He goes by the name Bryanboy—just Bryanboy. Like the single-named icons Cher and Madonna in the music industry, Bryanboy is a superstar name in the world of luxury fashion. His 600,000+ Instagram followers eagerly await for new posts from the cheeky influencer, watching his jet set lifestyle closely and what trends to follow next. Bryanboy began blogging when he lived in Manila with his parents during the early Aughts. Since exploding into the international scene, he has since moved to Sweden with his husband, has an award winning blog, attends Fashion Week events all around the world, and partners only with the biggest couture houses (such as Salvatore Ferragamo, Cartier and Gucci). He is widely considered to be one of the “OG” influencers, shaping the industry to what it is today. An avid traveler because of his occupation, it was a treat for us to have been able to catch up with Bryanboy during his quick visit to Manila.
Never Measuring Success
Now 36-years-old, Bryanboy has made a name for himself the fashion industry. His eponymous blog started his career in 2007, which would be later recognized as a must-read by publications such as The New York Post. Today, a normal day for the online superstar is waking up next to his husband in their lakeside home in Sweden. But can we really actually say that Bryanboy’s life is normal at all? He is often seen hanging out with celebrities, attending the most exclusive parties around the world, and wearing couture that even the most well-connected fashionistas can’t get their hands on.
“I’m actually more on the plane then I am at home,” he shares with a laugh. “Sometimes, I wonder, what if I were in different shoes? What if I were a corporate worker in Australia or something, and I’d look at Bryanboy’s Instagram. I’d say it’s an unreal lifestyle. It’s still completely unreal to me. This is not normal. But a lot of my friends lead pretty similar lifestyles. So my sense of reality is quite warped, because this is my normal.”
Though he hates to admit it, Bryanboy keeps it very real when he interviews. Despite having appeared as a panelist on the popular America’s Next Top Model television show, being hired to do ad campaigns for Salvatore Ferragamo, and receiving couture gifts from fashion houses, Bryanboy has remained quite grounded despite his fame and stature. “People always tell me I look bitchy, but are then so surprised when they find out I’m actually nice,” he says with a huge grin on his face.
Without any sort of pretension, Bryanboy shared how he doesn’t know how to measure his “success” in his particular line of work. “It’s all just entertainment!” he says about his job. Although he loves what he does, he notes that being an influencer for the fashion industry all comes down to the buying power of those who follow him. He knows it’s a job, works hard at it, but still tries to live as real as he possibly can. “I don’t think I’m changing the world, but if I can inspire somebody or make them feel good about themselves, then that’ll make me happy.”
Living Life Off the Phone
When asked about influencers of today’s day and age, Bryanboy didn’t have a negative thing to say. Instead, he commented that they are quite a different breed from his batch. “It’s a different generation—A lot of influencers today are more prepared then we were back then. The template has been set out them. When I started, I didn’t even look at myself as an influencer. I just had an [online] diary. I wasn’t influencing, but what we were doing eventually became the business model.”
Many influencers today have become famous by simply posting beautiful photographs on their social media accounts. Bryanboy, however, took the long route. One of the trailblazers of the industry, he started blogging in his 20s, and his audience grew organically. He is known for his flamboyant style and honest commentary on fashion. He also made the most of his career as a digital superstar, working in television for two years, using his clout to support products he believes in (none of that fake “in partnership” stuff), and posting photos that felt real. He notes that he still uses his iPhone to photos, unlike many of today’s influencers who lug around large SLRs for the best quality. “I like to make a distinction of what’s real and what’s not. But of course, if a big brand hires me, I’m not gonna use my iPhone for the photographs. I’ll hire a professional team so we can do a good job. They’re paying a lot of money and I should deliver well.”
Bryanboy also believes that it’s important to live your best life instead of wasting it on our phones continuously “manufacturing content”. He stresses that oversharing can be detrimental to one’s image. “Despite popular belief, I think I’m very filtered. In reality, I only really share five percent of my life online. I would share [a photo of] my friends visiting me at my house in Sweden. But behind that [photo], one friend actually got cheated on [and is heartbroken]. I would never share that kind of thing. But with some of the younger people, it’s all about living their lives to make content, rather than actually living their lives. In my generation, we didn’t manufacture content.”
Last January, he directed a short film for Italian fashion house Salvatore Ferragamo. Shot in Florence for the brand’s Gancini campaign, the video pokes fun at the current influencer culture. Scenes in the film include those who take too long to photograph their food, young people who take pictures in designer stores (yet never buys anything), and the lengths influencers would go to take the perfect #OOTD. The film can be viewed on YouTube.
A Belo Story
Even when editing a video in a studio space in Makati, Bryanboy still looked very “fasyon”. He sported a Gucci polo-shirt and jeans, complemented by his platinum blonde hairdo. “What are you doing?” I asked him, observing how hands-on he was with the project. “It’s a digital project that I’m doing with Vicki Belo,” he shared (watch out for the video, which will drop soon). He continued to say that he wanted to document the procedures he did while in Manila. “I have no time to be here for a long period, so I was only able to do treatments that are noninvasive. It had to be easy and super-fast. Something that didn’t require me to be sore!”
Never shy to admit his past procedures (essays online have been written about his plastic surgery), Bryanboy continued to sing praises for the Belo Clinic and its proprietor, Vicki Belo, whom he admits is like a second mother to him. “I love working with Dr. Belo. I’ve known her for almost 2 decades. She’s really transformed me over the years. I go back to her almost every year. I’ve been to so many doctors everywhere, but there’s no place like home. Working with her is just a bonus. I can’t really find the same quality of care anywhere else. Looking a certain way plays a big role in my job, so you can’t just let go of yourself. I’m 36 now and I’m surrounded by 21-year-old influencers. When you’re around high luxury brands, you really need to be the best version of yourself,” he says.
Bryanboy says that Belo has been his go-to for years. As a teenager, he suffered from bad acne, which the clinic was able to clean up through a simple skin regimen. “I was probably 18 or 19, and acne was making me feel really insecure. When you look at fashion magazines or pictures on the internet, the sense of your reality is warped. In real life, I had bad skin. I had a choice, I could live with it, or see a professional. That was my first experience with Dr. Belo. My friend introduced me to her, and after that she fixed it. She prescribed a regimen and it all cleared out. That was the beginning of me doing something proactive [with my skin problem].”
During this recent trip in Manila, Bryanboy prepares for London Fashion Week, trying to achieve the best version of himself through Belo treatments. He shares his new obsession with the clinic’s Kinetic Face Lift Treatment called Enerjet. “It’s non-invasive—basically a facelift with no surgery. They have this cool air gun that injects [rejuvenating solution and hyaluronic acid] into the skin. I also asked her what can I do to improve my look. I did my chin filler, and I did my Botox. I did fillers on my cheeks too,” he candidly shares.
By the time this interview is published, Bryanboy will be on a plane home, before attending London Fashion Week. Although he basically lives out of a suitcase, the influencer shares he loves to travel because he loves to pack. Packing and organizing excite him so much. He also laughs after sharing how he uses cheap luggage because there is more space. Unpacking, is a nuisance for him, but that’s another story.
Use Your Voice
Despite the ultra-glamourous life he leads, Bryanboy wants to put a good message out to his young followers. He talks about fast fashion and its repercussions. “I love collecting clothes, and I do believe in re-wearing things again and again. My polo form Prada is three years old,” he says while pointing at his shirt. “I hate that mindset that people should only wear things once. It’s ridiculous! Fashion is so expensive and that’s the reason fast fashion companies thrive. They make it is accessible for people to reach. But the new generation is so bombarded with images on Instagram and other social platforms that they are conditioned to be that way. What they don’t realize is famous actresses, influencers and bloggers are dressed by these brands. We return things. A Jane Doe should not have the mindset that after wearing something once they should never wear it again. People throwing out clothes after one use is so bad. It takes its toll on the environment and so many other things.”
He also notes the problem of racism in the industry, stating how he hates it when brands put only one person of color on their runways, just so they won’t be labeled as racists. “Real diversity is really mixing it up with different races, ages, sizes and backgrounds. We have a long way to go, but I’m happy that we live in a time where when people see something they don’t like, they say something.”
“When I see something that bothers me, I always speak out,” he continued. “Why would I have a platform if I can’t use it to speak out? If you have a platform, use it. With this generation, people are still so hesitant to talk. Especially influencers. They’re afraid to have a voice [because of fear of the backlash]. You have got use your voice, or you’re just a pawn in the game.”
At this point of his career, Bryanboy is grateful to be an Asian who has gotten as far as he has in the fashion world. He refers to his close group of friends as his Asian Mafia, which includes other big name Asian influencers like Suzie Lau. Together, they walk the streets of Paris, London, and New York, hand-in-hand (and in designer shoes), in hopes to inspire others. “I love that fashion is so diverse now,” he shares. “Unlike before, where the whole idea of beauty was a blonde, white actress. Not all consumers can relate to that. But now, we have so much representation,” he said before picking up his Dior tote, saying goodbye, and preparing for a flight to the next big glitzy thing.
After packing up our photography equipment, we left the interview space with a smile. It was refreshing conversation with Bryanboy. We left happy knowing that although the internet is filled with self-motivated influencers singing praises for untested items, we were proud to know that one of the real ones is a Filipino.