Weekly Burlesque: Dita Von Teese Interview Part I

At Tease-O-Rama 2002, I had a front row seat for Dita Von Teese‘s performance with her giant moon prop, and you may well resent me for that.

It was a gorgeous performance, with Dita obviously having a good time, and at the end of the number, a cannon shot a shower of silver mylar stars over us, hundreds of which I carried in my camera bag for at least a year after the show.

In her book Burlesque and the Art of the Teese, Dita describes Liberace as the ultimate showman, whose art “is creating spectacle and inspiring dreams.” She surely succeeded in her goal that night, and I’m sure on hundreds of others. Fifty years from now, people will still be talking about the stupefying glamour of Dita Von Teese.

Whenever someone tells me they’re a Dita fan, or they’re fascinated by burlesque costumes, but they’ve never joined Dita’s website for even a month, I am completely baffled. I doubt that they are truly fans.

Even if they join for only a month, they’ll get to see amazing video, spectacular photos, read her archive of journal entries, and can ask Dita herself for tips on how she does what she does.

One of the things I find most fascinating about her is her entrepreneurialism and her ability to make perfect decisions. In many interviews, she talks about how carefully she selects her jobs, her costumes, even her lighting (she has even begun bringing her own lighting gels with her).

And she has run the business of being Dita in a way that makes me think of the career of Gypsy Rose Lee, while her style onstage refers perhaps more directly to Lili St. Cyr.

But really, knowing there’s an interview with Dita coming up, do you want to hear any more from me? No? Smart cookie! Let’s get to it.

When you began modeling and performing, there was little if any burlesque community and not much notice of burlesque in the media. Did you ever expect your career to take off like this? Was there ever a point at which you thought your career might be based in anything else?

I never, ever expected any of this to happen. And it was a very slow climb, a snowball effect of sorts. I feel like one thing led to another since I was in high school.

Well, maybe even before, if you get into my childhood and being a middle child that went unnoticed, blah, blah blah…but that’s one I should tell while lying on a sofa in therapy maybe!

Anyway, let’s not go back that far for now! My first job was as a lingerie salesgirl at age 15 at a chic little boutique in Orange County, California. I had been obsessed with lingerie my whole life.

To me, it was this secret among women, like the most feminine thing that existed, a rite of passage. I was always sneaking into my mother’s lingerie drawer and secretly wearing her bras from a young age.

And so when I was about 15, I was desperate to work in this little pink and black shop that was near the beauty salon where my mother worked, so I just kept on going in there and offering to do any kind of work they had for me in that little shop.

When they finally gave in and let me work there as stockgirl, I immersed myself in the job, and I got really into learning about lingerie, and even the history of it, and that was one thing that sparked my interest in vintage style lingerie.

Of course, I became a sales girl, eventually a buyer, and a few years later, I managed the lingerie department of a big department store.

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