In the pinned video on Amine Sheik’s TikTok page, the movement science student dances on a beach in swim trunks. The video then cuts to him in a gym locker room, showing off much more muscular abs.
The nine-second clip has 12.5 million views. Sheik’s account has close to 200,000 followers.
For Sheik, this wasn’t just a glow-up video. He started to focus on exercise in high school and his first year of college in order to strengthen his spine, which is filled with bones that didn’t form as expected when he was born. His TikToks are intended to spread body positivity and help people become more comfortable with themselves. (And if he gets an invitation to be a Gymshark influencer in the process, he wouldn’t turn that down.)
“Let’s say there was a kid like me,” Sheik says. “Someone who was born a bit different or has something that they feel makes them look or feel different. I want them to feel included.”
Right now, Sheik’s slowing down his posting while he focuses on school. He transferred to U-M Kinesiology last year from University of Detroit Mercy, with hopes of entering the intraoperative neuromonitoring (IONM) program. (He’s since been accepted.) Given his rare condition, he’s personally needed a neuromonitor to ensure there isn’t nervous system damage during his several spinal surgeries.
“I especially needed a neuromonitor because my anatomy is so much more different,” he says. “It’s so messy that had I not had a neuromonitor, my outcomes could have been vastly different.”
Sheik would like to work in IONM while attending medical school on the path to becoming an orthopedic spinal surgeon.
“I feel like sometimes with medicine, it can get to be more about the business,” Sheik says. “There’s nothing wrong with that — my dad’s in business — but you also want your doctor to empathize with you and see where you’re coming from and know your pain. I want to understand what’s going on and explain it to my patients in a way that actually helps them.”
He says his first semester at U-M was tough because of the heavier workload but the professors have all been friendly, and “everybody here wants to help.”
His Muslim faith has helped him, too. He knows quite a few of the U-M medical students because he and they go to the same mosque on North Campus.
“I like having a lot of Muslim friends here because they remind you to hold on to something,” he says. “I think it’s really important to hold true to your beliefs, no matter what they are.”
Sheik used to treat his religion more casually, something he engaged in because he saw his parents doing it or the mosque was convenient to go to. Now, he recognizes that nobody else is going to make his faith — or his academics or his inclusive initiatives — a priority for him if he doesn’t choose to care.
“Me a year ago is very different than the Amine today,” he says. “More religious, more focused. As I get older, the more I work on myself, the more you can just trust God’s plan, even if it seems bad. If you’re doing your best, God’s got your back.”
Let’s say there was a kid like me. Someone who was born a bit different or has something that they feel makes them look or feel different. I want them to feel included.