People may think they’re offending me by calling me a freak, but that’s all I’ve ever wanted to be. I grew up fascinated with freak shows and tattoos . Even from age five I used to spend any pennies I had on bubblegum that came with transfer tattoos and stick them up my arms. I’ve always wanted to look different.
Aged 15, I found out I had a brain tumour. I was told I could die or be left disfigured; I guess this spiralled me into becoming obsessed with the morbid and macabre. As it happened, the operation to remove the tumour went without a hitch, but since then, I’ve known life was too short to not fulfil my dreams of tattoos and body modifications.
I had my first tattoo – a skull and crossbones on my left shoulder – aged 16 after my operation. I was an outcast Goth as a teen and ran away from home after my first inking. I had an argument with my parents, over something I can’t even remember now, and running away was an act of rebellion.
I just wanted to live life in a bohemian way and travel with a freak show, so I ended up hopping from party to party and sleeping on rooftops in downtown Montreal where I’m from.
I was then nicknamed Zombie by my friends. When you’re messing around on the streets and getting in trouble, you have a nickname to cover yourself. Zombie came from my love of punk and skulls.
I became addicted to tattoos and now have a complete body suit (minus by privates) and a full facial tattoo of a skeleton-style face and zombie-like brain. It suits me and my journey perfectly.
I had loads of different artists tattoo me and used to get them whenever I had the money, or whenever a friend would ink me for free. The longest I have sat for a tattoo was six hours, when I had the front of my right leg done. It’s a sore area, but I was high at the time. Then when I had a good collection of tattoos dotted around, a tattooist named Frank Lewis blended them together into a bodysuit.
The face was the final stage. I was about to turn 21 and I realised I had to become an adult and start making more mature decisions, so I just got a skull tattooed on my face. I didn’t think twice about it, which people find hard to believe. But I already had my hands done, a spiderweb in my ear and tattoos on my neck, so it wasn’t such a huge step.
I didn’t care that people would judge and stare and I knew I’d never want a boring job anyway. I was just pleased I was getting closer to my goal – being a freak. I was a ‘squidgy boy’ while I was getting my face tattoo done, cleaning car windows for a couple of quid. But when the look was complete, people’s fascination with me started to grow. That was the last ‘normal’ job I had.
Folk started stopping me in the street and asking for pictures, and I happily obliged as they always threw me a few coins. I got the odd negative comment, but to embrace a look like this, you can’t really care what others think.
Bizarre magazine then got in touch with me in 2008 and wanted me to do a photo shoot. When they printed the pictures, they used the name ‘Zombie Boy’ and that was that. My new official title. I just rolled with it, I thought it was awesome. Soon after, finally a freak show came to town and recruited me and I had the time of my life. One of my tricks was to hammer nails up my nose.
The people I met were amazing. One lady in particular, Vampire Woman, was a doll and we had such a laugh together. People in the show were all shapes and sizes and that’s what I loved – the diversity. Plus everyone was mad like me. Even out of work, my core friendship group are the biggest bunch of f**k-ups from hell. I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I know a girl with 14 piercings in her privates. I know Lizard Man with the split tongue, and my buddy Stubbs has an alien tattooed on his privates. Another friend has a piercing through his penis that’s stretched so much he now has to wee sitting down. That’s extreme even for me. I like my bits as they are.
One day a stranger said, “Want to come to my place, wear my clothes and take some pictures?” Most people would say no, but I needed the money. The pictures we took that day ended up in a few small fashion magazines, then Nicola Formichetti (creative director of Diesel and fashion director of Vogue Japan) saw them. He wanted me to fly over to do some modelling with him, but I didn’t have a passport. He sorted one out for me, complete with zombie-face picture and flew me to Paris.
What followed was a crazy whirlwind modelling trip, even strutting on the catwalk. It was a different world. Walking up and down to earn a living? Prior to that I was having to eat cans of worms, chew glass and lie on a bed of nails to make money, so I thought, “Where has this job been all my life?” It was amazing.
Things got even more awesome when Nicola directed Lady Gaga’s Born This Way video and asked me to be involved. She’s super-fun, outgoing and loud. She was so polite and treated everyone on set so kindly. Plus she laughed at my jokes, which always works for me.
Since then we have stayed in touch and I’ve collaborated with her for a new Monster High doll. The doll is going to have my skull-face tattoo. It’s funny to think my image is being associated with kids’ toys.
My career has gone in all sorts of directions. I’m the spokesperson for L’Oréal Dermablend, a concealer that’s so good it covers tattoos, I had a role alongside Keanu Reeves in 47 Ronin and I’m in a band – we’re recording an album. Plus, I’ve since been in touch with my mum and she’s a good sport about my appearance. We’re closer than ever.
I still don’t have any material possessions. I live in the same place I always lived by the train tracks, I don’t have a washing machine or a car. I barely have lightbulbs. I’m happy with my bike, toaster and microwave. I’m a drifter and always will be. I have enough to tip my waitress and that’s fine with me.
I am so proud to be a freak. And yes, please do stare, I like it.
Zombie Boy helped launch the 15th anniversary of Thorpe Park Fright Nights,
featuring the brand new scare maze Platform 15. For more information visit Thorpepark.com