Rick Genest (“Rico”) will challenge your sensibilities about what you believe to be beautiful. At his core he is a chiaroscuro of both light and dark—part gentle warrior, part anti-establishment artful dodger, and he has serendipitously become the ‘it’ muse for anyone who believes in a brave new world without judgment. His tattoos have equally intrigued and inspired a cult following—more than 125,000 followers on Twitter and 600,000 on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/RicoTheZombie). He has sparked a revolution with fans who see beyond the visceral and want to know everything they can about the mysterious performer, model and muse known as ‘Zombie Boy.’
Zombie Boy grew up in a working class family in Châteauguay Quebec, and is the oldest of two siblings. He got his first tattoo (a skull and crossbones) at age 16 on his left shoulder, sparking a fascination deep within him for the art form. After graduating high school, Rico left home at 17 and immersed himself in the underground punk rock scene in Montreal, and was initiated into the street culture of tattoos, piercings, music and DIY fashion. He survived by becoming a “squeegee kid” and living in abandoned buildings with his new family of friends who gave him the moniker ‘Zombie Boy.’
By 19 he was committed to his full body tattoo project and stayed loyal to Montreal artist Frank Lewis, who inked the majority of his body over the next six years following Rico’s visionary. Eighty percent of his body is covered, including intricate designs of an entire skeleton (skull included) and is thematically, the depiction of a body decomposing—complete with flesh eating insects. To date Rico has spent close to $20,000 on tattooing his body and will continue until his tapestry is finished.
Circus Freaks and Geeks
Rico joined sideshows with contemporary carnivals learning geek work, clowning, fire play, lying on a bed of nails and flesh pull techniques. He eventually amassed a group of performers together to create his own travelling freak show titled Lucifer’s Blasphemous Mad Macabre Torture Carnival, which he also directs. Lucifer’s Blasphemous was inspired by the resurgence of sideshows (think Jim Rose Circus) and body modification artists like Lizardman and The Enigma. “Lucifer is our boa [constrictor] and we are the droids of death,” says Rico, explaining the idea behind the troupe. The performers also include the sexy mistresses Sedusa, as well as Dr. Kuttz the psychotic auto mutilator, and a bevy of other Coney Island circus inspired characters. “So you’ve got some action, some gore, some burlesque-sexuality, and of course the comedy! It’s a Three Stooges freak shows, unlike you’ve ever seen,” says Rico who performs in English and French, and clearly plays the ‘Zombie’ character.
The House of Formichetti
His international thrust into the spotlight is a true rags to riches story. Nicola Formichetti, Lady Gaga’s personal stylist and the creative director of the legendary Paris based fashion house Mugler, was careering the web when he came across a photo of Zombie Boy that appeared in the magazine Dressed to Kill. Formichetti was instantly fascinated and contacted Rico through his Facebook account. In early January 2011, Formichetti flew to Montreal to meet Rico to complete an extensive photo and video shoot for Thierry Mugler’s fall 2011 campaign. The two clicked instantly and Formichetti invited Rico to Paris to model in the Mugler men’s fashion show. It was the first time he had ever travelled outside Canada, and incidentally his first time on a plane. Acting as his mentor of sorts, Formichetti then cast Zombie Boy in his biggest role to date; a pronounced cameo in Lady Gaga’s video ‘Born This Way’ filmed in New York City. It complimented the fastest single in music history to reach sales of 1,000,000 copies, days after its release.
In the video Gaga is in full ‘Zombie Boy’ makeup, as they play a rather provocative mother/son scenario—with Rico literally being birthed by the loins of Gaga herself. Of the experience Rico says, “Gaga was very approachable and has a great sense of humour with an unwavering work ethic. It was easy working with her and she knows how to put everyone at ease. She is a highly-skilled, intelligent and dedicated performer.”
In March 2011, Zombie Boy returned to Paris where he appeared along with Lady Gaga in the Mugler Women’s fashion show. He was subsequently introduced to famed photographer Steven Klein who shot him for 2011 Spring Edition of Arena Hommes Plus. His relationship with Formichetti has clearly been a boon for his career, and has since seen him pose for such magazines as GQ, Vanity Fair and Vogue Hommes Japan, as well as a collaboration with the juggernaut of the fashion photography world – the renowned — L’Enfant terrible, Terry Richardson.
He returned to LA in early 2012 to participate with Richardson and Gaga in the promotion of Lady Gaga’s 2012/2013 Born This Way Tour.
In September 2011 Rico’s character was the face of Formichetti’s epic creation, an industry first - Digital rendition for the online fashion world launched at his $250,000 Pop-Up Store -- the centre piece of New York’s Fashion Week.
Zombie Boy the Brand
Not one to rest on the laurels of his Gaga connections and fortitude, Rico has continued to build his emerging brand in concert with his business manager and accomplished photographer, attorney Colin Singer who frequently captures Zombie Boy’s raw imagery and who represents his interests since the Mugler project, behind him. In the Spring 2011 Rico was awarded the Guinness World Book of Records for the most insects tattooed on a human body (178) as well as the most bones inked on a human body (138), and he then returned to his local Tattoo artist Lewis to additions to his live walking art project.
In October 2012, Rico became the pitchman for "Dermablend" by L’Oreal, an industry acclaimed cosmetic concealer in one of the most successful on-line advertising campaigns in the industry in 2012. The promotion video is industry acclaimed attracting more than 16M views on YouTube and led to an exclusive endorsement contract as the first-ever male spokesperson for L’Oreal.
This was followed by a major cameo film role in the Christmas 2013 release of Universal Studios Film 47 Ronin starring Keanu Reeves and directed by Carl Reinch.
His international brand has exponentially grown to include modeling on the fashion runways of Paris, Milan, Berlin, Prague, Warsaw, Rio, New York and Toronto as well as an array of music and unique film projects (an appearance at the Cannes Film Festival to promote Arte’s Tracs feature film “Superheros”), and international guest appearances on Austria’s Next Top Model, Germany’s Next Top Model with Heidi Klum, appearances on the Food Network’s Bitchin Kitchen and the opening gala of the Montreal International Comedy Festival for the Francophone comic Jean Francois Mercier.
In 2013 Zombie Boy was signed to become the face of the iconic J-Zee RocaWear EU line. In April 2013 Rico was featured in the internationally acclaimed Grevin Wax Museum’s Montreal opening, in a Mugler design styled by his former mentor, Nicola Formichetti.
As an avid fan of Tim Burton’s work, Zombie Boy is currently establishing himself further in the world of performance. He is actively pursuing work in acting, animation, developing a clothing line, product endorsements as well as media editorials.
He also currently headlines internationally at tattoo conventions and guest appears and DJ’s at Clubs around the globe.
In addition to headlining fashion shows, magazines and product catalogues, Zombie Boy recently became the pitchman for Polaris a leader in the sport utility vehicle industry. His short films appeared in major international film festivals.
Despite his recent ascent onto the world stage, Rico believes in maintaining humbleness, thrift, simplicity and authenticity. Not unlike actor James Franco, it’s very apparent that Rico cannot be swayed or coerced into anything that doesn’t speak to him. He isn’t impressed by the fame machine and has a ‘IV drip of cool factor’ that lends to an almost aloof sense of composure.
He has very little desire for material wealth and maintains that his biggest extravagance would be to build a place on a nice spot of land so that he can give his friends from the punk rock community of Montreal “a place to live.” He believes in maintaining his strong relationships and hopes that one day he will be able to give back to charities and to friends back home all that they have given him.