The sudden announcement of the unexpected death of 32-year-old model Ricky Genest on August 1st, 2018 made me instantly recall my time of writing about him back in 2014. I remembered him not because he tattooed himself to look like a real-life version of something created by Tim Burton but because of a phrase he often used. ”Contagious yawning is a phenomenon that only occurs in humans and chimpanzees as a response to hearing, seeing, or even thinking about yawning.-Psychology Today
I have this contagion with words, I literally catch catchphrases and it takes me a while to shake them. If I hear a certain voice or watch enough video clips of someone I’m bound to pick up a phrase or two. This was the case years ago when I used to write for the online tattoo magazine, Tattoodo. My assignment was to write about Canadian model Ricky Genest, famously known as Zombie Boy. He said the phrase ”and things like this, ” many times and I found myself adding it to the end of my own sentences for weeks. To read about how he survived a high-risk brain surgery, went from living on the streets to walking the catwalk and then dancing beside Lady Gaga, click here. The cause of his death was believed to be suicide and was treated as such by the masses, including Lady Gaga who initially tweeted; “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.” A flood of the concern about mental health and those suffering in silence ensued, Ricky, being the newest face of such a preventable tragedy. However, Genest’s manager saw things differently.
Karim Leduc, told USA TODAY he believed Genest’s fall from his third-floor apartment balcony was an accident.
“I’ve been on that balcony before. It’s an emergency balcony, and it’s supposed to be locked. It’s a fire hazard exit so the rail guard is extremely low,” he explained. “I’m exactly his height, five foot ten and a half inches and that rail guard comes… low, below the hips.”
Leduc says Genest was going outside for a smoke, which was usual.
“So he goes on the backside of the balcony and sort of sits on the rail guard,” he said. “And from what we know, he fell on his backside… He could have just lost balance.”-USA Today
Lady Gaga has since corrected her statement:
This atypical model reminds us that the book will inevitably be judged by its cover and the backside with the summary will be critiqued ever further to see if it’s even worth opening. The lesson is not to avoid the natural human behavior of judging one another but to be careful of what becomes of those judgments. Ricky Genest surely endured plenty of unwanted attention from strangers just like the rest of us do. In his case though, little did they know, they were looking at a successful runway model. According to his team, Ricky was ”bright love.” He was a good writer and expressed himself through art and poetry. He had plans ahead of him and a life to live out and now that isn’t going to happen. He was somebody’s somebody. We don’t know how many minutes we have left to spend so whatever you do with your nonrefundable time, whoever you become as each minute passes on this side of Heaven, make sure you’re proud of yourself in the exact moment you’re in, because the next could be a final free-fall from an apartment building in Montreal.
Details will come to light as the authorities conduct the investigation but it is confirmed that Genest was clean and sober at the time of his death.
It could have been on purpose but it could have been an accident. Regardless, Zombie Boy, Rick Genest, is no longer with us. My deepest condolences and comforting prayers to Rick’s family and friends. The saddest part about this story is that a life has ended too soon but an accompanying tragedy, is that because of social media and how overzealous the media is just to get the headlines out there-nevermind the truth of it-suicide was immediately assumed. What is it they say about those who assume? These rumors amplified the grief. Since the media has no regard for objective reporting, it is up to the public to fact check. It is disturbing that the media doesn’t seem to care for honesty but it is just as disappointing that the majority believes whatever they are told. A barrage of fake news and a people believing the lies is a setup for disaster. How are we supposed to be set free if we fail to know the truth that is the key to the freedom we seek? We need to pay attention. We need to be patient. We need to restore integrity and put value back into honesty. That way, when tragedies such as this do occur, we can at least avoid swirling around in the muck of deceit. Truth is freedom. We need to demand it and we need to stand for it.