On February 14 -18 Dita Von Teese will bring her full-length revue, Burlesque: Strip, Strip, Hooray! presented by Live Nation to The Gramercy Theatre. Featuring MC Murray Hill and a who’s who of burlesque stars, the 90-minute variety show played to sold-out crowds in Los Angeles, San Francisco and Chicago.
Born Heather Sweet in West Branch, Michigan, Dita Von Teese grew up fascinated by the Golden Age of Cinema, pin-up imagery and vintage lingerie. This naturally blond, mid-western girl then transformed herself into a glamour girl like those she admired. She started performing striptease in 1992 and she hasn’t looked back.
Dita is renowned for her ornate sets and dazzling haute-couture costumes adorned with hundreds of thousands of Swarovski crystals. Dita also brought burlesque to prime time television when she appeared as a guest star on CSI and performed her classic Martini Glass show in one of their highest rated episodes to date.
In addition to her burlesque shows, Dita is a self-styled fashion icon, topping best-dressed lists. She has recently expanded into her own distinct brands. Her lingerie collection debuted exclusively with Bloomingdale’s and has expanded to Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Barenecessities.com and Journelle. She also recently launched Dita Von Teese Eyewear and Dita’s fragrance collection. Dita is also a best-selling author.
She previously served as the global ambassador for Cointreau, Perrier, MAC Viva Glam
Dita is an advocate in the fight against HIV and Aids, participating in the H&M/Fashion Against Aids t-shirt campaign. She has also performed and appeared at several events for Amfar and was honored with their Award of Courage in 2008.
T2C had a chance to talk with this glamour gal.
T2C: Who is Dita Von Teese?
Dita Von Teese: I am my own creation, who decided to write her own story.
T2C: Your website has a glamour version and a Femme Fatale version which are you?
Dita Von Teese: I am both. I love duality and I love walking the line between bad girl good, bad girl, Madonna, whore. I love all things taboo.
T2C: How did you get involved with Burlesque?
Dita Von Teese: I started in 1991, I was 19, a friend of mine took me to a strip club and I remember being really in awe about how much money the girls were making for wearing more clothes than I was. I felt there is no one like me here so I should do this. So I started working at this strip club as a joke to see if I could fit in. I was always a famous model in the fetish and bondage world, but I was the first person to embrace metro glamour. I set out to bring that style forward. I was a ballet dancer so that served me well. Most of the pin-up girls were burlesque dancers. I loved performing in the strip clubs and I become really famous in 2002 when I landed on the cover of playboy. I find it empowering and liberating when I’m performing.
T2C: How did you take the burlesque from point a to point b?
Dita Von Teese: It was a slow snowballing of events. I would invest all of my money into the shows. Better costumes, better sets. When I build a new show, I pay for it myself. It’s my own money’s worth of rhinestones and feathers.
T2C: What is involved in your Burlesque shows?
Dita Von Teese: For five years I did sold out shows of my show Strip, Strip, Hooray! My shows are mostly variety shows with fabulous sets, props and a fabulous cast. They really are show stopping. This is modern burlesque with boys and girls. We are spreading a message of diversity. We embrace gender fluidity.
T2C: Who does your choreography?
Dita Von Teese: I’ve always done my own choreography. I just partnered with Crazy Horse in Paris and I am in the process of looking for a choreographer for my back up dancers. They are hot and I want to show off their phenomenal dancing skills.
T2C: Who does your costumes?
Dita Von Teese: I work mostly with Catherine Delish but Jenny Packham is designing for my new show and I have worked with Moschino, Jean Paul Gaultier, Elie Saab and I love Christian Louboutin.
T2C: Was there a mentor?
Dita Von Teese: I met Catherine Delish in 2000. She helped me take my shows to the next level. We have this rule about making each costume more extravagant than the next and always raising the bar. Catherine has this drive for glamour and beauty in costuming that sets her work above the rest.
T2C: Who inspired you?
Dita Von Teese: Things that are not necessarily burlesque. Of course the 30’ and the 40’s I love the pin-up girls style. Ballet has always inspired me. Anything that is beautiful and glamorous.
T2C: How did you invent yourself?
Dita Von Teese: I talk all about that in my book “Your Beauty Mark .” Once I got there, there was no looking back. The 40’s Hollywood had the power. Once I was old enough to start playing with makeup, it started with the red lipstick. I had one summer where I kind of blossomed. The 90’s is when I dyed my hair and that was the aha moment, because I could wear even more make-up. People always say I look younger without make-up, but I am not obsessed with age, only with creating a look.
T2C: What do you recommend others who to reinvent themselves?
Dita Von Teese: Do not let anyone distract you. Be what or who you want to be. Do not be afraid to play or of what people say of you. Confidence is key as well as being in touch with what makes you feel good about yourself.
T2C: What do most women lack?
Dita Von Teese: Confidence, we all need to be reminded of our power and our worth. I even have to remind myself of that. Also I am always reinventing.
T2C: What do most women have that they don’t know they have?
Dita Von Teese: The answer is the same. I am generally confident about my body, although I have my moments when I’m not. But dressing in elaborate clothes and doing my hair and make-up in a different way enables me to express myself. On stage and I’m under the spotlights, I am entirely in control.
T2C: You have your own lingerie line what is the must have item?
Dita Von Teese: We don’t have to sacrifice fit and function to be beautiful. Even during my workout my bra is beautiful. A well fitting, beautiful bra is always a must.
T2C: What is a typical day for you?
Dita Von Teese: No day is typical, but for the most part I get up, workout, I have meetings, design, and conference calls for business. I am grateful I have personal time, which is my workout.
T2C: What items can you not do without?
Dita Von Teese: Red lipstick and a pet for they are the vessels of love.
T2C: What is the one thing that you have always wanted to say but haven’t?
Dita Von Teese: I say everything that I want to say. There have been very few things that I wasn’t able to express.
To learn more about Dita Von Teese’s show visit stripstriphooray.com