No single figure active in the last five or so decades is more intimately associated with burlesque and its revival than Dita von Teese, the American dancer and artiste who has become the face of the neo-burlesque form, helping to kickstart a movement that sees the revitalization of the lost art in dance, film, music videos and book form. Although she is widely known outside of her shows, for her high-profile marriage to shock-rock star Marilyn Manson, as well as her world-famous figure, there is much more to the burlesque revival star, details of her life marking her as an intensely interesting figure, on — as well as off — the stage.
1. She initially trained to become a ballerina
From a very early age, von Teese, then going by her given name, Heather Renée Sweet, has trained as a classic ballet dancer, going as far as becoming, by age thirteen, a solo dancer for one of the local ballet companies. Despite branching away from the ballet scene by her teenage years, claiming that “by 15, I was as good as I’d ever be”, she didn’t let this early influence wither away, being known to incorporate various elements of ballet into her burlesque shows, with the most obvious connection being her tendency for going “en pointe”, the ballet term for walking on tiptoes.
2. Her interest in lingerie came early on
When, as a teenager, her mother took the young Dita to buy her first whiter-cotton bra and flesh-coloured stockings, von Teese remained deeply underwhelmed, by the items, which did not live up to her expectations of elaborate and provocative lingerie that she has glimpsed in pictures in her Father’s Playboy magazine as well as images of pin-up models. Further interest in makeup, tattoos and fashion followed and even ended up working in a lingerie shop when she was fifteen, contributing to her future red-hot tease style.
3. She credits her world-famous waist on decades of wearing corsets and a healthy diet
Dita von Teese’s famous measurements – a 56 centimetre waist that can be tied down to as low as 42 centimetres – are one of her more famous identifiers and, indeed, were instrumental in her early career, having gained some recognition in the fetish modelling world as a tightlacer. Dita von Teese explains the ability to maintain her figure in her forties by wearing corsets since she was eighteen, as well as living a healthy lifestyle. Her typical diet is devoid of bread and light on the alcohol and includes drinking a smoothie made out of parsley, coriander and spinach every morning.
4. Her wedding to Marilyn Manson was officiated by experimental film legend Alejandro Jodorowsky
After forming a couple with the infamous provocateur and industrial metal icon Marilyn Manson following their sharing of a bottle of absinth on Manson’s 32nd birthday in 2001, the two continued being boyfriend and girlfriend for years before getting married in 2005. The ceremony took place in Ireland in the house of their friend and artist Gottfried Helnwein and was officiated by the Chilean surrealist film-maker Alejandro Jodorowsky. Sadly, the marriage only lasted a year before von Teese filed for divorce. Prior to her mediatized relation with Manson, she has been known to be romantically linked to punk-rocker Mike Ness, actor Peter Sarsgaard, as well as several relations with same-sex partners.
5. Her love for early 20th century aesthetics permeate all aspects of her life
Dita von Teese is known for her love of fashion and all things vintage, which goes well beyond the interest in burlesque hair, makeup and clothes. Her house in Hollywood, California includes a complete pink kitchen equipped with old-school appliances, a collection of vintage china and a room dedicated to hats. The same can be said about the content of the garage, which is packed with classic American cars, including a 1939 Packard One Twenty Eight, a 1946 Ford Super De Luxe, a 1939 Chrysler New Yorkerand a 1965 Jaguar S-type.