Despite it being something Bretman Rock just does, hoping that it starts his day of his followers right and cute, the impact of his morning ritual is more profound and personal than one might think.
Bretman Rock is always extra, but you already knew that, of course. Even if you haven’t followed his life when he started doing YouTube with his unique and laugh out loud take on among many things, beauty and life a proudly gay Filipino 15-year old back then, you at least have heard of him somehow. Even the way he greets his followers on social media in the morning is above and beyond, one that includes a grand entrance in swift motion atop his long board, swerving into this cavernous room we have all become well acquainted with, as well as of that big, booming voice that you know was meant to wake people up. “Good mothaf*ckin’ morning, bitch. Da f*ck,” he begins, the cadence of which shifts from day to day. “I hope you have a cute day. I’m having a cute day, because I woke up.”
It may sound mundane to some, but for Bretman Rock, this little moment he carves out in the morning has become a sort of ritual. “It actually started right around the time when I got dumped by my ex boyfriend. Obviously I would say good morning to him. And I guess I just didn’t have anyone else to say good morning to at one point,” he recalls. “It was just kind of something that I did naturally, and it stuck. And I want to say I started it like last year? But I got it from my mom, actually, because that’s exactly how my mom used to wake me up for school. So, it’s really just like a direct translation of how I used to get woken up in the morning. And that’s how I want to wake the whole world up.”
Intending it be cute for all the right reasons, or whatever, his good morning greetings actually have taken a life of its own, affecting people who chance upon it in their own time. “To be honest with you, I never really see the impact until I start reading DMS where people feel like I’m actually saying good morning to them and it makes them feel less lonely, especially at this time of the world,” shares Bretman Rock of this thing that people have now started to look forward to everyday. “I lived alone ever since I was 17, and as often as I am surrounded by my friends, my family, it’s hard to feel alone sometimes, especially in the morning. No one lives with me. So, I don’t have anyone else to say good morning to, so I would say the feelings are very much mutual. I give my audience a sense of like, someone’s there. And I feel the same way from them as well.”
The Reality Is
Even from across the render of my screen, with the infamous third world internet slowing Bretman Rock at times, the Filipino American digital superstar (also recently named the Breakthrough Social Media Artist at the MTV TV & Movie Awards) is a ray of effin’ sunshine. Chalk it to the aloha state where he currently sat, his glowing skin, or the gorgeous curls tumbling from his head, but talking to him is a breath of fresh air. Yes, this phrase is thrown around quite a lot, but the ease and comfort despite the difference of time, distance, and internet speed is something else. Acknowledging this state of being to life and a lot of lessons learned along the way, Bretman Rock respectfully defers to his formative years for shaping him to be the way he is—unfiltered, unapologetic, unashamed. He is just, you know, being himself.
“I think it has to do a lot with the environment that I grew up in. I’m very blessed to have grown into such a big family of accepting people. And I was just always encouraged to be myself and unfortunately, you know, I have to address this, that it’s not the same for some other queer Filipinos out there who are not maybe not blessed with such accepting family like mine,” details Bretman Rock. “But with that being said, it really just comes from my friends and my family. They never had a problem with me being gay. They always encouraged me to be gay and to be myself.”
Ask anyone, navigating adolescence and adulthood is extremely difficult, no matter who you are. Compound that with an audience watching your ever move, it can be very challenging, which Bretman Rock acknowledges, being that he consciously broadcasts a fair share of his life across multiple platforms on social media with a following in the millions each, as well as of a reality series on MTV. “There’s always a sense of pressure, as well with my family, to do good, because I self proclaimed myself as the breadwinner for my mom and my siblings, obviously. I have to be confident for them as well,” he says, answering if there are days when it all gets too much for him. “But to be honest with you, if you see me like talking to myself, sometimes you would be shocked by how much I hate myself sometimes because I as confident as I exude, there’s times obviously where I am very insecure as well.”
Good Morning, Bret
It is almost too hard to believe that the name of Bretman Rock can exist in the same breath and sentence as insecure, especially since he has built a reputation that pedestals him as that fearless, no-nonsense, take-it-or-leave-it type of person. But he is human, too. And while he can be the person that we perceive him to be on our timelines, there is a whole lot more to him than we realize.
“I don’t like to think as Bretman Rock as just me, because as much I am Bretman Rock, he is not all of me. I’m not always like, ‘good mothaf*cking morning, b*tch,’ ‘hey b*tch, eh-heh.’ I think what people fail to realize and exercise is that your persona online is not who you are offline,” he says. “People always ask me, how does it feel to be famous? Well, I’m not famous, Bretman Rock is famous. Fame is not who I am, it’s just a part of my job. Fame is not a personality trait.”
Bretman Rock often refers to him in the third person sense, because essentially, it is just a character he puts on when the cameras are on. Otherwise, he’s just Bret, and over the course of this conversation, even this early on, this is who are being acquainted with.“Bretman is who you guys see online, most of the time, and it’s the two-minute videos of me saying good morning from all the way to until I stop posting. And then Bret is me when I’m with my family. Bret is me when I’m doing my laundry. Bret is me even when I’m Bretman Rock. Bret is always me.”
The Beauty Of Being Alone
Dealing with his insecurities, Bretman Rock has taken to quite the extreme approach. While perhaps his contemporaries, or actually, anyone would usually just distract themselves with company and drown their difficult thoughts with other people, he likes to be alone at times. In fact, he finds great joy in it. Other than living by himself, he is also often taking hikes alone, going to the beach alone, and tending to his home by the mountains of the island alone. Unlike the rest of the world with a fear of being left on their own, Bretman Rock relishes this time he has to just be.
“I think something that we need to talk about, and it’s very taboo, especially to us Asian kids, because our parents never talk about it, or don’t really understand it,” he begins of threshing out why he likes being alone so much. “But mental health is such a taboo, especially in the Filipino Asian community. You know, I love my mom, but sometimes she doesn’t understand that I’m having anxiety. She just thinks I’m being arte.” He laughs this off, but it is something a lot of us in this generation have a shared experience with, especially since the elders prior, while acutely aware of the shifts that have to happen to make the world an infinitely better place, still don’t comprehend the complexities of mental health.
“And that’s fine…I mean, it’s not fine, but I understand it, because my mom grew up in a totally different generation, totally grew up in a different country to even begin with, you know? I have to understand that and I can’t blame my mom for that, but I do have social anxiety and I’ve had social anxiety before I was Bretman Rock. It’s not like, oh my god, I have social anxiety because I’m famous now,” he says in his signature brand of sassy self-awareness drizzled self-deprecation. “I have a hard time meeting new people because a lot of the childhood trauma that I had to go through. So, to me, being alone in my own thoughts is more than just being alone. It’s an escape from other people’s energy and escape from other people’s thoughts. And I find strength in that, I really do. I do find strength in being comfortable by yourself because there’s also people out there who struggle being alone in their own thoughts and I’m here like, thriving in my own thoughts. I can only imagine what it feels like to struggle being alone. And so I think with when I’m when I’m posting about it, I just want people to know that like, ‘hey, whatever scale your social anxiety is, just know that you are not alone.’”
Keepin’ It Real
“So, how are you now?” I ask Bretman Rock as he winds down his thoughts on the underrated good with being alone.
“I’m so blessed. I’m so fine. I have a house that could very well be a farm. I have four cats, two dogs. I think I want to adopt a pigeon. Kiefer’s here everyday. My mom is here, literally twice every week…My siblings and my niece, Cleo. I cherish those times that I have with people that I love. And I double cherish the time that I have with myself as well. It’s all about just like balancing, but yes, I’m fine now,” he says, surprisingly flustered and fumbling through his words. “It’s just the simple acts like asking how their day is, or how are you? It’s the simple act like that really helps people feel seen. I don’t think you realize that how you made me feel, but that’s it, so thank you.”
As isolated and specific as this conversation has become to be, this is a microscopic manifestation of the effect that Bretman Rock. It may be the big swings in his career, one that has seen him evolve and expand into spaces beyond the internet; the bold take on fashion, beauty, and humor that have helped shape him to be the young man that people are now looking at and looking up to; and the brave risks he has taken with everything from using his voice and platform against social injustices and for the greater good, but he is truly a force that not is not only cute and charming, but compassionate and compelling at a time when a lot choose to be otherwise.
“This is not just for you anymore. This is no longer just your dream. This is your passion. This is what you owe to the world. And I just hope that you have the strength to do it, because girl, people are going to challenge you, the internet is a very mean place. Hold on to your family so tight. Be extra more compassionate and patient with your sister, because she’s a fucking bitch,” he says with a hearty laugh, obviously deflecting the sniffles that are threatening to shift the mood. “Read your contract twice, please. Four times if you could, don’t sign anything. You’re going to hate traveling to LA, but get over it, ‘cause it’s work. When you make mistakes, and people call you out on it, apologize, be compassionate, and be Filipino in everything you do.”
Before we end the call, which now nearly ran for close to an hour and so much tears and emotions nestled in between, Bretman Rock made sure to sign off not with a good morning, because while the day was just about to break here, it was close to mid-afternoon in Hawaii. “I would love the readers to know that what you’re reading right now is Bretman and not Bretman Rock,” he says tossing his hair side to side. “So, it is real. It’s as real as real can be.”
Creative direction and cover story ANGELO RAMIREZ DE CARTAGENA
Photography RAEN BADUA
Fashion and Beauty Direction LYN ALUMNO
Assisted by ADRIANNE CHAN
Makeup DAPHNE CHANTELL DEL ROSARIO using DIOR BEAUTY, TOM FORD BEAUTY, DR. DENNIS GROSS
Hair JOJO TORRES using ORIBE HAIR CARE
Shot on location THE GERRY BUILDING, LOS ANGELES
Special thanks to Paul Samaha, Taylor Rodriguez, and Align PR; Tash Greizen of NOW PR LA, Michael Cruz of The Gerry Building, Sofhia Sevandra and Shania Sevandra
CONTINUE READING: BRETMAN ROCK IS MAKING IT CLEAR, B*TCH: SPEAK OUT, STAND UP FOR PRIDE