I am sure you have heard of them, the walking dead, the zombies. Flesh falling off their limbs, drained of blood, intellectually dull and hungry for brains – a walking dead horror story phenomena. But have you seen one or met one? Would you really want too? Looks can be deceiving, I had the pleasure of interviewing Rico the Zombie. This zombie art collecting gentlemen is full of heart, phenomenal innerstrength (he survived a brain tumor at age 15), and intelligence to boot. With the majority of his body covered in ink inspired by the rotting corpse, you may know him as ‘Zombie boy,’ a Canadian artist and tattoo clad fashion model.
Aadie Suicide: Where did you grow up?
Zombie Boy: From the ground, from the grave; alive with no pulse but a craving for brains. Growing up happened in different places and in different ways. I loved spending the better half of my time keeping it in the streets of Montreal.
AS: How do you like to spend your free time?
ZB: Getting high on rooftops & low under bridges. Telling jokes & lighting smokes.
AS: Do you have any pets?
ZB: My shadows were twin sister and brother Rottweiler cross German Sheppards, Skullz and Bonez. When they passed, I became more involved in circus…I recently gave away my 8 foot Albino Boa, Lucifer, due to excessive traveling and lack of time for her.
AS: What did you want to be when you where little?
ZB: I do believe I did become what I wanted to be. I still want to creep more in horror movies, as well as freak more at sideshows. Asides from these things, I would like to spend more down time on taxidermy projects.
AS: If you weren’t the Zombie Boy that you are today, what career path would you be on and why?
ZB: I always thought that zombies could do anything. Just more dead-ish.
AS: I understand your artwork is a tribute to the horror movie genre, what is your favorite director and film?
ZB: There are so many masterpieces, it would be hard to choose. Ultimately, Tobe Hooper’s 1974 Texas Chainsaw Massacre.
AS: What was the first horror movie you can recall seeing and how old where you?
ZB: The earliest I can remember, Tremors, was the first to traumatize me. But it was The Adams Family and Batman that got to me first. As for comic books, Morbius The Living Vampire and Ghost Rider were my favorites.
AS: When you were 16 you got first Tattoo; What was it?
ZB: My first tattoo was an outline of a Jolly Roger, but instead of a skull, a living zombie’s head.
AS: You were featured in Lady Gaga’s music video for “Born This Way.” How did that come about?
ZB: As an illustrated man, street busker, and performing artist, I had not been a stranger to photography. Being tattooed as a living skeleton, I found work easily that way. I’ve preformed in stage shows, carnivals, landed small parts on TV, worked once as a talent on a movie named Carny staring Lou Diamond Philips. I worked at a pirate themed bar and often get stopped in the street for pictures. I had already been published in Ripley’s Believe It Or Not, Bizarre, and National Geographic, as well as others. One afternoon, a man named Ludo stopped me in the street and offered me a sum to model one afternoon for a fashion magazine named Dressed to Kill. This was the shoot that got the attention of Nicola Formichetti. Thierry Mugler is the brand name that Nicola Formichetti hired me to work for, and soon after, he offered me an appearance in Lady Gaga’s “Born this Way” video. I love showbiz, and it makes it so much more fun when you get to work with positively charged people like Gaga. She is one down cat – passionate about what she does, very head on earth, and treats everyone with respect.
AS: What is the general reaction you get from people who see you in public? Positive, negative or mixed?
ZB: Most people can tell I’m just a tattooed man, but, previous to working with Gaga, often authority figures, the old fashioned, the elderly, and the upper class, would be quick to judge.
AS: Have you had to cover up any work you no longer favored or just to complete the art of the rotting cadaver? And if so, what was it?
ZB: Many years ago I got my hyena head- Baphomet covered with a biohazard symbol.
AS: Since GaGa’s discovery of you, you have kind of exploded. How does that feel?
ZB: I have a lot of work to do and Gaga gave me the chance to get things done. If any of you creeps out there are reading this, I’m the right monster for the job!
AS: Are you enjoying your new found fame?
ZB: I have always loved entertainment and have been entertaining since I first discovered I could pick my nose. I’m grateful I’ve still got blood left.
AS: I saw a video clip of makeup artists completely covering over your tattoos. When you looked in the mirror, what was that like for you? How did that feel?
ZB: The job was fun, and the people’s reaction funnier. I love practical jokes!
AS: You have your own Character Figure! That for me is basically one of the highest honors. What was that like for you?
ZB: I have been turned into a metal statue and also a wax statue. Honestly, I was waiting for a downsized plastic guy. He is very well made; I thank the good people at Tonner
AS: Any words of wisdom for people who have never had a tattoo but are thinking of getting one?
ZB: Chewing gum helps with the tough spots.
AS: Do you have anything else you would like to say?
ZB: Stay fresh or smell bad J
The Zombie Boy LIVE IN AUSTRIA in April 2013 at WILDSTYLE & TATTOO CONVENTION:
Europe’s most successful and spectacular Tattoo-Show!!
6th & 7th of April, Vienna - Planet.tt / Gasometer
13th & 14th of April, Salzburg - Sporthalle Alpenstrasse
20th & 21st of April, Innsbruck - Messehalle 4
Details: Check out www.wildstyle.at
Fresh off his controversial settlement with Fox TV’s American Horror Story, the tattooed model named Rick Genest aka The Zombie Boy hit New York Fashion Week as a special guest. Instead of stalking the runways, ‘The Walking Dead Guy’ joined the living and sat front row while he gasped at the collections offered by today’s hottest designers. Drop dead gorgeous models paraded down the runway as Zombie shot wicked smiles of approval.
At the last minute Zombie’s manager Colin Singer called me and said, “Rico The Zombie want to do Fashion Week.” So I dug up wardrobe and scheduled The Zombie Boy to see the hottest shows in town. Flying from Zurich to New York, Zombie literally landed in the middle of a fashion week whirlwind. After clearing US Customs, the Canadian-born Supermodel was whisked into Manhattan via Town Car, devoured half of a sandwich, guzzled down two Red Bulls, chomped on a pack of Twizzlers and we were off to the Timo Weiland show. “I love this outfit I am wearing because it reminds me of a funeral.” The Zombie was commenting on the ‘Black Rose’ slacks and shirt ensemble with skinny tie and black ankle boots.
The ‘Modified Model’ entered the Plaza at Lincoln Center and it was a media blitz as camera flashes, cell phone clad fans and paparazzi all pounced at once. Fans surrounded Zombie from all sides. They came in wheelchairs, tattooed teens showed their ink, models posed with him and shocked onlookers all jumped in to get a picture of the fashion freak. After being escorted to his seat, the atmosphere inside was just as hectic as photographers and camera crews stepped up to get their pound of flesh. Rico The Zombie was photographed from every conceivable angle. For those who could not shoot his face, they were more than happy to take pictures of his ear and the back of his bug infested, tattooed head as he gave sound bites to the media.
Next, we popped into to Betsey Johnson’s show and the impish model was literally dressed to kill with crystal and ruby tipped knives in hand along with a dangerously spiked and plumed army jacket with blood splattered spiked boots. Zombie Boy stabbed, slashed and growled for photographers like Patrick McMullen. Zombie blended into the circus-like atmosphere. In true Betsey Johnson style the décor was full of festive metallic streamers, hot pink glitter and everything sparkly. And of course when Betsey throws a fashion show, she attracts over-the-top guests like Wendy Williams. Ok… Williams’ staff snubbed us and did not allow Rico The Zombie Boy to take a photo with the Queen of Gossip, but we shook off the celebrity diss, hit the road, changed clothes in the car and jumped out in full Blond regalia. It was time for Rico The Zombie to meet the real life Barbie doll, Phillipe Blond and his partner David Blond. No longer living in Gaga’s shadow, Zombie Boy now sits front row and rubs elbows with noted guest who all marveled at his impressive ink. Wearing a spike printed jacket and pants designed by David and Phillipe Blond themselves. Zombie Boy whispered, “I feel like I am home”. The Zombie Boy was photographed with everyone from Transsexual Supermodel, Amanda Lepore, American Idol’s Adam Lambert, Playboy model-turned-designer Coco Johnsen, buffed celebrity photographer Mike Ruiz, Top Model alum Jay Manuel and Paris Hilton who joined Zombie in a sword fight photo op. Fashion Titans Roger Padilha and Mauricio Padilha who head up MAO PR and manage The Blonds, checked in to see if the tattooed wonder was settled. The lights went down and to the music of JAWS, Phillipe Blond stomped the runway in killer shark corset with ruby jewels and crystal accents to resemble blood. Zombie waved his faux blood tipped knives at Phillipe as he zipped by.
With a glance of approval, The Zombie Boy enjoyed his first New York Fashion Week and spent the evening slashing away at every celebrity in his path. Watch out Wendy Williams… Zombie is dying to sink his teeth into you!
Photographer John Mayes follows Zombie’s Stylish bug infested head at the Timo Weiland show.
Front Row at Timo weiland Zombie Boy and Ty-Ron Mayes.
Zombie Boy stalks the Betsey Johnson Show
Zombie Boy growls at Amanda Lepore and Stylist Ty-Ron Mayes
Zombie Boy thinks American Idol Alum Adam Lambert is …to die for.
Front Row at The Blonds: Zombie Boy, Ty-Ron Mayes, Coco Johnsen and Colin Singer.
Paris Hilton and Zombie… “That’s HOT!” @ The Blonds Show SS2013
Real Life Barbie Phillipe Blond poses with David Blond and Rico The Zombie
Mauricio Padilha saves Amanda Lepore from The Zombie Boy! Photo: Mauricio Padilha
You’re probably already familiar with Rick Genest (<insert ‘AKA Zombie Boy’ here>). With an unforgettable look and enviable contacts, Rick is on his way to becoming a bona fide pop culture icon, not only for the fashion industry but for early 21st Century culture in general. Anyway, let’s not get bogged down in semiotics. Amongst many many other projects, Rick is now working with streetwear giants Rocawear as their European face for SS13. We caught up with him to discuss the project and see what else he’s been up to…
PlanetNotion: How’s it feel to be the face of Rocawear Europe SS13?
Rick Genest: Growing up in the city as a teenager, I had always embraced urban culture/lifestyle/clothing. It is a great honor to rep what I eat, and breathe, and bleed for as long as I have. I’m excited to be involved with the re-launch of Rocawear across Europe for Spring Summer ’13.
PN: What’s your favourite piece in the SS13 collection and why?
RG: My favorite piece in the SS13 collection would be either the oxblood shoes or the blue suede shoes. It’s pretty tough to beat the king!
PN: Rocawear has fairly strong musical associations – what music do you personally enjoy? What’s your favourite album of all-time?
RG: My favorite album of all time would be too hard to choose. As an adolescent I knew Marilyn Manson Anti-Christ Superstar off by heart. I deeply respect Dead Prez, Kenny Arkana, Immortal Technique, Jedi Mind Tricks… mostly revolutionary bands. Also some fun music like Lil Boozie, Madchild… Right now I’m listening to Billy Woods; depth full spoken word artist. Check him out!!
PN: You’ve been spoken about working on music yourself. How has this been going? Have you made any progress?
RG: Well, I always have bits and pieces here and there as a personal hobby. I am scheduled to hit the studio this upcoming January 2013!
PN: What initially inspired you to begin tattooing yourself and to see it through to this extent?
RG: At the age of 17, I was given the name ‘Zombie’ particularly due to my medical history, interests in music, movies and apparel. The origins of the zombie creature came about from stories of people being buried alive in times of plagues and such crisis; that would come out the other side ‘transformed’. In my life, this was true to me. Growing up as an urban teenager, alongside many molded; this life style was the origin of my bodysuit. Surviving through hardships, such as poverty and illness; derived my anarchistic transitive pictograph verbalization to the world.
The common thought of zombies too many, represents a pervasive xenophobia. As in my life, I was often out-casted, hated or misunderstood for being so. The zombie concept is also often used as a metaphor for runaway consumerism. This is the idea that we live through the notions without reflecting, as a commercially programmed bio-organism. Rebelling from this notion is the very meaning of punk; defining the tenuous line between civilization and barbarism. Understanding that the first step to anarchy is defiance; the notion of being alive while dead, is defiance to the very laws of nature itself.
At the age of 16, I got my first tattoo, a skull & crossbones. Historically, the flag was flown to identify a ship’s crew as pirates. Its purpose was to frighten pirates’ victims into surrendering without a fight, since it conveyed the message that the attackers were outlaws who would not consider themselves bound by the usual rules of engagement—and might, therefore, slaughter those they defeated. “A great civilization is not conquered from without until it has destroyed itself from within” – William James Durant
PN: Did you ever see yourself garnering the fame you have for your appearance? Has it been a gratifying experience?
RG: Being tattooed as a living skeleton, I found work in stage shows, carnivals, landed small parts on TV, as well as movies (‘Carney’ staring Lou Diamond Phillips; ‘47Ronin’ starring Keanu Reeves, release 2013). I had worked at a pirate themed bar, and had been published in many magazines. One of which, I was invited to model for a fashion magazine named Dressed to Kill. This was the shoot that got the attention of Nicola Formichetti. Thierry Mugler is the brand name that Nicola Formichetti hired me to work for, and soon after, an appearance in Lady Gaga’s ‘Born this Way’ video. Ever since, I’ve been world traveling. I was presented with two Guinness World Records, transformed into museum life-size replicas, as well as shrunk into an action figure. Alongside modeling, I’ve been keeping busy cat walking at fashion shows, making TV appearances, and lately started to DJ parties globally as well.
PN: Have you planned any further collaborations with Lady Gaga? If so, can you reveal any details about these?
RG: Gonna have to wait and see!
PN: You’ve done a lot of circus work in the past: What drew you to this line of work? Have you always been an admirer of the circus?
RG: Yes, I’ve participated in and love circus programs; they’re a great way to stay in shape and discover/ develop character personality, as well as a great teamwork apprenticeship. I’ve been a self declared freak show and side show performer; I worked at a carnival as a summer job and spent many years as an underground artist. I love horror and oddities, and have always had an eye out for anything weird and unusual.
PN: What does the future hold for you? You’ve pursued a pretty eclectic path so far, what would you like to do next
RG: Well, asides from working on music, I want to creep my way into horror movies. I have my eye on Ghostbusters 3. I’m currently in discussion with Director Sam Irvin for a possible role in an interesting film. I am open to most productions, if ever the opportunity slithers by.
Interview by Alex Gladwin