In current times where tattoos have long entered the mainstream and have become an integral part of the fashion scene, tattooed models are more popular than ever. There is particularly one name that has been inevitable during the past seasons when it comes to extremely inked looks: Rick Genest, better known as Zombieboy.
In context of our tattoo story “And what are you tattooing today?” which can be found in the current issue #249 of Sportswear International Magazine, we spoke to the 27-year-old Canadian, who lately pocketed the job as Rocawear’s face for their spring/summer 2013 campaign.
How did your career start of? How do you explain your success as a model?
Rick Genest: Being tattooed as a living skeleton, I found work in many stage shows, freak shows, side shows and carnivals, as an illustrated man, geek and fakir. I have landed small parts on TV as well as movies (‘Carny’ staring Lou Diamond Phillips; ‘47 Ronin’ starring Keanu Reaves). 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 two 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, I started to Dj parties globally as well. Ultimately, I hope to act more in movies.
You are the face of Rocawear Europe for spring/summer '13. How do you feel about doing that?
Growing up in the city as a teenager, I had always embraced urban culture/lifestyle/clothing. It is a great honor to represent what I eat, and breathe, and bleed for as long as I have. I am excited to be involved with Rocawear’s re-launch across Europe for spring/summer ’13.
How did your “zombie“appearance develop?
The origins of the zombie creaturecame about from stories of people being buried alive in times of plagues and such crisis; who would come out the other side “transformed.” In my life, this was true to me. Growing up as an urban teenager, alongside many moded; this lifestyle 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 to many, represents a pervasive xenophobia. As in my life, I was often out-casted, hated or misunderstood for being so.
At the age of 17, I was given the name ‘Zombie’ particularly due to my medical history, interests in music, movies and apparel. I had my first tattoo at the age of sixteen; a skull & crossbones.
Are you surprised that tattoos are suddenly such a "trendy" thing?
It’s funny; tattoos have always been a part of the underground. I never had an outside view to notice that they have only now become trendy. Where I grew up, they were always fashionable.
How do you explain the development that suddenly, tattoos are not longer only accepted in society on hidden spots but are okay to be boldly visible?
Historically, tattoos have been around since the dawn of time. They are a way to represent what tribe, family or crew one belongs to; as well as a passage rights to adult-hood. Tattooing has been practiced for centuries in many cultures around the world. Particularly: in Asia, The Ainu, an indigenous people of Japan, traditionally had facial tattoos. One can find Atayal of Taiwan, Berbers of Tamazgha (North Africa), Hausa people of Northern Nigeria, Kurdish people in East-Turkey, and Māori of New Zealand with facial tattoos. Tattooing was widespread among Polynesians and among certain tribal groups in Africa, Borneo, Cambodia, Europe, Japan, the Mentawai Islands, MesoAmerica, New Zealand, North America and South America, the Philippines, and Taiwan. The island of Great Britain takes its name from tattooing; Britons translates as "people of the designs". I believe it’s only the past couple of generations, which we lost our heritage and union with nature.
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