Dita Von Teese cannot be confined to one avenue of employment, while she's known primarily for bringing back -- and glamming up -- the arena of burlesque as a whole, she's also a fetish model, author, actress, creator of a German make-up line, and for the last several years, the cocktail-shaking spokeswoman for Cointreau. We caught up with her at a private party for the company where Dita held court in a poolside cabana. Below her, L.A.'s newest synchronized swim team, the Aqualillies, performed.
Dita doesn't intend to get wet, it would be detrimental to the fabric of the gossamer-thin, 1930's bias-cut sheer dress she's chosen for the evening. It's a poppy, floral print, accented at the tips of her shoulders by indigo velvet spaghetti straps which are tied into perfect bows. She's shy, and smiles sweetly without fully raising her eyes. Instead, she tilts her head forward bashfully, revealing a perfect 1940's tube of jet black hair. She is Dita Von Teese, the most glamorous lady in the world.
DVT: Well, isn't that a surprise?
I believe that initially your career began with posing in corsets, but what was your first paid gig? I started working at a strip club when I was 19 or 20, so that's where I began developing my show and learning about the history of strip tease. And even before that I was working in the LA underground scene as a go-go dancer and performance artist, so there were a lot of things that led up to what I do today. They started as little feather and fan dances in strip clubs and nightclubs and eventually led up to what they are now. It was never overnight, (snaps!) "I just did an amazing burlesque show!"
Did you have any heroines who you dug deepest into? Women you loved to research and look to most for direction? When I first started performing burlesque, there was no internet so I really couldn't draw from video clips, or even that much photo-wise. A lot of my inspiration came from vintage men's magazines, where a lot of burlesque dancers would pose to endorse their books. I'd read about Gypsy Rose Lee, Sally Rand and I would just imagine how it was done in my head. That's one of the factors of why I'm successful, I think: I didn't have anyone to copy.
To me the most important thing is not focusing on what other people think is sexy; that's a failure. When a woman is sexy onstage or off, it has a lot more to do with her own pleasure and sense of fun and playfulness, and for me that's what's always been the base of performing -- that I'm having fun and there's humor infused into it.
You're very soft spoken for a gal who can hop in a giant martini glass and light up a room. Do you use burlesque as an outlet to celebrate your less-introverted, sexy side? When I think about the early years when I started -- playing with make-up and wearing eccentric clothes and developing a look that was different than what I was born with, a lot of that was to counteract my shyness. Now I'm grown up and I'm not an exhibitionist, that's not why I do strip tease. For me it's a way to act on things that I'm obsessed and fascinated with, not a way for me to act out. You'll never see me dancing on a table in my personal life. Even my hemlines have to stay below the knee if I'm not performing.
You did a show for the New York Academy of Art where you only wore diamonds. Five million dollars worth. Was that the most glamorous you've ever felt? I think it was more than five million! It was cool, it reminded me of those old stories of courtesans and burlesque dancers who would wear all of these jewels on stage surrounded by body guards, (even though a lot of times their jewels weren't real). They came to my hotel with suitcases full of diamonds; it quickly became my goal to see how many of these I could wear at once! Hold up, were they loose diamonds? Were you eyelash glueing them on? No, there was a tiara. Broaches and jewelry sewn onto my g-string, there were pasties that were made and lots of bangle bracelets and earrings. But it was funny, whenever I'd have to go to the bathroom or something, I'd have all of these bodyguards trailing me.
Do you have any beauty tips for gals? Quick things that make you feel extra gorgeous? I think my best beauty tip is that you can do anything you want if you set your mind to it. Discover what your signature make-up or hair look is, then refine it and perfect it until you can do it quickly and easily.
Damn it, Dita! We wanted magic and a quick fix. I'm sorry! It takes devotion and work.
You're known as one of the most beautiful ladies in the world, you must get hit on all of the time. What's the worst way you've been approached? Well, I don't really get hit on all that much. Apparently I have an unapproachable look to a lot of men. I've discovered that I have to make first moves more than anything.
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Dita, if a girl like you can't get it done then there's no hope for the rest of us. So you don't have slobbery, drooley men constantly trying to paw at you? What I get are the guys who are usually the drunkest, think they're the most suave or approach me on a dare. And I delight in the sport of shooting them down.
How do you shoot them down? What's your favorite way to dodge an advance? My favorite way is pretending I don't speak English.
Dita is currently revamping and redefining her new production, Strip Strip Hooray. When every last glittery element is perfect, Dallas will get another peek at Ms. Von Teese. Until that day comes, you'll just have to use your imagination.
See our slideshow of last night's party with Dita, here.