Mane Muse: It’s Bretman Rock’s World—We’re Just Living In It
Nov 2, 2021
With 17.9 million Instagram followers, 13.2 million TikTok followers, an enviously luscious mane, and a name like Bretman (Da Baddest) Rock–social media stardom was always in the cards for this Hawaii-born, Filipino-American beauty influencer. He started influencing at the precious age of 16 and self-admittedly, “can’t even remember what day-to-day life prior to posting videos was.”
Now at just 23 years old, Bretman has amassed a following and career on par with those in more traditional celebrity professions. He recently even snagged Playboy as their first openly gay male cover star, thanks to his intense and infectious energy, dark Leo mane, and Hawaiian shirts aplenty. And of course, a lot of hard work and a little manifesting sprinkled in the mix. But don’t let those perfectly tousled curls, shiny abs, and bold, gender fluid ‘fits fool you—Bretman is actually very laidback when he’s not dreaming up content for you. Although our fierce Mane Muse photoshoot at the Chateau Marmont in Los Angeles where Bretman embodied three iconic musicians—David Bowie, Steven Tyler, and Elvis Presley—shot by Mike Rosenthal might make you feel otherwise.
A big believer in manifestation, self-pride (he even has the word tattooed on his forearm), and being kind to anyone who crosses his path, it’s no wonder Bretman has already seen most of his wildest dreams realized. Although, having a massive platform does come with a built-in responsibility. One which Bretman felt a full circle moment with when the Black Lives Matter movement took shape last June, noting that prior to it he, “never used to speak up about it” when it came to important topics like AAPI and LGBTQ issues, or even how people treated his Filipino mom growing up. Seriousness aside, we could all learn a thing or three from Bretman, including his self-acceptance. “I love how much I love myself,” he tells us. “I love how prideful I am of myself. I take pride in everything that I do.”
Ahead, we sit down with Bretman Rock for an in-depth interview on fame, fierceness, and the future… and of course because it’s Mane Addicts, plenty of fabulous hair. You’ll want to sit down for this—Bretman Rock like you’ve never seen him before.
Bow Down to Bowie
David Bowie is easily one of the boldest and daring when it comes to gender-bending styles, especially back when he first started pushing boundaries in the ’70s and ’80s. Naturally, David Bowie was the obvious choice of inspiration, with hairstylist Irinel de León styling Bretman up in Bowie’s signature mullet via a fiery wig. “We wanted to do something that captivated Bowie’s true essence,” Irinel tells us. A periwinkle vintage suit and silk necktie perfectly complement Bretman’s mullet-made-modern ‘do.
The Bowie Mullet:
Step 1: Tease hair up in small sections using Got 2b hairspray
Step 2: Once the front and crown of the head have been teased, continue to tease the sides but keep it low since the sides should be closer to the head.
Step 3: Brush hair back and mold
Step 4: Keep hair by nape straight, giving a mullet effect
Step 5: Finish by using Got 2b hairspray
In your own words, who is Bretman Rock?
Bretman Rock is figuring out what to do with his crazy thick Filipino hair. Because people see me in my pictures, all confident in my hair. People don’t realize that behind the scenes, I was probably freaking out about what I’m going to do with my hair today.
How do you balance being in the public eye while also maintaining some sense of privacy?
It really helps that I live on an island because when I’m in LA, I feel so exposed to so many things and I feel like it’s easier to keep a private life when you’re away from everything, especially the entertainment industry. Knowing when to come home is really how I keep my life private and I just keep the balance of having an online presence but also having a private life. It really helps to stay away from everybody else.
Do you feel as though you’re even allowed a private life?
When I was younger, when I was still figuring out what social media was, I definitely felt like I had to share everything. Once I realized I felt that I was sharing so much of my life, I just started to only share what I wanted to share or what was appropriate to share. Because I feel like when I was 16/18, I would just say and document everything that came to mind. I shared so much more of my family and as I got older, I noticed that it hurts me to see other people talk about my family or talk about my private life and so I just drew the line there.
It’s not really me feeling that I can’t have a private life, it’s just me knowing where to draw the line with my followers and with what I share. They can’t have an opinion on anything that I don’t share so I keep that boundary.
Did you always see yourself working in social media?
I would like to say that I was the first generation of kids who got a true taste of social media, I was there in the beginning. I was part of the generation that was figuring out what social media was and what it’s all about, I didn’t at first, cause, nobody did. Nobody thought that we could even start a career or a job from this. To those of us back then who were starting to pioneer the social media world, it was just a hobby. Really, it was just a way for us to share what we liked and to find an audience for it. So no, I didn’t think that I was ever going to be doing this as a job. Obviously, as time goes by and we’re figuring this thing out, I guess it became more prevalent that I was going to do this and I was destined for this. Every time I think about content or social media, it makes me excited. I know that I’m meant to be doing this.
How has your day-to-day life changed now that you have millions of followers?
I don’t know how to answer this question, to be honest, because I was Bretman Rock since I was 16 years old. I can’t even remember what my day-to-day life prior to me posting videos was. Even when I started to get attention and fame, I was still a regular local Hawaii kid, you know? I can’t really pinpoint what has changed in my life when this is all I have really known since I was 16.
What would be you doing if you weren’t “Bretman Rock?“
To be honest, I would still be doing something along the lines of what I’m doing now, which is just doing random things, running around in my backyard. I’m taking care of my plants and animals. I don’t know what I would be doing or wouldn’t be doing. I would just be Bretman Rock still. So whatever Bretman Rock feels like.
What is your favorite part about having this massive platform? What is your least favorite part?
Knowing that someone is there to listen to me or to care about what I have to do today. It just really takes that one audience to make you feel like you’re not alone in this world. To be honest with you, it makes me feel less lonely and less weird about my thoughts, and it makes me feel like someone’s out there. My least favorite thing about it is that you kinda just have to take people’s opinions and sometimes you can’t defend yourself. You lose a part of yourself because of people’s opinions, and you start to believe it. People are allowed to criticize me, and sometimes, I let that get in the way of my day-to-day life. And honestly, my least, least favorite part about it is how much I care about those opinions. It’s actually not even the opinions that bother me, but it’s the fact that I care so much.
Everything that I’ve ever wanted from life, I could get by simply saying it out loud, by simply working for it. Sometimes, you really have to speak things into existence because you never know who’s listening.
Blasting Aerosmith with a sugar-free Red Bull in hand, Bretman transformed into none other than a superstar who’s equally as known for his mane as he is his music… Steven Tyler, of course. To create the look, Irinel decided to stick with the rocker theme and went with a longer length to really capture Steven’s concert hair by using Luxy hair clip-in extensions and a healthy dose of texturizing spray for this major mane moment.
Channel Your Inner Steven:
Step 1: Braid up the hair around the head, leaving out bangs and U-shape around the crown
Step 2: Clip in hair extensions from Luxy Hair
Step 3: Prep dry hair using Living Proof Flex Shaping Hairspray and brush through
Step 4: Curl hair in twists in alternating directions using a 1” Hot Tools curling iron
Step 5: Spray OUAI Texturizing Hairspray throughout for added texture
Step 6: Apply Oribe Texture and Shine Hairspray throughout
What do you enjoy most about sharing your life with the world?
I can just do anything and I know that there’s an audience for it. I can review 36 brands of cereal and some people would still be watching it. I could hike and people would watch me hike. I could just do random things in my life. And I know that somebody out there is enjoying it.
Does it ever feel like too much, like one day you’d just step away from it all? Or do you enjoy the spotlight?
To be honest with you, when I’m home, I just enjoy it so much. The spotlight, I can’t really touch it. It’s not a real thing to me. So when I’m home, I don’t feel this way.
What’s the most Leo thing about you?
My dark Leo mane. Did you know that in the wilderness, the darker the mane, the more attractive you are? And look at my mane. So I would say I definitely have a Leo’s mane. But superficially, I love how much I love myself. I love how prideful I am of myself. I take pride in everything that I do, and it’s not just superficial things. I don’t just take pride in the fact that I am cute. I also take pride in the fact that I show up, work hard, and am nice to everyone that I meet. I’m just a very prideful person. I even have pride tattooed on my forearm in my native language because I’m very prideful of every aspect of what makes Bretman Rock.
What is one of the biggest misconceptions about you that you’d like to debunk?
Something that people always say when they meet me is they’re surprised that I’m so chill and I think it’s just because of my online self. I’m always super high energy. I’m always yelling at you on the screen, dancing every day, or working out intensely. I feel I give off a very intense energy, but when people meet me, they’re very shocked by how mellow and calm I am, and how grounded I am as a human being. I am very much high and intense at times, but I also feel people don’t realize that I’m also very calm and chill. I like to conserve my energy.
Is there anything the world doesn’t know about you that you’d like to share with us?
I am an open book. I’ve been sharing my lessons since I was 16. So, if there’s anything that the world doesn’t know about me, please let me know so I can make a video about it. I’m running out of content.
Congratulations on becoming the first openly gay man to appear on Playboy! Can you share what the experience was like for you? What did it mean to you personally?
Well, that cover has a really interesting background story to it. It dates back to four years ago when I ran away with my now manager. We wrote down things we wanted to do and I blurted out that I wanted to be a sex symbol, just to say it. We put down Playboy in my list of goals and to be honest as years went by, I started to notice that we were slowly ticking off every bullet on that board that we had. And then one day, I was getting sushi in Hawaii and while I was waiting to be seated, this nice lady, Yasmin, walked up to me and she wanted a picture—and I’ve never said no to a picture ever in my life. (If I said no to you before, please let me know cause I don’t think I’ve ever said no to a picture.) After we took that picture, an hour later, my publicist texted me and he was like, “You just talked to my friend at sushi who is the casting director at Playboy.” This just goes to show you that you really never know who you meet. You really have to be kind to everybody. I’ve seen that Bruno Mars Playboy cover and a few other straight men on the cover. But to me I was just doing it to just prove to myself that I could be a sex symbol and when the cover came out, that’s when they told me I was in fact the first gay male cover star. That’s when it truly hit me. Because it didn’t hit me at the photo shoot. It didn’t hit me when I was offered it. It really truly hit me when all those articles came out and seeing all of those mad heterosexual men—that’s really when I felt the power of those images. I love that those images will follow me for the rest of my life. I would say that the Playboy cover story is a big story about how you should always be nice to everyone that you meet and never be afraid to go after what you want, no matter how daring.
Your Instagram bio reads doing the least, but looking the most, what’s your advice for anyone else who wants to lead by this motto? What are the steps one must follow to do the least, but look the most?
I truly do not know when I thought of that caption or when I even made that in my bio. I wish I could go back into my mental state at the time and really interview myself and what I mean by that quote. I believe what I mean by that is just that the true essence of who you are should always come naturally. Doing the least, but looking the most means I’m not even trying to be funny. I just am. I’m not even trying to be cute. I just am. Do you know what I mean? Being your utmost self is doing the least while looking the most because you’re just being yourself.
Let’s talk about your workout regimen for a moment. I’ve done your AbSolutely Not workout and it’s intense. What inspired you to start working out as intensely as you do? Why workout at all?
So when I was a little gayby I made a deal with my parents. I was told that I could be gay, but I just had to do sports. So sports have been instilled in me since I was a little gayby. I was doing baseball, soccer, football, and what really stood out for me was track, which really taught me the biggest lesson in my life—and that lesson is that I’m not a team player. I don’t like to do sports that rely on other people. I like track because it relies on me. My success depends on me and if you’re slow, you’re slow. You’re not slow because your team is slow, it’s an individual sport. With that being said, I still do not know why or what she said or what she did, but when Mrs. Michelle Obama told me to do her pushup challenges, the Presidential Active Lifestyle Award challenge to be exact, I did all of her presidential workouts. I remembered every recess I would rush into the cafeteria to do her pushup challenge. I was also really obsessed with one of my teachers who reminded me so much of Sporty Spice. So with the combination of Michelle Obama telling us to work out and my favorite Sporty Spice teacher working out, I just started to enjoy it because the women that I looked up to did that too. When COVID hit, I remember the first two months, I was like, “Oh my gosh, what am I going to do without the gym?” And I was like, “Bretman, you literally have a garage and you could do a full workout in just like your gym now, there’s really no excuse.” And my relationship with fitness took a new level this past year. If I feel inspired to work out, even when there are obstacles in my way, I could inspire my generation to work out as well. I’m not saying I have the powers of Michelle Obama, but I hope to do that with people one day, to inspire kids to do what I love to do.
Who are some of your mane muses and why?
My dad. He had the healthiest, voluptuous, thickest hair ever. He had longer hair than my mom. He took good care of his hair. I remember my sister hating her long hair and my dad always tending to her hair and doing different hairstyles on it. It was really cool seeing a father figure do their kid’s hair. I guess it was a sight for sore eyes as a young boy to see their dad do their little sister’s hair. That’s not a common thing. For me, it was every afternoon watching my sister cry while my dad was tying her hair up. I remember thinking to myself, “If I had hair, I would just sit there and eat it like a motherfu**cking champ.” I hope to follow in his footsteps. When my dad passed two years ago, I naturally got the calling to grow my hair. I wish I had grown out my hair sooner so he could see that I’ve beat his mane. Until then, he’s going to be my number one muse.
Which fellow TikTok’er has the coolest hair?
Would it be such a Leo answer of me to think that I have the best hair on TikTok? Like speaking of what makes me a Leo, I have the best hair on TikTok, thank you very much. Next question.
Your hair has been through quite the journey since you first started out. Walk us through some of your most iconic looks. How did you arrive at the hairstyle you have now?
To be honest, I haven’t really had iconic hair moments until I started growing out my hair. I had your typical buzzcut before. My hair became more iconic as I let her grow and started playing around with the shapes and texture and learning how to use different tools and products. My New York Fashion Week looks were major because I met my hairstylist Irinel de León. She really pushed me to try out more products and techniques. Before, I was doing the good ol’ curly girl hair method (scrunching your hair and using a diffuser), but Irinel opened me to a whole new world. She’s also one of my Mane Muses because her hair is so luscious and so nice.
Are there any hairstyles you haven’t tried yet that you’d like to?
I would like to have longer hair, but also, I’m really into the ‘80s/’90s aesthetics right now. I really want to try the hairstyle that Tiffani Thiessen had as Kelly Kapowski—bushy ass, school picture type of hair. I just feel I would kill it. That big hair needs to come back, come on! Why are we obsessed with pool-thin hair? You need to go back to the ‘80s. I need everybody’s hair drenched in hairspray.
What do you love most about your hair in its current form?
It’s the perfect length and stage to play around with. I’m having fun.
So what’s it really like living in Hawaii? Is it as scenic as everyone makes it out to be? What’s something that you’d like more people to know about Hawaii?
Well, I’m not sure if the readers know this—and Jen Atkin can also answer this question because Ms. Jen Atkin went to school here, she grew up on the north side of Hawaii, so that’s a different story—but from my point of view, Hawaii is as beautiful as everyone thinks it is and as the pictures show it is. But also growing up here, people on the Mainland often don’t talk about the ugly history of Hawaii and how it became the state that it is. If there’s anybody reading this, you know, who wants to come to Hawaii, I would say learn about the true beauty of Hawaii. Learn about the history of Hawaii and also in the same breath, respect the history of the Hawaiian Natives. This is your vacation, but to all of us that live here, this is our home. Yes, Hawaii is as beautiful as it is, but also it’s so much more beautiful and rich in history than what pictures, magazine ads, and travel agencies make it seem to be.
With a look, sound, and moves that defined a generation, Elvis Presley is an artist that will always be remembered for his perfectly coifed hair and impeccable style. Elvis was an obvious inspo choice for Irinel, “Bretman has incredible hair so the quintessential voluminous Elvis hair was a must,” she gushes. She put her twist on Elvis’ signature pompadour for a night on the town that pairs perfectly with this epic head-to-toe, metallic Alexander McQueen number.
Modern Pompadour Breakdown:
Step 1. Prep hair using the Color Wow Xtra Large Bombshell Volumizer
Step 2. Blow dry using the Dyson Supersonic Hair Dryer with styling concentrate attachment on low speed and heat.
Step 3. Using a small Ibiza round brush, blow dry hair with body, keeping the sides blow back and close to head
Step 4. Rake a quarter size of Bumble and Bumble Bb.Gel throughout, molding the hair into the direction desired
Step 5. Use a comb to comb hair back and spray
How did living in Hawaii inspire your hair, makeup, and styling choices?
As beautiful as Hawaii is, the weather is not as beautiful for your hair. It’s very humid here, and sometimes hair does not like humidity, especially textured hair. I wake up and it’s flat, you know? So how has Hawaii inspired my hair, makeup, and outfits? Really just rolling with the punches. It inspires me to try out more weatherproof products. It inspired me to try out new techniques with my makeup that won’t melt when I step outside my house. It taught me how to bobby pin my hair the right way so that when I stepped out, it’s not blown off by the wind. And outfits wise, it has inspired me to just always take something off before I leave the door. Hawaii is such a grounding place and not everybody cares about vanity here, and that’s the main lesson that Hawaii taught me—not everybody here really cares about what your hair, your makeup, and what your outfit is like. Hawaii inspires me to just be a human being and reminds me that what my hair looks like, what my face looks like, what clothes I’m wearing isn’t everything.
Do you find that your hair fares better in Hawaii over California or New York? Does your haircare routine change depending on where you go?
I do notice that my hair is a lot drier in New York, which is probably why it was easier to style because there wasn’t that much product in it too. It’s messed up in LA though. There are no good hair moments in LA. Hawaii is a good medium. My haircare routine kinda stays the same, but I’m also still figuring out this long hair thing. So if anything, please tell me what I should be using in Hawaii, what I should be using in LA, what I should be using in New York. I know weather plays a huge role when it comes to your hair, so actually, I’m all ears, Jen—please tell me what I should be doing.
Which products are always in your haircare arsenal?
Products that are always in my haircare arsenal are the kind of products that not a lot of people use for some reason. Not a lot of people talk about mousse. I really like mousse, especially right now. The easiest hairstyle that I do is right after the shower, I towel dry my hair, put the mousse on, let that air dry, and it air dries so beautifully and the mousse helps keep that shape wherever I go.
What would you like to say to your younger self looking at where you are now?
I would say, “Bretman, please grow out your hair sooner because it is so much more fun on this side. And continue with what you’re doing. You are a star, you’ve always known you’re a star. One day you will live your hair commercial fantasy that you’ve been dreaming of.”
In 2020, you rightfully called out other influencers who remained silent during the Black Lives Matter protests. How are you continuing to use your platform to speak up for the Black community? And in what ways do you remain socially active?
Honestly, when the Black Lives Matter movement was happening, it truly was such an eye-opening experience for me. Not only did it make me realize how silent I was on so many issues. Even when it comes to Philippine issues or LGBTQ issues, I used to never speak up about it. I don’t mean to make up excuses, but as an Asian person, we’re always taught to not make a scene, to keep our mouth shut. Even growing up, when I would watch my mom get mistreated, I didn’t even speak up for my mom. When that whole movement happened, it made me realize, if you’re not going to speak up, nothing is going to be fixed. If you’re not going to speak up because you’re scared, then you’re just really adding to the problem. You’re making it okay to be scared and you should never be scared to speak up on things you’re passionate about. I don’t just talk the talk, but I do so many things behind the scenes. I donate to so many organizations, especially local organizations in Hawaii. I must give back to this community that gave me this platform that I have today.
The world wouldn’t know Bretman Rock if Hawaii didn’t fall in love with Bretman Rock first. Giving back to these communities and speaking up about issues that I care about is very important to me. Even if it’s just saving the turtles. I made a video about how turtles are dying and that simple line that I said went viral. Many of my followers started buying metal straws because of what I said, they started being more self-aware of their plastic usage. I’m actually about to be the voice for a plastic bottle for a YouTube Documentary on waste, Signals. I hope people watch that and learn something. I’m always doing things behind the scenes and you know, it’s never about proving to people that I’m an advocate. It’s just doing the work and keeping my head down.
Reflecting on this past year and everything you’ve accomplished, what has 2021 taught you about yourself? Where will you go from here?
This year has taught me so many lessons about myself. For the most part, I would say that I am so powerful. Everything in life, regardless of if you believe in god, or manifesting, or the universe, there is power in all of us. There is a god in all of us. This year helped me realize that everything I needed was really right in front of my face. Everything that I’ve ever wanted from life, I could get by simply saying it out loud, by simply working for it. Sometimes, you really have to speak things into existence because you never know who’s listening. There’s somebody listening, even if you’re alone in a room. That’s the biggest lesson that 2021 taught me—I am power. I have everything that I need to achieve my biggest goal in life, which is to be the biggest, and the best entertainer of my time.