Mourning the Death of ‘Zombie Boy’ Model, Lady Gaga Calls Out the Stigma of Mental Illness

Rick Genest, also known as Zombie Boy, has died at the age of 32. Well known for his many tattoos, one of which made his face look like a skull, as well as for his performance in Lady Gaga's music video, "Born This Way," Genest passed away in Montreal on Wednesday of an apparent suicide, CBC reported.

According to Vogue, Genest came from a circus performance background in Canada, starting off with his own show called Lucifer's Blasphemous Mad Macabre Torture Carnival. He then had his first big break in 2010, after being scouted by Nicola Formichetti to star in Thierry Mugler's menswear show. A year later, he shot to international stardom with his role in "Born This Way."

Genest also modeled for Rocawear (the fashion label by Jay-Z), acted in the Keanu Reeves-starring 47 Ronin, and served as the muse for a sculpture by artist Marc Quinn, The Guardian reported.

Lady Gaga mourned the death of her friend late Thursday with a heartfelt statement on Twitter, urging everyone to break the stigma of mental illness.

"The suicide of friend Rick Genest, Zombie Boy is beyond devastating," she wrote, uploading several photos of the two in collaboration. "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."

She continued, "if you are suffering from Mental Health issue 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."

As SELF wrote previously, getting help for a mental health issue is incredibly important, especially if you're dealing with suicidal thoughts. But for many people, stigma, financial concerns, or a lack of access to quality mental health care makes it nearly impossible to do so. That's why, as Gaga said, we all have to do what we can to make these conversations easier—we all have to "save each other."

The way you help your loved ones depends on the nature of your relationship and your unique situation, but simply checking in with your own biases—for instance, have you ever distanced yourself from someone after learning they have a mental illness?—is always a good place to start.

If you or someone you know is contemplating suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 or text CONNECT to Crisis Text Line at 741741.


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