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
Rick “Zombie Boy” Genest has led an unconventional life, to say the least. We caught up with Lady Gaga’s comrade-in-arms to talk about being the new face of Rocawear and his philosophy on life.
Since you have become famous, have people’s reactions to you on the street changed?
Well, first some things stayed the same. My life style was already nomadic, living out of my backpack; working odd jobs, meeting cool people, as well as often being stopped and photographed. This hasn’t changed. What changed was the masses’ reaction to me. Prior, I had my place amongst those who understood me and had the luxury of privacy. Now I often feel that every walk of life either has a question or an opinion about the way I breathe air – although I do seize this opportunity to raise awareness for tolerance, acceptance and embracing our differences.
What’s the philosophy behind your tattoos?
The zombie concept is also often used as a metaphor for runaway consumerism. Rebelling from this notion is the very meaning of punk. The origins of the zombie creature came about from stories of people being buried alive in times of plagues and such crises; that would come out the other side ‘transformed’. Zombies, to many, represent a pervasive xenophobia. As in my life, I was often out-casted, hated or misunderstood.
You’ve just become the face of Rocawear. Can you tell us more about that?
Growing up in the city as a teenager, I have always embraced urban culture and style. It is a great honor to represent what I live, breathe, and bleed for as long as I have. I’m excited to be involved with Rocawear’s re-launch across Europe for Spring Summer ’13.
You and your art have become synonymous with Lady Gaga. How do you feel about that?
I would defiantly have to say that we both share love for art, the love for revolution, and fearlessness of self-expression.
You’ve recently filmed a part in 47 Ronin with Keanu Reeves, is acting something you have always wanted to do?
Since my childhood, I had a profound interest in pirates. I recall in particular the movie Hook, starring Robin Williams, as well as pirate LEGO. As life went on, I had spent the greater part of my time living in likeness to the lost boys and pirates.
What would be your ideal film role?
I’ve had a chance to play as a punk rocker, a carnie and a pirate. My ideal film role yet would be as a deranged psycho in a horror picture.
Are you planning on any more tattoos?
I’m still working on my tattoo project. As well as finishing my bodysuit, I soon wish to sharpen my teeth, with likeness to those of a reptile.
What do you have planned for 2013?
In 2013, I will be starting to work on a music project, but more details would ruin the surprise!
Words: Siobhan Frew
Rick "Zombie Boy" Genest drops by The Ric & Suzanne Show!
Posted By: CJAD 800 · 11/30/2012 11:37:00 AM
Actor, artist and model Rick "Zombie Boy" Genest, best known for performing with Lady Gaga, joined Ric & Suzanne today for a chat about bullying and tolerance.
Rick is tattooed over 80% of his body, and the ink is made to have him look like a corpse. Earlier this week, the Montrealer spoke to Marymount High School students about being comfortable in their own skin.
photo: Terry Richardson