Bretman Rock On Becoming An Author, Representing Queer Filipinos, And His Style Evolution

ROBERT WUN headpiece, WALES BONNER two-toned button down studded shirt. Photo by Regine David

The social media powerhouse sits down with Vogue Philippines amidst his whirlwind press tour.

Not many people in the world can write an earnest yet exciting memoir about the first quarter of their lives, before even hitting 25 years old. Having become a media superstar at just 16, nearly a decade ago, Bretman Rock is one of the few able to pull it off.

Born in Sanchez-Mira, Cagayan, the young Filipino personality moved to Hawaii at the age of seven. He shot to fame on Vine and Youtube, posting videos of himself doing everything from makeup to mukbang and everything in between. He has since amassed nearly 9 million subscribers on Youtube, 15.4 million followers on TikTok, and 19 million followers on Instagram.

A true multi-hyphenate creative, Rock has also released several makeup collections and guest starred in several web series and music videos, like his cousin Bella Poarch’s hit debut single “Build A Bitch.” As a member of the LGBTQ+ community, Rock made several groundbreaking moves, gracing the cover of Playboy Magazine and becoming the face of Nike’s “Be True” campaign for Pride Month.

This time around, the 24-year-old Filipino star is adding “author” to his ever-growing list of accomplishments.

The first thing you’ll notice about Bretman is his uncanny ability to make everyone in the room feel included. In combination with his natural comedic nature, it’s easy to see why he’s a perfect fit for fame and entertainment.

We meet him at XO46 Heritage Bistro at S’Maison Conrad, before one of his book signing events, for an exclusive interview. Rock twirls into the room in a khaki green bodycon dress and full-glam makeup, which of course, he did himself. His nails were painted silver with red and blue stars. “Oh my god girl, I had to glue these back cuz they were peeling, but we made it—we’re alive,” he jokes before we start.

His memoir is aptly titled You’re That Bitch: & Other Cute Lessons About Being Unapologetically Yourself. Having seen Rock start out as a kid making people laugh on his phone, the book feels like a full-circle moment for the self-made star. “People were fighting to publish my book, girl! It was really cool,” he says. “I think now I get to check that off my list.”

Read below his Vogue Philippines interview:

Congratulations on your book!

Thank you, it’s been a long time in the making. I’m glad I’ve given birth. I’m crowning actually! 

So what have the past few weeks been like for you?

I did not expect a book to have this much press going on! So I’ve been in LA twice already filming things for like Condé Nast and stuff like that. It’s just been crazy, I didn’t think there would be this much press, [for] like a book!

How has your stay been in Manila?

Girl, it’s my third day out here! Only my third day out here, and I’m jet-lagged, but I’m pushing through! The coffee here is so good. And the hotel has this really cute gym. Yeah, it’s been cute actually. I love my stay! 

Do you get to come back to the Philippines often?

This is my first time back in the past five years, actually. Oh, wait was it five years, like 2019? Whenever my dad died, girl. 

I’ve seen some people describe it as a love letter to Filipino culture. It’s amazing to see you pushing that on the global stage. 

Well, I always say that it’s a love letter to my first quarter of life, and obviously, my identity being Filipino, so it is truly a love letter to that little boy who dreamt in Cagayan. So yeah, it is a love letter to the Philippines and to the representation of it. 

Do you think that’s important, to keep pushing that representation?

For sure! I mean, especially from the outside looking in, I think it would’ve been cool for a baby Bretman Rock to have an adult Bretman Rock book to read one day. Obviously, representation means a lot, not just to me but to other queer kids that are immigrants. 

Did you have any figures like that growing up in the media that you could look up to?

In the Philippines [before moving to Hawaii], I saw a lot of myself in the superheroes here. Like Lastikman, Gagamboy, Voltes V. I don’t know why! I also saw a lot of myself in Anne Curtis when she was a mermaid. You know that show where she was a mermaid? 

Obviously, there was a lot of representation when I was here, and going to Hawaii, because when I moved there, there were so many Filipino people. Like girl, everybody is Filipino over there. 

I think when I started seeing the lack of representation when I started in the beauty industry. There were a lot of, you know, white people. And they [dominated] the beauty community, so it was hard to see representation in that way. But girl, I ate that up, I’m still the bad bitch!

Did you encounter any challenges breaking into the beauty industry?

I think it was hard to be taken seriously because obviously, I started this when I was seventeen years old, like before I went through puberty you know!

I was young, I swore a lot, you know, I wasn’t the most PG kid ever. So I think the struggle really was finding work when I was young, and being taken seriously by big brands. But they take me seriously now, they know my impact and what I can offer to a brand deal, and I feel like I have an upper hand now. I get to be the picky one now, which is great!

Photo by Excel Palanque

It’s awesome to see how you’ve evolved since you started, especially your style! 

My little style evolution. Thank you! With the help of my stylist, of course, I’m not going to take all the credit. 

Do you have a fashion philosophy?

Well, obviously, I feel like a non-binary person, and I’ve always felt this way about fashion, even when I was shopping in a swap meet or the Goodwill or, like, the thrift store. Regardless of where I’m shopping I never look at the label, and by label I mean if for a woman or a man. 

I think, when you go to a store, I truly don’t think clothes should be separated by gender! Because sometimes I’ll find, like, skinny jeans from the women’s section and like a big top from the men’s section.

Are there any Filipino brands you’ve been loving lately?

I’ve been obsessed with Rhuigi [Villaseñor], he’s killing it. But my first introduction to Filipino [designers] was actually Francis Libiran! He designed my prom outfit when I was a junior in high school. 

I was in my custom Libiran for prom, like, who gets to say that? He even made me two options, I had a cropped one and then a cape version. My prom pics were amazing. 

You’ve really branched out everywhere in entertainment. Is there anything you’re looking to pursue next?

I think I’m just checking things off [the list], I feel like I’m just doing side quests now because I’ve been doing everything! But I would love to hopefully get on a bigger screen. Like, I’m tired of being on the phone. I think I’m really going to start taking acting seriously, after this book extravaganza. I’m looking forward to a cute little break where I focus on acting. Let’s just say that!

This interview has been edited and condensed.

Vogue Philippines: June 2023 Issue

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