As one of the world’s most famous burlesque performers, Dita Von Teese is the definition of sexy and glamour. Providing a magical and sensual experience to mesmerized audiences, it’s no wonder her shows are constantly sold out. No one can resist her dazzling style and grace. Starting as a pinup model in the early 90s, Dita is credited with re-popularizing the burlesque art form which was once considered to be taboo.
Channeling the Golden-Era, vintage style, Dita is also a fashion icon who has been featured in several magazines, including Playboy and Vanity Fair, and now OUT FRONT! We had the pleasure of chatting more with the Queen of Burlesque about her career and upcoming projects. Don’t worry folks; she has no time to take off her nipple tassels anytime soon. There is a lot more to come.
When was the precise moment you knew burlesque was the career you wanted to pursue?
I’m not sure I ever had that moment, because I feel like my career has sort of been a snowball effect since doing my first show in like 92. I think it wasn’t until 2000 when I sort of felt like this could be a real job. I was finally getting mainstream recognition, and it allowed me to look at it more as a job than a hobby. Up until then, I started as a pinup model in the early 90s and as a fetish and Bettie Page model, and I just kind of had the idea of looking and researching all the pinup art and magazines from, like, the 1930s and 40s. A lot of girls posing for pinups were also burlesque dancers, so I had the idea of doing the same thing.
You are frequently dubbed the Queen of Burlesque by the media. What did you think when you first heard that term used to describe you?
You know, I thought about this book I have called The Queens of Burlesque. I never thought of it like I am the queen everything, but to me, it just seems like a classic term to describe the queens of burlesque, the women who came before me. It’s a really nice thing for me, and it makes me always be conscientious of how I speak about burlesque and everything I do. You can never make everyone happy, but I really try to speak conscientiously about burlesque and what it means to a lot of different people.
Since you are also known as a sex symbol by being in Playboy, Vanity Fair, and other fetish magazines, how do you own your sexiness?
I am like a dishwater blonde from a farming town in Michigan, and when I grew up, I wanted to be a lady. It wasn’t until I started understanding more that I wanted to be like the femme fatale. The woman to be desired, to be objectified even, dare I say, which is really taboo to say, but I think it is interesting that we are living in a time where we can indulge in taboos and liberate them.
I can be like, ‘Yes, I am going to do this photoshoot where I am tied up, ball -gagged, with somebody’s boob in the picture.’ Like, I decided to do this, and it’s OK. It’s consensual. We are living in a time where we can indulge in things that maybe other people will not agree with. One person will be appalled by some of our ideas, and others will embrace them.
Burlesque is very popular within the queer community. How would you say the burlesque renaissance is married to the drag renaissance?
I have all these VHS tapes and video collections of Bettie Page and Tempest Storm and other burlesque stars and pinup models dancing around in the footage, and one of the things in all of these videos, which took place at burlesque and cabaret shows in the 50s, there was always a female impersonator in them. I think there has always been a parallel with drag queens and female impersonators that performed burlesque.
I think Violet Chachki put a spotlight on performing burlesque in a big way on Drag Race, and that really opened the floodgates. Suddenly, everybody wants to do a burlesque or strip tease, but I think she was the first one that did classic burlesque acts on a world stage and got recognized for it. I remember so well, the Drag Race people called me saying they had a girl on the show who was competing and that she really loves me, and they hoped I could make a little good luck video for her. I ended up not doing it because I couldn’t find any good lighting at the time, and I’m not filming myself on my phone.
What upcoming projects should we be on the lookout for?
I am really into my new app right now. I’m sure people are sick of me talking about it on Instagram, but I love having, like, a little, private glamour club where I can do live videos from my home. I recently did one, a tour of my famous shoe closet and hat closet, and I show people around my house and what I am doing at photoshoots. I can do that on Instagram, but I like having a private place where there are no trolls and everyone can be involved in a positive way.
I also have my lingerie line, which I am always working on; then there is my striptease candle and fragrance called Scandalwood. Those are fun. The candle is big and has a picture of me in a long evening gown and gloves. When the candle heats up, the dress falls off. The candle cools down; the dress comes back on again. Then I am working on my new book, which is like the follow up of my Beauty Mark book. That will be out next year.
Lastly, what is something not many know about Dita Von Teese?
Oh gosh, I never know what’s interesting. I guess people are always surprised to know that I am a good cook. They are surprised to know how hands-on I am with my work. As for absurd things that people don’t know about me, well, I love saving my leftovers. I am a leftovers fanatic. I am constantly squirreling away food.
I remember feeling like a kindred spirit with Vivienne Westwood once when we went out to dinner to a fancy restaurant, and there were a few scraps of food left on the table, and she insisted on taking it home. She put the doggie bag in the basket of her bicycle and pedaled off into the night.
Photos Taken from Gay Times April 2019 issue
Photographer: Franz Szoni