Bretman rocks
Gabbie Tatad (The Philippine Star) - March 18, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - We’ve all done the YouTube deep dive when it comes to makeup tutorials, spanning the range from Michelle Phan to Lisa Eldridge to the Chapman sisters to a whole slew of American and British “beauty gurus,” as they’re known. But every time you switch on, the routine is generally the same. There is soft lighting, there’s some kind of production design in the background with plants or twinkle lights or candles, and at several points in the video said guru describes a product simply with the words, “I absolutely love this.”

Enter Bretman Rock, a 17-year-old Ilocano-born male who’s been living in Hawaii since he was seven. Although also a YouTube star with views averaging from 400,000 to over a million, Rock is also known to make a string of Instagram videos as tutorials. What separates him from the rest of the pack is his inherent use of sharp, cutting humor, which is probably why his Instagram following is now at 4.8 million and counting. In one of his installments on highlighting, he dusts a fan brush across his cheekbones and says, “Take a good look. I want you to remember the face that’s going to take your man.”

As Supreme sat down with Rock, there was, of course, a temptation to discuss all things makeup, such as his holy grail products (namely Anastasia Dipbrow Pomade, Laura Mercier Tinted Moisturizer, and MAC Gigablack Lash) or whether or not he’s going to follow in the steps of beauty gurus before him and come out with his own line of beauty products. (The answer is yes, and it looks like it’s mainly focused on false eyelashes, but most of it is still hush-hush.) He also talks about how important it is to do brows, quipping, “If I show up without brows, it means I’m sick, I’m dying, or both my arms are broken.”

A Little Introspection

But to get to know Bretman Rock and how this funny phenom came to be requires a little more introspection than his favorite brand of anything. “I didn’t even think I was funny. I used to just talk on Snapchat, say random sh*t, and people thought it was funny. And I’m like, ‘Am I maybe funny?’” Rock says, laughing. He grimaces a bit, recalling where his current and very apparent social media stardom began. “My first-ever social medium was actually MySpace. But my first video ever was on YouTube — that’s when I thought I was a fashion guru — posting fashion stuff,” Rock says with a quick eye roll. “I deleted all of those videos. And I regret doing that today, because I want to look back and see how baduy I was in seventh grade!”

Rock talks about how he fell in love with makeup in the first place, saying that though he grew up in the presence of a lot of women, he wasn’t exactly surrounded by the beauty-obsessed. How fortunate, then, for YouTube. There, he found inspiration in the beautiful albeit cancer-stricken Talia Joy, and Filipino-American makeup artist Patrick Starrr, who through his videos encouraged Rock to step out with a full face. “The first time I went out wearing makeup was heartwarming,” Rock recalls. “Everyone was like, ‘Yaaaas girl, you look good, Bret.’”

It’s this similarly positive attitude that’s followed him around for most of his life, and it’s given Rock the wings to be such a paragon of confidence. “I live in Hawaii, where everyone is accepting and it’s not really a thing to judge someone. There’s some judgment, but it’s not like how some people will say things like, ‘Kill yourself, you’re such a faggot for wearing makeup,’” says Rock. “I was fortunate enough to be raised by parents who were very accepting. They were never afraid to let me do my thing and let me live my life. Even though my dad came from a family that was very religious, he was actually the first one who bought and let me play with Barbies. My mom, the first makeup I ever used was hers, and she never once said, ‘Oh, you’re so gay for doing that.’”

Rock’s case is more the exception than the rule, and that isn’t lost on him, especially now that he’s rising significantly in international popularity. “Sometimes I get emotional because I had it so easy,” he says, eyes welling up. “When I’m talking to people, I can’t relate to them, especially when a fan comes up and tells me, ‘Oh my God, Bret, you’ve inspired me so much. My parents don’t accept me for being gay.’ And I’m like, I don’t know what my life would be if my parents didn’t accept me the way that they do.”

Hard to Believe

To see the fierce, devil-may-care attitude that Rock displays on his social media, it’s hard to believe that someone overflowing with confidence would worry about such things. But Rock is full of surprises, and a much steadier personality in person than one would assume from seeing his videos. He’s in student council and maintains a 3.5 GPA, and is actually a track star of sorts. “People expect me to be dumb because I’m always late for school, and I don’t always speak like I’m knowledgeable. People don’t think I’m sporty, but I’ve been doing sports my whole life — baseball, soccer, cross-country, volleyball, and now I do track. Sports are my therapy; I’m not thinking about anything else, I’m just thinking about running. I like the rush.” (Although when asked if he still sports his trademark brows during track meets, he gasps, “Oh my God! How’d you know? I always get in trouble with my coach!”)

Rock is largely introspective, however, a trait he may have honed in a career of mostly talking to a camera. But the changes he’s had to face so early in life because of his new celebrity status are rather challenging. “I have a management company now that makes me unfollow family and close friends because of privacy issues. It’s something that I didn’t want to do, because prior to me unfollowing, someone messaged my cousin on Kik and said, ‘Give me Bretman’s number or I’ll kill you.’” The incidents only became more aggressive and personal from there. “I had to move out of my mom’s house for a while because I tweeted something and my location was on, and people found out where I lived, then my house got egged. I was also scared to go to school at some point, because I lived really near my school, and I would get death threats like, ‘I saw you yesterday. You better thank God that I didn’t stab you’ or ‘I’m waiting for you outside.’” Rock, however, doesn’t seem too bothered, and he shrugs it off calmly. “It used to happen more regularly, like every day, but now it just happens once in a while. Everyone gets over it.”

Whether or not this is something one should get used to as the condition for popularity is debatable, but perhaps this is why, at 17, Rock is starting to yearn for something different. “Over there, at such a young age, I’m getting paid a lot. But after all that money, now what? I’m not really happy. I’m happy that I get to help out with my family financially, I have all the makeup I could ask for, but I’m not really happy. I feel like before, I wanted money, money, money, but now that I have that, I think, ‘Am I even Bretman Rock still?’”

Show Business

One can assume that this is also why Rock has expressed interest in starting a show business career here in the Philippines. “People here are so heartwarming and nice, and I’m not saying they’re not like that in Hawaii, but I feel like I’m best friends with all my supporters here. That’s all you can really ask for.”

We ask him what he’d like to do specifically, as well as whether or not he wants a shot at It’s Showtime. Rock gasps, “I love Showtime, oh my God! I can fill in for Vice whenever she’s not around,” he says with a laugh. “I like talking to people. I’ve always wanted to host. I’m not an actor, but I’m always down to learn new things, and I think I’d make a great kontrabida. It’s probably easy for me because I’m a bitch.” When asked about whether or not these plans are concrete, however, Rock simply says that he’s waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. “I’m not really a planning person, I just take things as they come on the roller coaster of life. I feel like God plans everything.”

What we can be assured of is that there is really only more to come, and that the essence of the Bretman Rock brand stands true. “I want my followers to be a little more careless. I honestly don’t give a f***. I don’t care. And I want them to know that as long as you’re not hurting anyone, as long as you’re enjoying yourself, that’s all that really matters.”

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Tweet the author @gabbietatad.

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