RuPaul’s Drag Race star has received a raft of abuse and bullying on social media following his debut as a member of the Pit Crew.

RuPaul’s Drag Race is inarguably about drag queens, but the Pit Crew – a bevy of hunky men – have been an integral part of the show, the original as well as the international editions in UK, Thailand and now Canada.

In episode four of Canada’s Drag Race, ‘her-story’ was made when the show debuted the first plus-sized pit crew. Toronto-based Egyptian model and activist Mona Gerges stepped on to the screen proudly with “stretch marks, fat on his body and love handles.”

The attention is not something new to Gerges. Celebrated as a “body positivity champion” Gerges has featured in advertising campaigns for Calvin Klein and Sephora, before his debut on Drag Race.

The global audience of Drag Race meant that Gerges has been able to take his message to a much larger audience. And, with that has come some negativity as well, not surprisingly from gay men.

“I’ve read hundreds of comments from gay men labelling, criticising, and analysing my body and it’s really not cute. Just appreciate that you’re finally seeing body diversity on the Pit Crew instead of having something negative to say about it,” Gerges posted on Twitter on Tuesday.

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 The message led to an outpouring of support for the 24-year-old, who first gained press in 2015 for recreating celebrity divas on his Instagram account.

Many told him to “ignore the haters,” while some acknowledged the importance of his role as a pit crew member. “Seeing someone as a pit crew member with a body type like mine was truly empowering,” wrote one writer. Egyptian-American journalist Mona Eltahway sent him a message of support too.

“I see you and send you love and solidarity Proudly representing #Egyptian, #Canadian and #LGBTQ people of size,” the Eltahway said.

Gerges seemed to have taken the advice and followed up with another post. “I’ve also received thousands of DMs of men sharing their journey with body image and learning to accept their bodies and it shows how powerful this moment was, and I’m so grateful for that! I won’t be focusing on the mean comments anymore I promise.”

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 Gerges, grew up in Egypt and Abu Dhabi, before moving with his family to Canada when he was 12.

“When I was 9 years old, I’d sneak into my mom’s room and wear her red lipstick when she wasn’t home. I went to an all-boys school in Abu Dhabi and had to pretend to be someone I’m not so that I’d fit in and not get bullied more, and I always cherished these moments of joy I felt in my mom’s red lipstick. I think about my younger self, and how much he needed to know that he’d be okay. That there’s nothing wrong with him for being different. That our culture may never understand him, but that he’s so beautiful and nothing’s wrong with him,” Gerges recounted on Instagram.

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Literally crying in excitement to share that I’m the face of Sephora’s new national campaign😭 When I was 9 years old, I’d sneak into my mom’s room and wear her red lipstick when she wasn’t home. I went to an all-boys school in Abu Dhabi and had to pretend to be someone I’m not so that I’d fit in and not get bullied more, and I always cherished these moments of joy I felt in my mom’s red lipstick. I think about my younger self, and how much he needed to know that he’d be okay. That there’s nothing wrong with him for being different. That our culture may never understand him, but that he’s so beautiful and nothing’s wrong with him. Fast forward to this monumental campaign – a gay Middle Eastern immigrant as the face of a makeup brand. I’ve been looking at this picture for a week, in awe of the confidence and power that radiate through this image. I see resilience and beauty, shining so bright and unapologetically as an openly gay Middle Eastern man despite belonging to a culture that systemically erases and persecutes our LGBTQ community. Representation matters, and I am grateful to fight for the visibility of our community and share the struggles we face, because we’re still so unrepresented in the media. To think that this can give hope to just one young queer Middle Eastern person that they matter, that they’re seen, and that there’s nothing wrong with them brings me tears. I’m beyond grateful that my first ever campaign is with a brand like Sephora that has always been a safe space for me to explore my gender expression, and that’s so unapologetic and bold about celebrating diversity. To me, beauty is reclaiming my culture from the toxic masculinity that’s so engrained within it, and creating new narratives about what it means to be LGBTQ and Middle Eastern/ North African. To that young, scared, lonely Mina who was always told there’s something wrong with him for being gay, I just want you to know that you’ll be okay, and you’re going to look so beautiful in billboards all over this country one day. Shot by the incredible @leeorwild 🌟@sephoracanada #SephoraPartner

A post shared by MINA GERGES (مينا) (@itsminagerges) on

Gerges has been vocal about living “unapologetically as an openly gay Middle Eastern man despite belonging to a culture that systemically erases and persecutes our LGBTQ community.” Gerges fight for representation has intersected his many identities and causes –  gay, Arab, plus-sized man.

“To me, beauty is reclaiming my culture from the toxic masculinity that’s so ingrained within it, and creating new narratives about what it means to be LGBTQ and Middle Eastern/ North African,” Gerges has said.

Canada’s Drag Race streams on Stan, with new episode dropping on Fridays at 12 pm (AEST).

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