A self-described second-generation internet star, Bretman Rock’s name has long been held in tandem with the beauty world and influencer culture. Now, the 22-year-old is shedding the weight and work of his past to carve out a new image for his followers.
Speaking exclusively to GAY TIMES, Bretman gets candid about his current YouTube series which sees the creator battle against the tropical climate and gruelling tasks to last a week in the jungle. If that wasn’t enough, the Filipino-born content creator gives an up close and personal look at his friends, family, and love life in his brand new series; MTV’s Following: Bretman Rock. And with a staggering 16.8 million followers on Instagram and 8 million on YouTube, Bretman is one of the most prominent LGBTQ+ creators online.
So, whether it’s classic makeup tutorials, memes of him fighting with his sister, Princess, or his TikTok Charli XCX-inspired virality, the influencer has become an unstoppable force in spotlighting LGBTQ+ creatives and shelling out infinite entertaining content. Appearing fashionably in style, donning an oversized cream and white stripe jacket, the one and only Bretman Rock caught up with GAY TIMES to fill us in on how he’s doing since we spoke to him last.
Bretman, it has been two years since your Pride cover with GAY TIMES! How are you?
Oh my gosh, I feel like the question is “How have I not been?” Girl, with Miss Rona, I felt every emotion that there is in the books. I felt like I finally got off a roller coaster and that’s how I’ve been.
Speaking of COVID-19, did you learn anything about yourself during the pandemic?
I learned so many things about myself. I learned new talents that I have, I didn’t know I could sew until COVID started. I probably can’t sell you a garment, but I can sew you a CDC-approved mask, that’s for sure. I also found out that I had a green thumb during COVID and I moved into my new mansion. I also learned a lot about myself with my first relationship. Oh my god, girl, I really went through this whole COVID. I learned so much about myself as a lover, as a person, as an entertainer, as a son, and as just me as Bretman Rock.
A couple of years ago we had the joy of you fronting our Pride issue. How have things changed for you since then?
Two years ago, I was starting my spiritual journey and, for the most part, the biggest change in Bretman Rock has been from within. I think I owe a lot of it to when I went back home to the Philippines when my dad passed away and I revisited my childhood home. I was connecting with my grandma and how witchy that woman was. I don’t like to use the word, but she was like a witch doctor back home and I could feel her connecting to me. When I got back home, I really saw my crystals differently. I started getting more intuitive and now, I bring my spirituality into my content. I’ve grown more spiritually mature and I feel like I am more open to the world than I ever was in my whole entire life.
As it’s Pride Month, we have to ask, how have you been celebrating?
As a gay person, Pride Month is awesome, but I feel like we should always celebrate Pride as Pride day, week, and year. With this year, I’ve been celebrating it by wanting to dress up and just be gay every fucking day. I don’t have to wear this oversized jacket today but I want to. I literally live in Hawaii and the other day I was wearing a blazer to go to Foodland. Girl, aint nobody wearing blazers to Foodland! I’ve just been extra gay this month for some reason. I’ve been experimenting more with women’s clothing. And with my job as well — I launched a Pride campaign with Nike and my new YouTube show trailer came out. I’ve been celebrating by showing gay success to the world and what it really means to be gay.
As your brand and audience grow, whether you’ve noticed or not, you have become seen as an influencer symbol of the AAPI community. How has that inspired you?
It’s really interesting that you said “whether I know it or not” because I don’t know that until I read comments, especially with my new MTV show. When we were filming it, I wasn’t thinking about “Oh my gosh, I have to be extra Filipino because I want everyone to know what Filipinos are like”. I was just being me and then when the show came out and I read all of the comments, I didn’t imagine how important it was for people to see themselves in my shows and see bits and pieces of our culture. There was a scene when my mom spoke our native tongue and I didn’t realise the significance of hearing someone speak their native tongue on mainstream media.
If you had asked me this two years ago, with my first GAY TIMES cover, I would have had a totally different answer. Back then, I felt the pressure of setting a good example, because of comments that would say “I don’t let my daughter watch your videos because you swear too much,” and I was questioning, “So, what do they want me to do, not be myself?” If you scroll all the way down on my Instagram, I even made a post about how I’m going to stop swearing – which lasted a week. So, I feel like two years ago, my answer would have been different. But, now, I really don’t give a fuck and I’m being me.
You uploaded your first video in 2015 and have since made your mark on the beauty side of the internet. How have you seen the influencer space transform since then?
When I started my career, the pioneers of the beauty industry were Asian women like Michelle Phan, Bubzbeauty, and Itsjudytime. Those were all Asian woman who pioneered the beauty community for me. I’m a second-generation creator because I’m not in that realm. When I first started, it was hard to see a man wearing makeup or experiment with makeup. I was 15 when I was teaching the world how to contour and that was rare. I started to kind of divide myself from the beauty industry because the values of the industry were no longer there and it’s a very sensitive topic. I don’t really make beauty content anymore because I don’t want to be tied with the beauty industry. I cannot be a 30-year-old and still teaching people how to contour. For a lack of better words, the beauty industry is run by beautiful looking people with ugly personalities and I do not like that. I can only really call myself a beauty influencer if I’m beautiful inside and out and I can’t say that about who is running the beauty industry right now.
As you continue to expand your content, your latest YouTube series “30 Days With: Bretman Rock” has been announced. How are you feeling about that?
I went to a meeting with YouTube and they asked me what I want to do. Jokingly, I said something that I really want to do is spend time in the jungle and, bitch, they wrote that down and run with it. They gave me the show and said, Bretman, you’re going to spend a week in the jungle. And let me tell you, that week was probably the most challenging thing that I’ve ever done my whole entire life. I learned so much about myself as a human being. I was channelling so much of my primitive self. Girl, I was praying to my ancestors to start a fucking fire. Zoya, I was so delusional that I thought there were fire gods. I wasn’t allowed to eat with the crew. Imagine filming and you’re out in the forest and the crew takes a lunch break and all you smell is barbecue. They kept telling me Bear Grylls doesn’t do this because he goes home. I was like so why the fuck y’all got me sleeping in the jungle the whole fucking week when we could have done movie magic!
The world is gonna meet a new Bretman Rock and they’re going to meet a different side of me that they haven’t necessarily met before. It’s a calmer Bretman. It’s just Bretman, not Bretman Rock. He’s not Bretman Rock. I can’t wait for the world to see it. I don’t want to spoil too much, but it’s a new Bretman rock. I learned a lot about myself there, but I would never again!
You mentioned you grew up on the internet. So, with that in mind, what would be a piece of advice would you share with a younger Bretman?
I would tell my younger self the world is a really mean place, but the world is also what you make of it. I definitely would tell my younger self to read your contract twice and hire a manager as soon as you can. What you’re doing right now might seem small, because I didn’t know where social media was going. I would reassure myself that this is where you’re supposed to be, what you’re passionate about and what you are set out to do in this world. Your fucking parents give you a star name. You don’t even have to have a screen name. Bretman Rock is your fucking screen, you are literally born to be a star. I would also tell myself to hold on to all of your confidence. The world will tell you how you’re supposed to speak, how you’re supposed to act, how you’re supposed to sound, and what you’re supposed to do. The world will tear you apart where you feel like you can’t even do stuff for yourself anymore and you’re going to feel like you’re doing things for the world and not for yourself. But, hold on to your confidence and hold on to your Filipinoness. Hold on to every lesson that your parents taught you. Most importantly have humility. When you make mistakes, apologise, learn, take accountability for everything that you say and do, because, sweetie, the world is mean, and they will call you out on it, but just have humility and compassion.
You’ve recently collaborated with Nike for the Be True campaign in honour of Pride Month. Why did you choose to endorse Nike?
I was named after two wrestlers and my parents thought they were raising an Olympian. They signed me up for every sport in the book and I was always wearing Nike. I’ve always believed in Nike and I genuinely believe that Nike is a brand that walks the walk. In 2017, I first saw one of my first Pride campaigns that Nike did and it was with Leiomy. It was really cool to see Nike recognize ballroom dancers and voguers as athletes. They don’t even realize that what they were doing was so impactful for young queer athletes like me.
So, they asked me to work with them on the running app and invited me to the Nike headquarters. I met up with the head of Nike running the head of Nike pride. I sat there ready to throw a fit and say whoever is designing this shit better be gay. I walked in there and all the designers were gay. They told me everything about what Nike does and what Nike stands for. I was like this is home and I belong with Nike. They were ready to listen to what I had to say and they were ready to listen to what a new generation queer person had to say with digital marketing. They asked me how to be more inclusive. I love everything that Nike stands for and it aligns with my values as well. Some brands come across as performative when they just put a rainbow on their clothes or a rainbow flag. Just because you slap on a rainbow on something doesn’t make it gay Pride. It makes you look lazy and performative. But, with Nike, I said you have to pay gay creatives. I want the gays to get paid for their craft. If they’re gonna design for the gays, the gays better design for the gays.
Last of all, what is your favourite thing about being LGBTQ?
My favourite thing about being LGBTQ is that we feel and see the world so differently. We value things differently than most people do and see the world more colourfully. It could be fucking storming outside and we’ll be fucking dancing in the rain to Lady Gaga. We always find a way to celebrate ourselves and I really love that about the LGBTQ+ community. We work together and we are a fucking community. The way we see the world is just extraordinary and I think it’s brilliant. The LGBTQ+ community are not going anywhere and we are optimistic people.