Known as a “living skeleton”, and by his adopted moniker Zombie Boy, Rick Genest got his first tattoo as a teenager: a skull and crossbones on his shoulder. This marked the beginning of a life-long dedication to body modification, as he gradually inked himself with an entire human bodysuit reminiscent of a skeleton, and an intricate skull on his face. Other notable mentions include a world-record breaking spider web on his torso and head and the words "evil" and "dead" imprinted across his knuckles, along with multiple piercings including his nose and bridge. “It is a gradual work of art,” he says.
"My body is a gradual work of art"
His first tattoo was provoked by a near-fatal brain tumour when he was 16. He left home shortly after, sleeping rough and hitchhiking around Canada, before Nicola Formichetti discovered him on the internet and plucked him from obscurity to model for Thierry Mugler in 2011. He influenced the entire collection and has since modelled for Jay-Z, L’Oréal and multiple magazine editorials, including a Rebel Ink cover based on Salvador Dalí’s Voluptas Mors. He is also the star corpse in Lady Gaga’s Born This Way video. He is a musician and DJ, as well as acting in films such as 47 Ronin. Here AnOther speak to Genest about his tattoos and fashion week.
When did you first decide that you wanted a tattoo?
When I was young I loved tattoos that were included in the Bazooka chewing gum brand. When I got older a real tattoo was the 'next step'. Naturally my body art did not take form at one point in time. I always had creative ideas and I went with them. There was no turning back!
What is your most recent tattoo?
The bottoms of my feet — monster footprints. They needed to be done.
Do you always work with the same tattoo artist?
For around four years I got a lot done with Montréal based Frank Lewis, but now I mix it up and have work done with different artists locally and internationally.
Were you interested in anatomy/zombies as a child?
No, actually I was a huge fan of the Ninja Turtles.
Do you have a favorite tattoo?
My Pink Cupcake with sprinkles (on my butt) is up there! But of course the skull on my face is my favourite.
Do you have any tattoo heroes?
Lots. Mary the Mexican Vampire Woman, Lizard Man, Lucky Diamond Rich.
How would you describe the fashion industry to an outsider
Crazy! Intense! It’s a whirlwind of fun and the people work incredibly hard. They are great. I remember my first catwalk for the Mugler fashion show in Paris. They showed me how to walk. I changed it up and they loved my style. I keep getting new invites. So I guess all’s good.
What genre of music do you most enjoy?
Where do you feel most inspired?
At home, surrounded by good people. I have travelled a lot but Montréal, Quebec will always be my home.
What would you tell somebody who was getting a tattoo for the first time?
As I once told Lady Gaga – chew gum, it keeps your mind occupied.
Text by Mhairi Graham