The Hawaii-based Filipino influencer isn't new to the spotlight after making a name for himself on YouTube and the short-form video app Vine, where Rock displayed both his humor and his skill with makeup. And while videos of him applying contour and trying out drag makeup came long before there were other men in makeup gaining notoriety online, Rock continues to break boundaries with his latest cover shoot.
— BretmanRock’s Year (@bretmanrock) October 1, 2021
"I'm a @playboy bunny," Rock wrote on Twitter alongside photos of the digital cover where he's wearing the famous bunny suit.
According to Playboy, Rock isn't the first man to rock different parts of the iconic outfit. However, he is only the third to appear on the cover of the men's lifestyle and entertainment magazine, behind the magazine's late founder Hugh Hefner and, in July 2020, Latin pop star Bad Bunny; Rock is the first openly gay man.
"For Playboy to have a male on the cover is a huge deal for the LGBT community, for my brown people community and it’s all so surreal," Rock told the publication. A total 'is this even f***ing happening right now?' type of vibe."
— Playboy (@Playboy) October 1, 2021
Rock's cover story hasn't yet been released, but a representative for GLAAD, the leading LGBTQ advocacy organization accelerating acceptance and equality, explains why the representation is so important.
"Playboy’s inclusion of Bretman Rock on its cover is a powerful step forward in the ongoing movement towards greater diversity and inclusion in fashion and modeling," Anthony Allen Ramos, GLAAD’s head of talent, said in a statement. "As the first out gay man to cover the magazine, especially during Filipino American History Month, Bretman Rock is continuing to defy gender norms and use his massive social platform to not only break down barriers for LGBTQ inclusion in the industry, but also inspire so many other LGBTQ Filipinos who have been underrepresented in fashion, modeling, and across media."
Still, not everyone is celebrating Rock's cover appearance, as evidenced by the many negative comments — along with the positive — on Playboy's Twitter announcement.
"Playboy has been dead for a while now, folks. Case in point as to why..." one person wrote. Another replied, "There are appropriate magazines for this homie to be featured. You guys have gone left! I’m out Playboy, I’ve been a fan since the early 90s. I’m not anti gay or trans or anything, this is just none sense!"
Others commented on the nature of the magazine, sharing thoughts about how the latest digital cover choice seemingly veers from the publication's intended purpose.
"Now Playboy is Playgay. They will destroy each and every haven of masculinity," someone said. Another wrote, "Couldn’t they just revived Playgirl and had him debut on the cover for that since target audience for Playboy is straight dudes who prob won’t take too kindly to seeing a man on the cover of Playboy."
A spokesperson for PLBY Group, the publication's parent media company, tells Yahoo Life that pushback in the face of progress is expected, noting, "Since posting last Friday, we’ve received a lot of great comments, but far too many offensive ones as well. These are the same kind of comments Playboy received when we put Darine Stern, an African American woman, on the cover in 1971; when we featured transgender model Tula Cossey in 1991; [when we] fought for abortion rights before Roe v Wade and cannabis law reform in the 1970s."
The spokesperson adds that challenging such notions is a part of the magazine's mission.
"Standing for freedom and equality is in the DNA of this brand. Today, Playboy is much more than a magazine," a representative continues. "Our digital covers are creative snapshots that drive and reflect the current dialogue around pleasure, sexuality, equality and culture. If a gay man feels sexy in a bunny costume, an iconic symbol of sexiness, why shouldn’t he be able to wear it proudly? Serving as a platform for representation is and will always be what Playboy stands for."
Now, Rock is a part of that change.