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Rick Genest, a Canadian fashion model known as “Zombie Boy” who appeared in Lady Gaga’s “Born This Way” video, has died. He was 32.
Genest, also known as Rico the Zombie, died Wednesday after what was at first considered an apparent suicide at his Montreal apartment, according to his Montreal-based agency, Dulcedo Management.
“The whole Dulcedo family is shocked and pained by this tragedy. Zombie boy, Rico, was loved by all those who had the chance to meet him and know him … We received the unfortunate news at the beginning of the afternoon, and members of the team have come to support his family and relatives in this dark and difficult moment,” the agency said in a Facebook post.
But on Oct. 28, 2019, a Quebec coroner issued a report that concluded Genest’s death had been accidental and due to head trauma after a third-floor balcony fall. “After analysis, given that the investigation did not reveal a clear and unequivocal intention to end his life on Mr. Genest’s part, I cannot state that the death was a suicide,” Coroner Melissa Gagnon wrote in her report.
An autopsy revealed Genest, who had dealt with mental health issues, was “heavily intoxicated” with alcohol at the time of his death, and he had traces of cannabis in his blood. But Coroner Gagnon cited family and friends who insisted Genest had been “happy in the weeks preceding his death” and had been optimistic about his career prospects.
Lady Gaga mourned Genest’s death on her Twitter account, where she also appealed for more attention to be paid to tackling mental health issues. “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,” Gaga tweeted.
Born on Aug. 7, 1985, in LaSalle, Quebec, Genest became a part of the Montreal punk rock community while he spent seven years covering his entire body in tattoos to depict a decaying corpse. His body art, which Genest copyrighted, included a rendering of a brain on his skull.
That led Genest to an international modeling career and becoming a spokesperson for L’Oreal’s Dermablend line of cosmetic products. His success also led Genest into a copyright dispute with Twentieth Century Fox Television after the Canadian model claimed his body art had been stolen to appear in a scene of FX’s American Horror Story.
Oct. 28, 2019, 11 a.m. Updated with the conclusions of a Quebec Coroner’s report in Rick Genest’s 2018 death.
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