It has been seven whole months since Bryanboy was last in Manila. At the time, his face was swollen and bloodied in pictures on social media, following several cosmetic procedures, including a nose job, eyebag removal and laser work to tighten his jawline.
On Wednesday, there was no trace of any of that when the famous blogger met with this writer, looking quite refreshed at Belo Medical Clinic in Greenbelt Residences, Makati.
Bryanboy—Bryan Grey Yambao in real life—has just had a botox top-up on his forehead, and V-Contour—an injectable procedure that melts localized fat—on his arms the previous day. But he’s not planning to do anything invasive on this trip, he said. He’s done with those—at least for now.
He travels a lot as part of his job as “social media influencer” and ambassador for several brands, including the Belo Medical Group. In November alone, he traveled to eight cities all over the world.
But, at 34, changes are in the offing for this jet-setter, a pioneering fashion blogger who helped overturn the power structure of media in the digital age. Now he wants to establish roots, with plans to relocate from his Manhattan base to Sweden to be with his husband, cut down on his travels, and possibly launch an e-commerce site.
In the changing media landscape, he also talked about how the role of bloggers and influencers has evolved.
“Nobody gets paid now just for attending an event and saying hi,” he said. “That’s an old way of thinking, and ineffective.”
What has changed since May?
My nose has changed like crazy! It used to be so big. The changes are really subtle. I thought it was going to be so drastic. I used to Photoshop a lot, to make my nose look slimmer. Now I don’t need to use the apps anymore! It has really changed my confidence.
You also had your jaw done last May.
Yes, but you know, she gained weight. She ate a lot in six months (laughs). So this time, I had a botox top-up yesterday, and I’m also gonna get botox on my hands. My hands are pasmado; I had them done last August in New York, and now I wanna do it again because you have to, every five to six months. It’s extremely painful, though, 120 injections in one hand! They put Emla cream (a topical anesthetic) but it didn’t work on me. But it’s so worth it.
Thirty-four isn’t old.
Age has nothing to do with it. I work in an industry that’s heavily dependent on image. It would be a disservice if I don’t present myself at my best. I work with the best brands, I won’t be doing them any favors.
Tell me about the psychology of going through these procedures, because there are people who do so much and end up looking grotesque.
There’s a fine line. The problem with some people is that they don’t know when to stop. There are things that are going so well for them but they’re unhappy. I’m very, very happy with myself. I’m done with my nose! I’m not gonna do crazy surgery on my lips, I love my lips. Even my eyes. It’s important to know when to stop. For me it’s not an addiction. Hopefully, not yet.
They say when you’ve done it once, it emboldens you to do more and more.
That’s a very small percentage of people. It’s like alcohol. What’s the percentage of real alcoholics compared to people who just like a glass of wine? Those who turn grotesque just don’t know when to stop. And it’s sad that some doctors are enabling them. A lot of times this happens only when they go to different doctors, thinking they want to fix somebody else’s bad job. They go doctor shopping, and it’s really horrible.
I’m not doing anything invasive this time. I’m getting fillers on my face tomorrow, to fix the lines. I did V-Contour (an injectable that melts localized stubborn fat deposits) on my arms. Twenty injections, but with Emla you don’t feel anything. You need to do it over two to three sessions. After that, I’m done! I started working out last month, I hired a personal trainer, but then I started traveling again.
You’ve been quite open about what you’ve had done, while many are still embarrassed to discuss these things, even with their closest friends.
You’re deceiving people! I’m very open because I can’t lie. I’m very honored to be an endorser of Belo. I can’t go to Belo and not talk about what I did. This is about my personal integrity. As a social media influencer, I need to be transparent. I can’t lie and pretend that this is all organic and normal, because it’s not. I’m endorsing clothes, brands, beauty and treatments.
Drawing a line
Where do you draw the line?
Liposuction. I’m afraid!
What has changed with your life in general?
I’ve still been working nonstop. Next year, I will have been doing this for 13 years, and I’m still doing the exact same thing. Last month I did eight cities, it was like a world tour. I’m never at home. My husband—we got married in December—is very understanding.
I’m planning to move to Sweden because it’s unfair to him, and at the same time, I have a lot of events and meetings in Europe. It makes sense.
I keep asking myself: Am I happy? Yes. I always assess the state of my life. Am I satisfied and content with the work that I’m doing? Everything is a yes. Are you exhausted? At this point, yes.
I’m reaching that level where I have no stability. My friends are everywhere, my husband is in Sweden. When do I get to build a future with the people I love, and just be there? I want to streamline my life and definitely move with my husband, and challenge myself creatively.
I’m thinking of getting into e-commerce, merchandising. I don’t want to get into fashion but I do want to get into a curated online store with different things, different brands, collaborations, things I pick up during my travels. I love the idea of e-commerce, that’s the future. If I’m doing that from Sweden or Europe, I think it will be great.
Are you meeting with friends on this visit?
Do you ever bump into ex-friends?
No, not really. But if I bump into them, you know, it’s 2016. Let bygones be bygones. My life changed completely, it would be quite immature. I hate holding grudges. If people are still stuck to what they were 10 years ago, how can you move on with your life? I’m so lucky to be surrounded by loyal friends who support me. I make new friends. It’s important to surround yourself with good people who push you forward and inspire you. I have no negativity in my life except my belly fat!
Everything I’m doing right now is icing on the cake. I’m in such a privileged position. All of my dreams have come true and I like the idea of inspiring people. I look at my Instagram and I’m in London, Dubai, Miami. My life is unreal. People judge me based on what they see or hear. What you see on my Instagram is only 10 percent of my life.
What’s the biggest misconception about you?
So many things! I’ve lost track.
What would you rectify, for the record?
I don’t even want to rectify anything. People are entitled to their opinion of me. What purpose would it serve to correct that? If I say something, you’ll just call me a liar. And to be honest, what you think of me is irrelevant to what I’m doing. I just do what I do. If people appreciate that, good. If they don’t, I move on.
How did you get to this point in your career? What do you think you did right?
It was just the right timing. When I started, there weren’t many blogs. I was probably the only blogger whose sole focus was fashion. It was just a coincidence.
Some think you had it easy…
It wasn’t easy! In 2004, people were really suspicious of what I was doing. People couldn’t quite believe that it could lead to a viable career.
Suddenly Marc Jacobs was naming a purse after you…
Yeah, and now it’s like, whatever! (Laughs) I’m so grateful for that. People didn’t believe that it was a legitimate, viable career path. We lived in a pre-digital world. People are always afraid of what’s new. It was par for the course.
How has your role as an influencer evolved?
I’m so privileged to have worked with the top, it’s so unreal I have to pinch myself. The caliber of my work has definitely become more grown-up. My business deals are usually long-term now. It has become extremely professional.
Before, you could make money by just attending an event, saying hi, and getting a picture. Now you have to produce content, go on different platforms, think of a longer message on how you guys can work together.
Nobody gets paid now for just attending an event and saying hi. That’s an old way of thinking, and ineffective. You have to think of the bigger picture, and what value you can bring to a brand.
Are there brands in the Philippines that have approached you?
Only Belo. I’m definitely open. Anything that would bring me to the Philippines, just sign me up. I miss home. I’ve had Filipino food every day. If there are more opportunities that would bring me back here, that would be amazing.
You don’t post photos of your husband.
We had a civil wedding, very private. My husband is a private person. Even my friends, I don’t post pictures of a lot of them. Again, Instagram isn’t real life! Sometimes I’d post his picture, but I don’t identify him, he’s there somewhere! (Laughs) People might unfairly attack or criticize him.
Does it make you livid when that happens?
I’m very open to criticism. People can write anything they want, it’s good for my business. But with the people I love, I don’t want them to be hurt because they’re not used to being criticized. It’s hurtful. You protect the people you love. It’s so easy these days to post a negative comment.
Are you open to fixing things with people you’ve had quarrels with?
What do I need to fix? I don’t have problems with people. People have problems with me.
Would you ever reach out first?
What is there to reach out for? I’m not the one who has a problem, so why should I do something? I’m very open to talk things over like any adult. You wanna have coffee? Let’s have coffee, let’s talk. I would never say no.
Do you think people are just jealous?
I really don’t know. What is there to be jealous of? My life isn’t perfect. There will always be someone out there who will appreciate you and someone who will not.
You must have read all those things that have been written about you here.
Yes, but why are they rehashing things that aren’t fact-checked?
You mean, you’ve never been asked for your side of the story?
That was like eight, nine years ago. Some did, some didn’t, usually no. You’re actually one of the first who actually asked me questions. It’s even a non-story. It’s extremely old! If they have issues, it’s private.
But they have been made public. Those articles came out in reputable publications.
I don’t air my dirty laundry in public if I have a problem with a friend. I’ll tell them personally. I’ll never go to the press and say I have a problem with you, and not even reach out to you. I keep my personal relationships personal. I keep my work public. That’s about it. There’s zero benefit for the public to know about people’s personal relationships.
If it’s beneficial for them to assassinate someone’s character, then that’s their thing. I never do that with friends or former friends. I keep my mouth shut.
Why have you never addressed those issues?
There’s nothing to address. I have no issue. But I have very loyal friends.
Is it easier because you’re not based here anyway?
It has nothing to do with that; it’s my reputation. I’m still working with the brands that I love, my life has improved tremendously—so what benefit did it bring them? What did they get out of it? Are they happy? Do they have more to say? I’m really curious. I’m extremely grateful that I have a happy life. It’s just not my thing to say bad things about people.
I fight a lot with my friends over the pettiest things. But it’s a test of friendship. If you’re not able to get over a small thing, you’re not really friends. Was it really a friendship? Or were you really just friends with me because of my reputation? Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.