our culture says.
What is your style/beauty mantra/philosophy?
The bolder and more dramatic, the better!
What would you say to other Canadians who may be struggling to fit in, feel included or simply feel comfortable/beautiful in their own bodies?
Always try to be kind to yourself. Body positivity is something that’s very important to me, and I always tell people to look in the mirror and tell themselves what they love about themselves everyday to get more comfortable in their skin. I hope that the more we start celebrating our differences and what makes us unique—like what this Sephora campaign is doing—the more people will know that what’s making them struggle at this moment will eventually make them so strong.
One last, light question: if you could only shop for/purchase one item from Sephora for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Or, if you were stuck on a desert island, what one Sephora product would you need to have with you?!)
My Fenty Beauty highlighter in the shade Hu$tla Baby! I know if I was stuck on a desert island that’ll help me get rescued.