In an earlier post I argued that the person known then as “Zombie” is an excellent example of the self-fulfilling stereotype. Down on his luck, and wanting to say “fuck you” to the world, he tattooed his body and face to look like a rotting corpse. Unexpectedly, people began treating him with curiosity and admiration, instead of contempt. And, what do you know, his outlook began to improve. He reacted to people treating him positively… positively… and he became… positive.
In our original post, we discussed how Zombie, also known as Rick Genest, responded to being complimented on the street and invited to parties. It’s recently come to our attention, however, that Zombie is now rubbing elbows with the super-elite. Beth B. put us on notice that he’s now modeling for Mugler, I discovered that he’s also modelling for Vogue Hommes Japan, and and my students alerted me to the fact that he’s in Lady Gaga’s most recent music video. What an amazing illustration of how one’s appearance can make wild differences in one’s life.
Lady Gaga (forward to 4:10 for Genest’s appearance):
NOTE: The original post was fleshed out for a two-page essay for Contexts magazine.Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter and Facebook.