Top Factors Behind ‘Zombie Boy’ Rick Genest's Way Of Living

The Canadian actor Rick Genest, better known as Zombie Boy, was also an artist and model from LaSalle, Quebec. His nickname came long before he tattooed most of his body to look like a skeleton. Here’s his story.

Tattoo artist

The 32-year-old started his special tattoos when he was diagnosed with a brain tumor. Then, he decided to spend his life begging for money and hitchhiking before completing the artwork on his body. After that, several things changed and he became a model for major brands. 

Zombie Boy got his first tattoo at the age of 16, but after a few years, most of his body was covered with ink. He lived on the streets of Montreal and then started performing for freak shows as an entertainer before getting discovered. 


Designer Nicola Formichetti was working for Lady Gaga and was also an artistic director for Mugler when he discovered Rick. He told Hint Magazine, ‘I found Rico on Facebook.’ The designer changed his first collection after seeing Genest’s look.

‘I added more, by taking stuff from him, making it a bit darker and gothic-y. So basically I Facebooked him and was like, “You know, I’m doing this thing in Paris and I would love you to be there in two weeks.”’

The designer discovered that Rick was homeless and didn’t have a passport, so he went to Montreal with clothes from his new line for Mugler and had a photo shoot to use as promotional material for the collection.

Nicola then showed Lady Gaga pictures of his discovery, knowing Gaga and her love for anything strange, and she told the designer that Genest had to walk his show. Therefore, Nicola paid around $20,000 to get him a passport and to pay fines for Rick’s homelessness. Rick walked the runway and went on to model for major brands like GQ, Vanity Fair, and Vogue Hommes.

Born This Way

In 2011, Zombie Boy was featured on Lady Gaga’s music video for ‘Born This Way,’ where he appears standing still next to the singer. Lady Gaga’s face was painted to resemble Rick's in that iconic shot of the music video.


In 2012, he became a spokesman for L’Oréal’s DemaBlend Professional Line. The line shot a video where Rick stands in front of the camera wearing makeup all over his body. The makeup is removed slowly, revealing his tattoos. The campaign motto was ‘How do you judge a book?’

Zombie Boy has the world record for most insect tattoos with a total of 176, and another Guinness World Record for having more human bone tattoos than anyone else with a total of 139. Rick also dabbled in acting with the 2009 movie ‘Carny,’ and then in 2013, he had a role alongside Keanu Reeves in ‘47 Ronin.’ He appeared on two episodes of ‘Silent Witness’ in 2017.

TEDx Talk

Rick Genest talked about his brain tumor diagnosis at a TEDx talk in 2017. ‘By grade 9, that’s when the blackouts started. At first, it was only once in a while, but as time passed it was more and more frequent.’

‘Apparently, the tumor was dangerously located millimeters behind my optic-nerve and would need an open-faced surgery procedure.’ However, a few months later, the doctors told them they could go through his mouth with a laser using a new procedure.

‘August 7th, 2000 they gave me the gas… I stepped out of the hospital as the second person in North America to survive this procedure.’ It’s sad that he became a vagabond, but he was lucky to be found and embraced for his weirdness.

His Death

Sadly, Zombie Boy was found dead in his house on August 1st, 2018, just a few days before his 33rd birthday. The cause of death was suicide. Lady Gaga took to Twitter to express her condolences.

‘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.’

Nicola Formichetti also shared a message to express his sadness after the loss of his friend and muse. ‘Absolutely heartbroken. Rest in Power, Zombie Boy. Sending all my condolences and love to his family and friends in this trying time.’

It’s heartbreaking that such potential was lost in an untimely manner. We can only raise awareness about suicide and depression in order to prevent the loss of anyone else. If you feel alone, please seek help. There’s always someone out there who can help. If you liked this article, share it with your friends. See you next time!

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