Model and artist Rick Genest, also known as Zombie Boy, died Wednesday, August 2nd in Montreal. He was 32 years old.
With extensive head-to-toe tattoos, including the etching of a skull and brain on his head, Genest first rose to prominence as a model for fashion shows in Paris and Berlin. But his appearance in Lady Gaga's 2011 "Born This Way" video, directed by Nick Knight, is what cemented Genest in pop culture history forever.
"In a way [Rico's] story is similar to Gaga, in that there's no going back," said fashion director Nicola Formichetti, who's always been a major champion of Genest. "You do what you believe. You are that, you are what you're creating."
Upon hearing the news, Gaga took to Twitter to mourn the loss of her friend and collaborator. "We have to work harder to change the culture," she wrote. "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."
She continued, "Science tells us that it takes 21 days to form a habit. If you are suffering from mental health issue [sic], I beckon for today to be your first day or a continuation of the work you've been doing. Reach out if you're in pain, and if you know someone who is, reach out to them too."
Gaga also brought attention to the Born This Way Foundation, which aims to support those struggling with mental health. Through the BTW Foundation, she said she plans to "explore the power of habits to build cultures of kindness and wellness," and encouraged fans to sign up for more information here.
Genest's relationship with Formichetti extended beyond the "Born This Way" video. They frequently collaborated during Formichetti's time as the creative director at Mugler, creating dramatic fashion films and staging runway cameos.
"Rest in power, Zombie Boy," Formichetti wrote on Instagram. "Please if you ever need help, reach out. 1-800-273-8255 is the number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. You're not alone."