Dita Von Teese: ‘I was always very timid as a child and I’m still shy now’

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I find my confidence through my signature look.

Red lipstick, having my hair set how I like it and clothes which I think flatter me. I have a distinctive style that has not swayed for 20 years and we have to stay true to ourselves to feel confident.

And the look has just grown. At first it was a small feather fan and a fist full of rhinestones. Now I buy them by the truckload and the fans are as huge as can be. Go big.

Dita pictured at a launch in Sydney last year
Dita’s job takes her across the globe
(Image: Getty Images for David Jones)

Never feel pressured to change who you are.

I feel very uncomfortable when I’m at a photoshoot and someone wants to dress me differently and have me step out of my comfort zone.

It takes time to learn that you should never be forced to look a way that doesn’t make you feel happy. Don’t alter yourself for anyone.

We’ve all got that friend or partner who says, ‘I like you better when you wear more/less make-up’ or in a particular outfit. You stick with what makes you feel happiest, that’s all that matters.

Dita von Teese performs during the opening ceremony of the 26th Life Ball in Vienna, Austria
Performing at the Life Ball in Vienna, 2019
(Image: REUTERS)

One of things I love about burlesque is it’s a place of acceptance, diversity and body positivity.

In the 1930s when it originated, it really was just entertainment for men to ogle nearly nude women. Now most of my audience is LBGTQ or female. And the men there are usually brought along by women.

The evolution of my burlesque was accidental .

I didn’t start deliberately casting to represent masses of diversity and beauty. But naturally, the people who were the most magical came in all these different forms.

I realised that added meaning and purpose to the performances. How lovely to see someone in the show who is so proud and confident of their beautiful figure and it’s a body shape we can all relate to.

No matter what shape we are, we’re all amazing. I celebrate beauty in all forms.

Sat in a large cocktail glass at one of her Burlesque shows
Dita grew up wanting to be a ballerina
(Image: Channel 5)

You don’t have to get all dressed up to look good.

When I was little, my mum loved old movies so I was obsessed with 1940s film stars and I adored Natalie Wood in Gypsy.

So when I first started wearing make-up I reached for red lipstick and wanted to wave my hair the same, making me seem eccentric compared to my high school friends.

I just got better and better at the look. I don’t spend a lot of time getting ready each day.

A sweep of face powder and red lips. But it looks fancy if you throw on vintage sunglasses and wear a nice coat over your pilates gear. Plus it doesn’t take any longer to put on a red lip than a beige, does it?

Dita pictured in her school yearbook
Dita pictured in her school yearbook

The thing I love about getting older is you’re suddenly not afraid to speak your mindor to challenge people and say, ‘That’s not OK with me.’

In my early 20s when I started modelling, I should not have just signed all the release forms! People have exploited my naïvety!

They didn’t care about the shoots back then, but once I became a ‘celebrity’ they did.

One well-known watch company photoshopped their watches on an old shoot of mine. I got paid $100 to do it at the time. But I wouldn’t do anything differently. You live and learn.

I was always very timid as a child and I’m still shy now .

I might be Dita Von Teese, but I’m also little Heather Sweet from Michigan.

At school I was so scared of speaking in front of people that they tried to send me to a special speech class. I refused, but when I became the spokesperson for MAC Viva Glam in 2006, I had to speak in front of people.

I decided to do it even though it scared me and I began to enjoy it. It’s best to stay authentic though; I wanted people to see I was a little scared, there’s no point in hiding it.

Always show people the real person you are… if you’re a good person that is!

I’m a control freak to the highest degree.

So much so that my boyfriend says I could do any job as I get really obsessed with tasks.

If this one hadn’t worked I’d be the eyes on a magazine shoot, a photographer, someone who’s visual but has good taste and eye for detail and glamour. Or a copy editor as I’m a grammar Nazi. Maybe one day.

Something that always keeps me going was written in the 1500s.

It’s ‘living well is the best revenge’. I love that. Instead of seeking revenge, live your life and enjoy yourself.

People hate it when they see you doing that. Never dwell on what anyone else is doing. Just concentrate on you.

The Secret Behind My Snapshot

Posing on the beach at a show in Monte Carlo, Dita wearing a burlesque Swan Lake outfit
Art of the Teese show tour, The Opera Garnier de Monte Carlo
(Image: Collect Unknown)

Bigger is better.

When I first started dancing it was in these rinky dink strip clubs in California. I wanted to be the modern answer to Bettie Page so decided I’d be a vintage pin-up girl and do Burlesque .

It grew and grew and last year, my Art Of The Teese show got to perform at The Opera Garnier de Monte Carlo .

It’s a jaw-droppingly beautiful gilded theatre on the beach, the same architect as The Paris Opera. I spent the afternoon there, taking it all in.

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All I wanted when I was a little girl was to be a ballerina. But I wasn’t very good, I could never keep up with the other snowflakes in The Nutcracker, but I was determined to dance in some capacity.

I put on my Swan Lake Stripteese costume to take this photo on the balcony with my phone. I got to live out my dreams of dancing on a stage like this.

And to top it all off, HRH Prince Albert of Monaco watched the show from the Royal Box.

I don’t think I’ll ever forget this night, and to me, it’s a little lesson in the way the universe might give you what you dream of, but maybe in a very different way than you anticipated.

See Dita Von Teese in Glamonatrix from April. Tickets available at www.myticket.co.uk

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