Zombie Boy, Rico the Zombie, Skullboy. He’s hard to miss, to say the least. One of the most recognizable faces in the fashion industry and pop culture today, Rick Genest aka Zombie Boy has come a long way.
Today he’s a real celebrity in the tattoo model world with features in Lady Gaga videos and mainstream fashion shows.
Zombie Boy was born as Rick Stephen Genest on August 7, 1985, in LaSalle, Quebec, Canada. He’s well renowned as a fully tattooed fashion model. He’s also an artist and an actor.
Before the tattoos
Rick got his first tattoo – a Jolly Roger (skull and crossbones) – at the age of 16. This was just a year after he discovered he had a serious brain condition and a large tumor. To treat the condition, doctors had to have nearly half of his brain removed. After spending time in hospitals and waiting for an operation, he decided to “live life to the full”. After the treatment, Genest got more involved with the body modification scene.
Rick quit high school at 17 and got into the punk community. For some years he was living in squats and working odd jobs to get by. By this time he got more tattoos, but this was only the beginning. What we know today as Zombie Boy – one of the very few successful and world-renowned fully tattooed personalities today – was about to reveal. He followed a strict concept to reach the appearance of a living skeleton. This lead him to work in several sideshows and freak shows across Canada. His work with contemporary carnivals and traveling shows includes many aspects. Fire play, geek work and various fakir stunts such as a bed of nails, iron maiden, various types of play piercing and flesh pull techniques among others.
Along with some friends, performers, and colleagues, Genest took part in a mini traveling freak show called “Lucifer’s Blasphemous Mad Macabre Torture Carnage Carnival”. Zombie describes it as “a combination of choreographed comedy, gore, and burlesque”.
Frank Lewis at Derm FX Tattoo, Montreal, QC is the artist behind Zombie’s full bodysuit tattoo project. Lewis inked the majority of Zombie’s body, covering 90% of it with intricate designs of an entire skeleton, bones, ribs and a skull/brains included. Other artists also took part in the process, executing small details or other designs, such as the insect tattoos. The conceptual project of a decomposing body is complete with flesh-eating insects. According to his own website, Zombie Boy has countless hours of work. Also, at least $20,000 worth of ink on his body.
Today Zombie Boy holds at least two Guinness World Records:
• the most insects inked on a human body (178) – 2011
• the most bones tattooed on a human body (138) – 2011
Zombie Boy’s first wide public introduction to the world was in a blog post by BME’s Shannon Larratt, regarding his extreme facial tattoos (November 13th, 2006). Two years later – in 2008 – BME followed up with an interview, showing his iconic “skull” ink largely completed.
This ModBlog feature is also the first time that Rick clarified the preferred moniker – Zombie, as opposed to “Skullboy”, which got used beforehand by Larratt and BME. Soon more mainstream coverage of Zombie’s tattoos followed – notably a June 2008 Bizarre Magazine feature.
Around 2009 Zombie’s first film appearance was already a fact. He took a role as a Tattooed Man at the Carnival in the TV movie “Carny”. Following this small time appearance, Marc Quinn discovered Zombie. Rico landed a job with the 2010 Alive on the Inside sideshow at Carnivàle Lune Bleue in Quebec.
Following the BME articles, Zombie reached more mainstream fame, mostly through social media. In 2010 someone created a Facebook fan page about his unusual and extreme tattoos. It reached more than 1 500 000 followers for a mere year. Images of Zombie got viral and this led to his discovery by Nicola Formichetti – Thiery Mugler and Lady Gaga’s fashion director.
Formichetti says he was instantly fascinated by Zombie’s appearance. He flew to Montreal in January 2011 to meet him personally. After working together to complete an extensive photo and video shoot for Thierry Mugler’s fall 2011 campaign, the two clicked instantly. After that Formichetti invited Zombie Boy to model in the Mugler men’s fashion show in Paris, France. It was the first time he had ever traveled outside Canada.
Zombie’s work with Formichetti in fashion shows, photo shoots and most notably – in Lady Gaga videos – made him widely recognized around the world. Since this “breakthrough” Zombie has collaborated with numerous designers, photographers, film directors and musicians (such as Jay-Z and Riggs, Rob Zombie’s ex-guitarist) for different projects.