Lady Gaga Among Those Mourning Loss Of 'Zombie Boy' At 32


This article has been updated since it was first published.

The heavily tattooed Canadian model and artist known as Zombie Boy, who was featured in Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" video, died Wednesday. He was 32.

A source said Rick Genest was found on the ground outside his girlfriend's apartment building in Montreal's Plateau-Mont-Royal neighbourhood at around 5 pm. Radio-Canada cited police sources as saying it was an apparent suicide, although an official cause of death has not yet been revealed.

Genest's manager Karim Leduc said the death was a tragic accident. He speculated that Genest fell backwards off a railing while smoking on a fire escape.

ZOMBIE BOY OFFICIAL PRESS RELEASE MONTREAL, August 3rd 2018 The statement made by the police of Montreal is accurate in terms of time and location. Zombie Boy’s death occured in Montreal’s Plateau–Mont Royal neighborhood on Wednesday. The classification of his death is yet to be determined, contrary to reports. We received the bad news early afternoon yesterday and members of the Dulcedo team rushed to support his family and loved ones, in this dark and difficult moment. We want to offer them our deepest condolences. Dulcedo Management is shocked and saddened by this tragedy. Zombie Boy, Rico, was loved by everyone who had the chance to meet and know him. Icon in the artistic scene and in the fashion and entertainment industries, this innovator has charmed all hearts. As you can expect, this is an incredibly difficult time for everyone involved. We ask that the privacy of his family be respected as they grieve and in the next coming days, an official statement will be made by his family. - Dulcedo Management

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On Thursday night, Gaga tweeted that "the suicide of friend Rick Genest, Zombie Boy is beyond devastating." Two days later, the pop star deleted the tweet and apologized to Genest's loved ones. "I in no way meant to draw an unjust conclusion," she tweeted.

In a message on Facebook, Genest's management company said he "was loved by all those who had the chance to meet him and know him."

Genest, who would have been 33 next Tuesday, had been working on an album of his own songs with former Rob Zombie guitarist Mike Riggs.

Born and raised in Montreal, Genest got his first tattoo when he was 16. Within three years, almost his entire body was covered with ink. The “corpse” body art led to his moniker Zombie Boy, or Rico Zombie.

After years spent living on the streets of Montreal, he started appearing in side shows and “freak shows.”

In 2010, he was discovered by Lady Gaga’s stylist Nicola Formichetti, who was also the creative director for fashion designer Thierry Mugler. Genest was featured in a Mugler campaign and given a role in Gaga’s music video – high profile projects that led to work as a model for magazines like GQ, Vanity Fair and Vogue Hommes and on runways around the world.

In 2012, he was chosen to help relaunch Jay-Z's label Roc-A-Wear in Europe.

Formichetti tweeted Thursday night: "Absolutely heartbroken. Rest in Power, Zombie Boy." (He followed up days later with: "I want only to honor him and his family, not further any speculation about the circumstances of his passing. I miss him dearly.")

Genest also landed small roles in films, including 2013's 47 Ronin starring Canadian-born Keanu Reeves. He was recognized by Guinness World Records and was immortablized in wax at his hometown's Musée Grévin. A museum in London, England is scheduled to unveil a bronze statue of Zombie Boy next year.

Friends said when Genest was young, he underwent major surgery to treat a brain tumour and struggled with mental health issues throughout his life. But, some believe his death was nothing more than an accident.

In an interview with TVA last month, Genest said he is working with the Orange Door initiative of The Home Depot Canada Foundation to help organizations supporting homeless youth.

"There is not a book on life. It's not everyone who takes the same path," he said. "There are so many obstacles and not everyone is able to find a way to overcome them. Everyone needs help and there are people who get a lot less help than others.

"It's cool if we help each other."

Genest is survived by his parents Roch Genest and Catheryne Chappelle as well as two younger siblings.

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