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Tattooing yourself to resemble a rotting corpse — complete with blackened eye sockets and insects crawling over your exposed brain — probably ranks low on the list of things a young man can do to attract attention from girls. Yet it seems to be working wonders for Rick Genest, aka Zombie Boy, who twitched his way down the Mugler runway, sharing the stage with Lady Gaga, who mimics his skeleton markings — and grinds against his loins — in her video for “Born This Way,” already surpassing seven million hits on YouTube.com. It’s a spectacular leap from the pubs and parks of Montreal, where Genest, 25, originated. He described his profession as a “sexual performer,” doing things one might expect a zombie to do — writhing on beds of nails and such.
“I like the whole freak-show atmosphere,” said Genest, a reserved and soft-spoken young man, who lovingly bundled up his runway togs after the show and donned the black, no-label layers he wears in his usual life.
“I’m into DIY,” he said. Tugging him from the backstage melee after the Mugler show proved a challenge, as an endless stream of young women lunged to have their photos taken with him. “It’s great, isn’t it?” Genest asked with a back slap. A man of few words, he seems as stunned with his rise from obscurity as everyone else. “I’m superprivileged,” he said.
As his popularity explodes online, where his Tumblr and Facebook pages are bulging with fawning admirers of both sexes, comes word his modeling career is about to explode.
“Some biiiig stuff in development. Coming soon,” he tweeted on Feb. 24.
Asked about his next career step, he simply said: “To be continued,” and dashed off to the Mugler after party, a plastic glass tucked into the pocket of his overcoat.
Mugler’s creative director, Nicola Formichetti, who discovered Genest on Facebook and anointed him his men’s wear muse, had to scare up a passport in a jiffy to get him on a plane in time for the men’s show in Paris in January. “He gets so many offers now,” Formichetti said. “He’s a born superstar.”