Rick Genest, Tattooed Model Known as Zombie Boy, Dies at 32

Rick Genest, a model who was known for his head-to-toe tattoos and for appearing in the music video for Lady Gaga’s 2011 song “Born This Way,” has died at 32.

Dulcedo Management, which represented him, confirmed his death on its Facebook page on Thursday but did not say where or precisely when he died. He lived in Montreal.

On her Twitter account, Lady Gaga said the cause was suicide, and that it was “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,” she wrote.

Mr. Genest, who was better known as Zombie Boy or Rico, was born on Aug. 7, 1985, in a small town in Quebec. He said he had grown up fascinated by freak shows and tattoos.

“Even from age five I used to spend any pennies I had on bubble gum that came with transfer tattoos and stick them up my arms,” he wrote in the newspaper The Irish Mirror in 2016. “I’ve always wanted to look different.”

In school, he said, students found themselves neatly fitting into categories.

“Are you a jock, a nerd, a prep, a rapper, a metalhead?” he said in 2016 at a TEDx talk in Austria.

Mr. Genest said that he became a goth, “the least favorite of the subcultures,” and that he was “bullied by most and befriended by few.”

When he was a teenager he was told by doctors that he had a brain tumor and that he would need surgery that would leave him disfigured for life.

“I guess this spiralled me into becoming obsessed with the morbid and macabre,” he wrote in The Mirror.

But after months of examinations and blood work, he was presented with another option that involved laser technology. By his account, in 2000, he was the second person in North America to survive the procedure.

He then began getting tattoos. His first was of a skull and crossbones on his left shoulder. Then he had his face tattooed to resemble a skull. He decided to shave off his mohawk and had his head tattooed to resemble a brain. Then he had a skeleton tattooed on his body.

“It was all coming together,” he said.

By this point he had run away from home after an argument with his mother. He cleaned windshields for money and squatted in buildings.

People began stopping him in the street to ask if he would pose for photographs. In 2008, Bizarre magazine asked if he would do a photo shoot.

“When they printed the pictures, they used the name ‘Zombie Boy,’ and that was that,” he said.

He then received requests to model in fashion shows, perform in freak shows and appear at tattoo conventions.

Lady Gaga approached him in 2011 to participate in the “Born This Way” video, in which she wore makeup that resembled his tattoos.

That same year, he made it into “The Guinness World Records” for “most insects tattooed on the body” — 176.

He also worked as a representative for L’Oréal’s Dermablend, a concealer that covers tattoos. He appeared in several movies, including “47 Ronin” (2013), with Keanu Reeves, and he played in a band with the Rob Zombie guitarist Mike Riggs.

Mr. Genest wrote in The Mirror that he was proud of achieving his boyhood dream of becoming “a freak.”

“And yes,” he wrote, “Please do stare, I like it.”

The Associated Press contributed reporting.

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