Bretman Rock is not your average YouTube beauty vlogger. At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, Bretman Rock is one of a kind, a social media savvy 18-year-old whose identity and endearing personality makes him immediately stand out in an oversaturated market. Rock lives in Hawaii, loves school, is Filipino and openly queer—traits that don't seem commonplace in the YouTube makeup or fashion worlds. Or, at least, they weren't when he started sharing contour videos and making Vines at the tender age of 13. Since then, Rock has gone on to amass nearly 1.4 million subscribers on his YouTube channel, and 7.9 million followers on Instagram watching his every move, from getting his driver's license to hosting the Miss Universe red carpet. We spoke to Rock about his first forays into the world of social media, his advice for kids who seek social stardom, and, no big deal, hosting that Miss Universe red carpet in Manila.
Your story begins with YouTube, right? What drew you to the platform? Have you always loved social media?
I started YouTubing in eighth grade but I was mainly focusing on fashion related stuff. I did look-books and outfits of the day but I deleted them because I felt like I looked a hot mess. I may put them up one day as a reaction video, so we'll will see. I honestly just started doing it because I was watching other people post their outfits and I thought I could do the same.
I would say I loved social media from the start, especially the good ol' Facebook days, because I felt like I was hanging out with my friends but not really. Thanks, Internet!
Did you have a YouTube video or a Vine that did particularly well that launched you into super fame? Or was it more of a slow build? Like, did you have a viral moment?
I know the "How to Contour" video exploded. Why do you think it was so successful?
I think that video was super successful because contouring was still a new a thing.
People loved it because I was not your average beauty guru teaching you how to contour with a sweet voice, sounding like a robot. No—I was a teenage boy with colorful language, putting on makeup.
You're also incredibly popular on Instagram. When did you start building that fanbase? Did most of your followers already know you from other platforms?
Instagram is where it gets interesting for me, because I was only Snapping and Vining. Since Snapchat only allows you to post something for 24 hours, I decided to save them and post them on my Instagram where only my friends and family could see them—I was private at that time. My “fanbase" began when my friend told me that he was trying to show my videos to his uncle, but he couldn't because I was private. Let me tell you, once I hit “make profile public" my life did a whole 360.
When did you start experimenting with makeup? Have you always had an interest in it?
The very first time I touched makeup was in fifth grade, when I tried to pluck a line in my eyebrows to make them look "cool." It just looked a hot mess, so I stole my mom's mascara and tried to fix my eyebrows. As a child I would always use markers and baby powder on my face to pretend like I was putting on makeup.
If I had to choose one cosmetic I can't live without it would be eyebrow pomade, because eyebrows are usually the first thing I notice on people and I want that to be the first thing they notice when they see me.
Have you ever considered founding your own makeup line?
I'm good for now. I couldn't currently deal with people acting like every product on this world is made for them. There are so many brands I already love and I've found collaborating has been such a learning process in itself. It's a ton of work! I'm not prepared to deal with people complaining about how my products didn't work for them, or how my company sucks because they got their stuff one day late or them making up fake rumor about me and saying "I'm not going to support your brand because you eat meat." I'll stick with working with the brands I love and finding new brands to love.
When did you realize you had a knack for making videos? People seem to love you because they love your personality.
I don't really know why people like my personality, to be honest! Sometimes I watch my videos and I'm like "Wow, I would hate me," or "Do people actually find this entertaining?" or "How am I getting paid to do this?" I guess that's everyone in the online community, as most of us refuse to watch ourselves! I also think people like me because I don't try too hard to be entertaining--at least I think so. I am Bretman Rock. Bretman Rock is me.
I know you recently hosted the Miss Universe red carpet in Manila. How did that come to be? What was it like?
I still don't even know how I got that gig! It was so surreal. If you saw my recent vlog on YouTube, I was completely overwhelmed and pretty hard on myself. It was amazing that I got the chance to work with the Miss Universe team and meet all the incredible ladies and so many people I look up to there. I mean [supermodel] Pia Wurtzbach, come on! Looking back, I'd 100% do it again. Hello, like most Filipinos, I'm a huge pageant fan!
You've always been very vocal about your sexuality. Are you involved with LGBTQ activism?
It's hard to say I'm "involved" in LGBTQ activism, as I think I live the fight for LGBTQ rights everyday by just living honestly and openly and showing people it's okay to be different. Of course, I stand strong and proud with all my brothers and sisters or whomever they identify as. They have always been there for me and because of that I will always be there for them and continue to actively fight and support causes that do the same.
It also seems like you've always been more vocal about the value of schoolwork than a lot of social media famous teens.
Education is forever, but fame is not. I think a lot of teen influencers forget that. I've seen other influencers drop out of high school just because they have a few hundred followers and I'm like girl…really? I just want people to know you don't die with your money and followers, you die with knowledge. Stay in school, kids!
I'm sure fans ask you for advice all the time. What do you usually tell them? What would you tell someone who wants to do what you do?
They usually ask me about confidence and the simple answer is, as long as you're happy with the person that you are and love yourself, the opinions of other people are not going to matter. Focus on yourself and the people that love you and you'll be okay.
Since this is a series dedicated to young people, we have to ask—whenever you get a free moment, what do you like to do? When you have downtime, where can you be found?
A lot of people don't know this about me, but I'm actually on my school's track team. I run the 300m hurdles and I'm in the 4x100m team as well. I'm also on my school's student council. Most of my time I'm either in school, running around the school or helping run the school. When I do have downtime I usually go shopping in Ala Moana or hit the gym, minding my own business.
What are you listening to right now? Are you binge-watching anything?
I'm trying to watch Shameless but I can't find the time to binge watch it. I've been obsessed with Frank Ocean as well, so if you can help me meet him or get tickets to his concert, that'd be great.