Although you probably have heard the sad news, Montrealer Rick Genest AKA "Zombie Boy" was found dead in his Plateau apartment on Wednesday, August 1st. The likely cause of death, suicide.
What's even more saddening is that he was about to celebrate his 33rd birthday. Such a tragedy. It comes as no surprise to many people that Genest was suffering from an ongoing battle with mental illness.
Genest was a cultural icon, who will always be remembered for his irreverence and bold approach to testing the boundaries of personal identity.
Genest did not have an easy life. He talked openly about his early life as a "squeegee kid" where he adopted the nickname "Zombie."
Originally born in Montreal, Genest was heavily involved in the underground punk characterized by a life of a "street kid" with tons of DIY tattoos, piercings, and rebellious style.
He is most recognized by his body tattoos that cover 90% of his skin. Over the years this cost Genest around $20 000.
By the age of 23, Genest had attracted some deal public attention and as a result, became involved in several series of alternative "freak"-style shows and performances such as lying on a nail bed and skin piercings.
His big break came when Lady Gaga's stylist discovered him online and then flew to Montreal to offer Genest a contract modeling for the brand, Thierry Mugler. He was later flown to Paris to walk in the fall runway show. This was his first trip outside of Canada.
At this point, Genest's life completely changed. Lady Gaga's stylist offered him a part in her new video for the song Born This Way, which filmed in NYC.
The video was an instant hit, and Zombie Boy rose to international stardom. To this day, more than 2 million people have watched the Youtube video for this song.
Lady Gaga recently Tweeted about the loss of her friend, saying that "it's beyond devastating" and urging anyone who is suffering in silence to reach out.
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. pic.twitter.com/THz6x5JlpB
In the end, Genest died holding two Guinness world records, the most insects tattooed on a human body and the most number of tattoos on a human body alone.
If you're curious to know more, you can check out Zombie Boy's official page here, with his full bio and story.