Rick Genest, known to the world as Zombie Boy due to his corpse-like tattoos, died yesterday at the age of 32.
Genest made his film debut in 2009’s TV-movie Carny opposite Lou Diamond Phillips, but the Canadian-born model, actor, and eventual producer skyrocketed to fame after appearing in Lady Gaga’s 2011 music video for her hit song “Born this Way”.
The singer had also promoted Genest’s work as a model, even appearing alongside him in Thierry Mugler’s 2011 Autumn/Winter fashion show.
Shortly after the video was released, he appeared in Keanu Reeves’ 47 Ronin while also beginning to make his path into the world of music.
Later on, he also appeared in ads for Dermablend concealer in commercials where he asked, “How do you judge a book?” while removing sections of the make-up to reveal his skeletal tattoos beneath.
Just last year, Genest presented a TEDTalk as part of the TED #DISRUPTyou series in which he challenged the idea of normality, reiterating that he had his own definition and encouraged others to determine what it meant for them.
The runways, commercials, and film work were a huge leap from his humble career beginnings, touring Canada as an Illustrated Man in carnival sideshows, but he is fondly remembered for the impact that he had on those around him. Lady Gaga took to Twitter to express her own grief at her friend’s passing yesterday.
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. pic.twitter.com/THz6x5JlpB
— Lady Gaga (@ladygaga) August 3, 2018
While Genest’s death has initially been ruled a suicide, his family, friends and representation have insisted that they do not believe he was capable of killing himself despite a history of depression and suicidal ideations.
Karim Leduc, Genest’s manager told PEOPLE that there were far too many inconsistencies for them to believe that he took his own life. They point to safety issues on the balcony from which he is presumed to have jumped as well as the fact that he had been in a generally good place mentally speaking and had been making plans for later in the week.
The family has asked for time to grieve in peace for the man they knew and loved.
Author’s Note: Despite uncertainty surrounding the Rick Genest’s cause of death, I would like to remind everyone that the National Suicide Prevention Hotline can be reached 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at 800-273-8255. If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, please pick up the phone first.