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'Zombie Boy' Rick Genest, tattooed muse to Lady Gaga and Marc Quinn, dies aged 32

Friday - 03/08/2018 09:12
The model and actor was found dead at his home in Montreal from an apparent suicide
Zombie Boy modelling for Thierry Mugler in 2011. Photograph: Giovanni Giannoni/REX/Shutterstock
Zombie Boy modelling for Thierry Mugler in 2011. Photograph: Giovanni Giannoni/REX/Shutterstock

Rick Genest, the model known as Zombie Boy, whose heavily tattooed body made him a muse for Lady Gaga, Marc Quinn and numerous fashion designers, has died aged 32.

He was found dead at his home in Montreal, and his death is being reported as a suicide. Lady Gaga wrote on Twitter: “The suicide of friend Rick Genest, Zombie Boy is beyond devastating. We have to work harder to change the culture, bring mental health to the forefront and erase the stigma that we can’t talk about it. If you are suffering, call a friend or family today. We must save each other.” The singer had cast Genest in her video for 2011 single Born This Way.

Gaga’s stylist, Nicola Formichetti, who used Genest as a model when he was creative director of Thierry Mugler, said he was “absolutely heartbroken”. Genest’s management company, Dulcedo, said they were “shocked and pained by this tragedy”.

 Zombie Boy in London in 2016. Photograph: CPG Photography Ltd/Rex/Shutterstock
 Zombie Boy in London in 2016. Photograph: CPG Photography Ltd/Rex/Shutterstock

Genest grew up in the Montreal punk scene and began getting tattoos aged 19, many from tattoo artist Frank Lewis – they eventually covered his whole body, most eye-catchingly a skull tattooed on his face, and an apparently exposed brain on his scalp. As well as his work with Gaga and Formichetti, he also modelled for Jay-Z’s fashion label Rocawear and appeared in the Keanu Reeves samurai film 47 Ronin. Acclaimed British sculptor Marc Quinn created a sculpture of Genest in 2011.

Genest explained his phantasmagoric appearance to Wonderland magazinein 2012: “The zombie concept is also often used as a metaphor for runaway consumerism. Rebelling from this notion is the very meaning of punk. The origins of the zombie creature came about from stories of people being buried alive in times of plagues and such crises; that would come out the other side ‘transformed’. Zombies, to many, represent a pervasive xenophobia. As in my life, I was often out-casted, hated or misunderstood.”

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