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.
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