On August 1st, 2019 we will celebrate the one year anniversary of Rick "Zombie Boy" Genest's death. Genest passed away at his Montrèal apartment a week before his 33rd birthday and news of his passing way heard round the world. In remembrance of this prolific tattoo figure, we're taking a look back at his short but impactful life and his biggest career accomplishments.
Genest was born on August 7th, 1985 in Châteauguay, Quebec. Growing up, Genest dreamed of becoming a circus performer and at the age of 16, he got his first tattoo. Genest shortly found the punk community and began collecting tattoos, going on to cover 90% of his body in ink, which he displaying in the sideshow scene throughout North America.
Genest's first time in the public spotlight came on November 13th of 2006, when he was discovered by Shannon Larratt, the creator and publisher of BMEzine. In the post, Larratt compares Genest's face tattoos to the Misfits and users quickly became fascinated with the skull-faced man.
By 2008, Genest became a favorite of BME and at this point, had finished his impressive bodysuit. In an interview with BME, Genest states that he found inspiration for his tattoos from horror films, sharing "I got my first tattoo when I was sixteen — a puking one eyed zombie with cross bones on my upper arm. And after that I got the word zombie underneath it, in tribute to all that horror movie shit... and that’s how it started."
In 2011, Genest got his big break after being discovered by Nicola Formichetti, the artistic director of Thierry Mugler and stylist of Lady Gaga at the time, on Facebook. Genest was featured as a model on Mugler's website and in the 2011 Autumn/Winter show, with the model heavily inspiring that season's collection.
When Formichetti showed Gaga photos of Genest, the pop star was instantly entranced and cast him in the music video for her song "Born This Way." In the video, Gaga is painted with tattoos similar to Genest and in an interview with Talks at Google, she said "I tell you what I think is beauty, and hence the scene was of me and Rico defining ourselves in artistic way and not relying on society to dictate it."
After appearing in Gaga's music, Genest was an international sensation and quickly became one of the biggest tattooed celebrities in the world. A few months after appearing in Gaga's video, Genest went viral once more after appearing in a campaign for Dermablend called "Go Beyond the Cover." In the video, Genest has his tattoos covered in makeup and pushes the message of not judging a book by its cover as his bodysuit is revealed. This led Genest to become the first male spokes model for a L'Oreal brand, whom he held a two year contract with.
In 2013, Genest made his feature film debut in the fantasy action film 47 Ronin, alongside acclaimed actor Keanu Reeves. After the film, which was declared a box-office bomb, Genest went on to pursue careers in music and public speaking. In 2017, Genest hosted a TEDX Talk called "Normal is an illusion," where he revealed that prior to becoming tattooed he'd had a brain tumor.
Genest's career may have been short, however, he made a life long impact on the tattoo world. His presence caused so many people to open their minds to the tattoo world and truly see that there's more to somewhat than meets the eye. He continues to be greatly missed by the industry, as well as the millions he touched with his inspiring rags to riches story. However, as Babe Ruth once said, "heroes never die." Let us know your thoughts, opinions, and questions on Genest in the comments section.