Wacko Maria jacket; Plectrum by Ben Sherman pants.
Tattooing oneself from head to toe to look like a rotting corpse is not the traditional route to stardom, but it has somehow worked out for Rick Genest, a.k.a. Zombie Boy.
“My first tattoo was an outline of a skull and crossbones right here on my shoulder when I was 16,” Genest says, pulling up the sleeve of his black T-shirt. A decade later, he held two titles in the Guinness Book of World Records, one for the most insect tattoos at 176, and one for the most human bone tattoos at 139. Both numbers were quickly out of date. But why so much work—is he hiding something with his ink? “Before the tattoos I had some cuts and cigarette burns and stuff like that. I never wanted to get a full-body cigarette burn. It’s just stuff that you do when you’re a kid.”
Most of Genest’s work was done by Frank Lewis, of Derm FX in Montreal, but he’s still adding to his armor. “I’m still not done. Right now, my buddy Ricky who lives next door to me is rocking my knee out,” Genest says, pulling up his pant leg to reveal a relatively untattooed lower leg. “Just got a little more a couple weeks ago. He’s got a fresh style and I’m going to keep going with him and fill it all in.”
When Nicola Formichetti, Lady Gaga’s former stylist and the current designer of Thierry Mugler, was looking for the perfect way to add an edge to the campaign for Mugler’s menswear line, he set his sights on Genest. A load of fines had kept Genest from obtaining a passport, so Formichetti flew to Montreal and settled up the tab just to get his new muse to Paris. Genest quickly went from obscure freak show performer to having Lady Gaga dance around him in matching zombie makeup in the music video for “Born This Way.” He now travels the world for Thierry Mugler and other work, such as a cameo in Keanu Reeves’s upcoming film 47 Ronin.
But Zombie Boy has no intention of straying from his roots. Generally soft-spoken with a surprising ambivalence to his new gig, Genest becomes animated only when talk turns to the topic of freak shows. “My friends and I have a troupe called Lucifer’s Blasphemous Mad Macabre Torture Carnage Carnival, featuring sadistic freaks, sickening sights, and horrible abominations—which is badass. It’s a murder show. It’s like, ‘Welcome to a night in hell,’” he says with a smile. —Suzanne Weinstock