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13 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Dita Von Teese
From her backstage playlist to her thoughts on that Cher/Christina Aguilera movie, the Queen of Burlesque spills the (vintage) tea
If you only know Dita Von Teese as the high-glam model and striptease artist with a penchant for all things retro, there are a few things you should get straight. Sure, she’s the sort of woman who sports red lipstick and a perfect chignon leaving Pilates class, but her ideal day is spent lounging at home with her cat, Aleister. Yeah, she’s famous for the way she looks in (and out) of a corset, but she also helped resuscitate the American burlesque scene, and she carries the legacies of Old Hollywood icons on her lace-capped shoulders.
Von Teese has been hard at work for 20 years and is currently on the last stateside leg of her latest tour, Burlesque: Strip Strip Hooray!, which comes to the House of Blues on Sunset from September 3 to 5. We caught up with her to chat about her upcoming shows, her passion for burlesque, and her perfect day in L.A.
1. Sometimes, She Plays Against Type
“My backstage playlist is usually something that has nothing to do with what I’ve been rehearsing to. I love Billie Holiday but you won’t ever catch me listening to her backstage. I get in a really different zone. I like to have fun because all of that comes out when the curtains open.”
2. She Craves Intimacy
“I love at the end of the night when I hear someone say, ‘I could smell your perfume’ or ‘I grabbed a few Swarovski crystals off the stage when you left.’ I like when I can see and feel people.”
3. She Offers A Lot of Bang for Your Buck
“This show is 90 minutes long and I do four of my biggest numbers. I’d never really done that. Sometimes people walk in saying, ‘I can’t believe your show costs $40.’ Then they leave saying, ‘I can’t believe that ticket wasn’t $100 dollars.’ It’s like seeing a big Broadway show.”
4. She Floats Like a Butterfly and Stings Like a Bee
“There’s not really anybody who does my brand of burlesque. Not to get all Muhammad Ali on you, but there’s no one performing with the extravagant costuming and props and staging that I have.”
5. Apparently, 15 Year Olds Are Allowed to Work in Lingerie Stores
“I worked in a lingerie store from age 15 to 22. Part of the reason I started performing was because I started creating pin-up photos; I was in love with vintage-style lingerie and I wanted to be photographed in it. That kind of snowballed into the career I have now.”
6. She Believes in the Virtues of Hard Work
“I didn’t ever do this because I was trying to become someone else. I was just doing something I really loved. It took me 20 years to get where I am today. I think with integrity, hard work, authenticity, and doing it because you enjoy the doing instead of trying to seek rewards, I think that’s when the rewards come to you.”
7. She Has as Many Female Fans as She Does Male Ones
“I had a big following among male fetish fans. I started noticing the shift in my audience around 1998. It made me feel like I had more purpose. I started thinking about why so many females were coming to a striptease show. Why am I looking out at an audience of a thousand women with maybe their boyfriends and husbands on their arm and a smattering of gays? (Well, there are a lot of gays now, actually; more than a smattering.)
8. Being a Burlesque Dancer and a Role Model Aren’t Mutually Exclusive
“Growing up, I didn’t have modern role models of beauty and glamour that I could relate to. The idea of creating beauty and glamour with tricks like hair, makeup, lipstick, and eyelashes made me feel like I could be interesting and beautiful and glamorous. I can’t relate to Victoria’s Secret or Sports Illustrated swimsuit models. That’s not a kind of beauty I could ever achieve. I think women come to see my show because it is all about this created glamour.”
9. The 2010 Film Burlesque is Not in Her Netflix Queue
“The movie Burlesque [with Cher and Christina Aguilera] actually had zero burlesque in it. This isn’t helping educate people about Gypsy Rose Lee or Lili St. Cyr, who performed striptease in the ’30s, ’40s, and 50s. People speaking for the film were saying: this isn’t like the stripper burlesque that Dita Von Teese does. You can talk shit on me, but I’ve worked hard my whole adult life to preserve the memory of these self-made, self-taught women who were so daring to do this in the first place.”
10. She’s Purposely Polarizing
“When I do my show, it’s like a sexual fantasy that will never exist in real life. It’s completely over the top. It’s spectacle, beauty, and glamour. It might not be politically correct, but then again, whose sexual fantasies are politically correct?”
11. She Prefers her Backyard to the Eiffel Tower
“I love having a house with a yard, somewhere I can have privacy and sit in a garden. It’s a lifestyle you can’t have in certain cities. In Paris, which is my only real experience of living in another major city, I found that I had a lot of that stuff taken away. I love being surrounded by my atmosphere, my antique things and my vintage car. It makes me feel closer to another era when beauty and aesthetics were infused into everyday things. I couldn’t really have that in Paris. I could see them on the street in Paris.”
12. Don’t Let the Glamour Fool You, She’s Pretty Low-Key
“My perfect day in L.A. usually starts with waking up at my leisure, with no hangover, not that I usually have one. Doing an hour of exercise, cooking for myself at home. I love being at home and having people come over. I work a lot on my lingerie line and my perfume. Whatever I’m working on is really about looking at my references and thinking about how to translate them. My ideal day usually has to do with a combination of enjoying my home life and feeling like I accomplished something on a creative level.
13. If You Can’t Come to Strip Strip Hooray!, She’ll Bring It To You
“I want to [put out a DVD] with everything filmed properly so anyone who didn’t see the show will understand what it’s about. My goal is to document my work right now as it comes time for me to evolve into my next phase.”