By Carissa Salazar
Bretman. Bretman. Bretman. If you don’t know this name, you’ve seen his face. This 23-year-old firecracker rose from the internet world ranks from posting teenage Instagram videos to stardom, now boasting brand deals, a hit MTV original show, and even catching the eyes of A-list celebrities like Rihanna and the Hadid sisters. For many who watched Bretman grow from a 15-year-old boy with an overt sense of humor to a beautiful man (who still is the funniest) admired by many, they could say that this rise to fame was inevitable.
Bretman started as a teenage makeup enthusiast before he blew up. People were enamored by his makeup skills paired with his hilarious commentary. I remember I was in my first year of college when I sat and binged all of Bretman’s high school videos, choking on air and thinking that this was the best content I’ve seen. Eventually, Bretman became well known for his makeup-centered videos and the outrageous way he talked, and so he grew and he grew and he grew. Yet there was always something that set Bretman apart from the rest of the makeup community he was part of. He’s been so successful from standing out from all the MUAs that Bretman seldom makes makeup videos anymore, focusing his content on lifestyle and just about anything he wants to show. From growing his viewers from makeup aficionados to people who just enjoy watching him live out his days, you might stop to ask what exactly was the recipe? In what steps do you expand their target audience and encapsulate the general public? As someone who’s been observing him for a while now, I could say that his recipe is simple but not easily done. You have to have the right conditions for it to work, and one could even argue Bretman is the only one who’s been able to do it like this.
THE RECIPE OF BRETMAN ROCK
1. Content for the content-hungry people. “Hi guys, it's Bret here, Singer, Song Writer, Actor, Actress, Athlete, Activist, A scientist on the motherf*cking side, The star of the crystal of the dayayayyayaayy, And a coconut water connoisseur, And you're watching my story b*Tch” If you know, you know. Bretman pumps out insane content on his Instagram stories, and you never know what he’ll be doing next. Bretman has had several segments from rating coconut water brands, showing off his crystals and explaining each of their purposes, and even conducted science experiments in his lab coat. In an age where our attention spans are limited, he’s taken advantage of his array of random interests and commodified it into consumable content. Making 30-second videos a day that would be made and posted throughout a week or two is genius: the effort to edit will be at a minimum yet your viewers will still feel engaged and feel obligated to keep up (well, you have to have an engaging personality too). I remember checking in Bretman’s story every day during his coconut water reviews, captured by the accessibility of consumption and absorbed in the unpredictability of the results of the reviews. Bretman trained many of us to expect a rush of dopamine or reward by just clicking on his story, similar to the rush of pulling on the lever of a slot machine
2. Don’t put all your eggs in one platform. Yes, you heard that right. In an age where social media is heavily saturated with influencers and endless noise, using just one platform won’t increase your chances of being discovered or heard. While Bretman doesn’t need to try to gain more exposure, one thing that’s proved fruitful is the consistency of pumping out different content on different platforms. His Instagram content is different than Tiktok, Tiktok is different from Youtube, and so on. Bretman mastered how to use each of these social media platforms to maximize engagement and viewership. If you look at it through an analytic lens it comes down to this:
Tiktok is for trends. There is a strong correlation between being trendy and being popular on social media. Know what’s in and perform it and you will prosper. Bretman does it best by using popular sounds and making it his own in his videos.
Youtube is for longer videos, especially the type where you sit down to talk to tell stories or have people get to know you more. If you have a big following this is where a lot of clips are taken from to be made into reaction or compilation videos (which unsurprisingly, Bretman Rock has a lot of)
Instagram posts are for your thirst traps, milestones, and whatever you really want to post. When you’re a celebrity I feel like an Instagram is more like your menu people can refer to. “Oh, this is what Bretman did, etc.”
Instagram story is basically your reality TV show. Show as little or as much as you want, this is the best way to always be in the mind of your viewer. This is something that Bretman does consistently, and while stories are only live for 24 hours, many Bretman fans find these worthy enough to record and compile into longer-lasting Youtube videos.
Twitter is for you. You need a space where you can just let your thoughts go. This is the one platform I don’t feel like I keep up with Bretman enough on, but it also might be his least used platform.
3. You have to be authentic. Now I feel like authenticity is thrown around often with depreciating meaning. People are striving for authenticity like it is the new trend (which I think is great but let’s be real: it hasn’t always been this way) Bretman was unapologetically himself from day one. I think what was the most shocking to most people was the way he talked. It could seem vulgar to others the way curse words come easy to him, but the delivery is unmistakable, there is no other way. He was confident in his sexuality even at that young age, and his confidence was something of envy. When I think of people “doing the most” Bretman comes to mind, but is it really? I feel like a lot of people wanted a piece of that unadulterated confidence too, to just be okay with being different and not conforming to what society expects of you. Something about watching someone else be what we want ourselves to just be leaves us engaged and searching for more.
4. You don’t forget where you came from. This is what gives Bretman his edge among others. One thing that has been consistent with the way Bretman made videos is that he never let go of his core values and culture. He's also a proud representative of the LGBTQ+ community. He was always proud of being a Filipino immigrant living in Hawaiian culture, and it was never a thing just out of convenience. He has made countless videos of his Ilocano family, which I feel is also the proprietor of his growth as a content creator. Even at a young age, the foundations that kept Bretman grounded were strong, and there was never an instance I felt that he ever lost sight of that one thing that is the most important to him: his loved ones. The best example of this is his MTV series, Following Bretman Rock which kept up him and his closest friends which included a childhood friend, his sister, his cousin, and many cameos of his mom. Some moments got raw and the tides of emotions were high, but the dynamic between him and his family remained strong. Many people commented on how touched they felt about Bretman’s respect for his mother and the immigrant struggle because it is felt in many of us.
The secret to Bretman's success is that Bretman represents many unrepresented in social media stardom. He did not grow up rich, nor privileged by the color of his skin, nor fell into societal and heteronormative norms, yet he was able to win the hearts of millions through his authenticity and humor. As a fellow Filipino-American and an ally of the LGBTQ+ community, it makes me proud to see Bretman thrive in spaces where it's harder for people like him to make a breakthrough. There is pure joy in watching anything he makes because it feels like he truly deserves the happiness and achievements that come with being a social media star.