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Playboy features its first ever queer male cover star

Playboy has announced queer influencer Bretman Rock as its latest cover star. What do these inclusive shifts mean for pop culture’s most exclusionary spaces?

Playboy has long been known for its nude female models. But in a first for the magazine, gay Filipino Bretman Rock has been revealed as October’s cover star.

Rock announced the news on Twitter last week, writing ‘I’m a @playboy bunny DUHHHHHH’ above two images from his chic black and white photoshoot. He can be seen posing in the brand’s famous black corset and bunny ears, a post that has since been liked over 140,000 times.

Rock gained fame on the now-defunct streaming platform Vine, but maintained success through a popular YouTube channel and Instagram account, which now boasts nearly 18 million followers.

He has also secured numerous campaign deals, including a capsule collection with retail giant Crocs, and a reality TV show with MTV.

Through his viral makeup tutorials and satirical attitude, Rock has cemented himself as a Gen Z mega-influencer, ensuring digital spaces like the beauty community remain inclusive and diverse.

For long-term readers, Rock’s feature may come as a surprise. Founded in 1953 by the late Hugh Hefner, Playboy has established itself as an outpost of men’s sexual entertainment.

The magazine has since gained a cult following, thanks to celebrity features and lucrative merchandise collections.

Throughout the early 2000s, pink bunny cushions and velour sweatsuits were a mainstay for many teen girls, and the brand still rolls out wildly popular clothing capsules year on year.

Playboy’s transformation into a global brand, ‘Playboy Enterprises’, may have ensured its appeal across gender lines. But collaborations with high-end brands like Supreme and famous figures like Kim Kardashian and Kate Moss have failed to unpick the magazine’s overtly heterosexual presence.

Bretman Rock’s stint as Playboy’s latest cover boy marks a crucial turning point for the publication. For a magazine plagued with controversies, including the illicit use of women’s photographs without consent, Playboy represents a pre-‘Times Up’ Hollywood.

On top of that, its audience is changing. Not only are young people having less casual sex than before, but the devastating impacts of pornography are fuelling a rejection of graphic content amongst Gen Z and millennials.

This comes at a time when largely white, male dominated corporations face pressure to transform their business culture. A ground-breaking study by insights agency Bigeye, found that 50% of Gen Z view traditional gender roles as outdated.

Bretman hopes his stint as a Playboy star will provide queer youth with the same representation he lacked growing up. ‘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 was quoted as saying on twitter.

The diversification of sexual entertainment is, in large part, down to digital growth. Playboy ended its 66-year print run in 2020, after a major editorial overhaul in 2019 that resulted in what The New York Times called ‘a woke-er, more inclusive Playboy’.

Rock’s cover marks another rung in this transformative journey, affirming digital capacities to democratise once exclusionary cultural spaces.

Not only has a social media-based approach enabled Playboy to stray from its heterosexual (at worst, misogynistic) norms, but Bretman Rock’s internet success highlights the immense power queer people now hold over a world that once rejected them.