Montreal model and artist Rick Genest, also known as Zombie Boy, has died, police sources have told Radio-Canada. Genest was 32.
Genest came to the public’s attention after tattooing his body from head to toe, including images of a skull and brain on his head. He holds a Guinness World Record for most insect tattoos (176) and another for most human bone tattoos (139).
His body-art attracted fashion designers and he modelled at high-end shows in Paris and Berlin. In 2011, he appeared in Lady Gaga’s music video for the song Born This Way.
Police sources told Radio-Canada that Genest died in Montreal’s Plateau–Mont Royal borough around 5 p.m. ET on Wednesday. They are classifying his death as a suicide.
Lady Gaga tweeted Thursday night that the news is “beyond devastating.”
The suicide of friend Rick Genest, Zombie Boy is beyond devastating. We have to work harder to change the culture, bring Mental Health to the forefront and erase the stigma that we can’t talk about it. If you are suffering, call a friend or family today. We must save each other. <a href=”https://t.co/THz6x5JlpB”>pic.twitter.com/THz6x5JlpB</a>
From the streets, to worldwide fame
Genest was born in the Montreal borough of LaSalle, grew up in the off-island suburb of Châteauguay and spent part of his life living on the streets.
He got his first tattoo at 16 and left home the following year.
About 90 per cent of his body was eventually tattooed, and most of it is by Montreal tattoo artist Frank Lewis, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
The extent of Genest’s tattoos led him to work in sideshows and then garner an online following.
“He was someone who was a prisoner of that image,” said Pénélope McQuade, host of Radio-Canada’s Les échangistes, who interviewed Genest in 2016.
The British artist Marc Quinn is slated to create a 3.5-metre bronze sculpture of Genest for London’s Science Museum next year.
“I find him rather amazing. He is an artist. His artwork is himself,” Quinn told the Guardian newspaper in March.
The last post on Genest’s official Facebook page, which has almost one million followers, is a poem called The Well.
Fans have posted an outpouring of grief in the comments.
Where to get help:
Canada Suicide Prevention Service: 1-833-456-4566
In Quebec (French): Association québécoise de prévention du suicide: 1-866-APPELLE (1-866-277-3553)
If you’re worried someone you know may be at risk of suicide, you should talk to them, says the Canadian Association for Suicide Prevention.