Dita Von Teese (born September 28,
1972) is an Armenian-American burlesque artist, model and actress.
Dita Von Teese was born Heather Renée Sweet on September 28, 1972 in
Rochester, Michigan, the middle of three daughters. Her mother was a
manicurist and her father was a machinist at a company that made graphite.
She is of partly Armenian heritage.
Von Teese is well known for her fascination with 1940s cinema and classic
retro style. This began at a young age and was fostered by her mother, who
would buy clothes for her daughter to dress up in. Her mother was a fan of
old, Golden-era Hollywood films, and it was from her that Von Teese
developed a fascination with the actresses of that day, especially Betty
She was classically trained as a ballet dancer from an early age, and
danced solo at age thirteen for a local ballet company. Though she
originally wanted to be a ballerina, Von Teese states that "By 15 I was as
good as I’d ever be." She was later to incorporate this element into her
burlesque shows, where she frequently goes en pointe.
The family relocated from Michigan to Orange County, California when her
father's job moved. Von Teese attended University High School in Irvine.
As a teenager, Von Teese's mother took her to buy her first bra, made from
plain white cotton, and gave her a plastic egg containing a pair of
wrinkly, flesh-colored tights. Von Teese says she was disappointed as she
had been hoping to receive beautiful lacy garments and stockings, of the
type she had glimpsed in her father's Playboy magazines. This fueled her
passion for lingerie. She worked in a lingerie store as a salesgirl when
she was fifteen, eventually as a buyer. Von Teese has been fond of wearing
elaborate lingerie such as corsets and basques with fully fashioned
stockings ever since.
In college Von Teese studied historic costuming and aspired to work as a
stylist for period films. She is a trained costume designer, often
designing (and copyrighting) the photoshoots herself.
Von Teese began her career in a local strip club when she was eighteen.
Disappointed with the lack of originality in all the other strippers'
acts, Von Teese created a vintage-inspired outfit, with beehive hairstyle
and elbow-length gloves coupled with a basque and seamed stockings,
piquing the interest of the clientele.
It was during this time at the strip club that she began some glamour
modeling, before she eventually became a fetish model. Her retro pin-up
look, frequently emulating Bettie Page in photo shoots, set her apart from
most other fetish models.
Her official website is often referred to as one of the first model sites
on the internet.
Von Teese achieved some level of recognition in the fetish world as a
tightlacer. Through the wearing of a corset for many years, she had
reduced her natural waistline to 22 inches (56 cm), and can be laced down
as far as 16.5 inches (42 cm). A thin person already, Von Teese stands at
5 ft 5" (165 cm.) and weighs 114 pounds (52 kg).
Von Teese appeared on a number of fetish magazine covers, including
Bizarre and Marquis. It was around this time when she appeared on the
cover of Midori's book, The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage.
Von Teese was featured in Playboy in 1999, 2001 and 2002, with a
cover-featured pictorial in 2002.
The German metal band Atrocity chose her as the cover model for their 2008
album, Werk 80 II.
Von Teese is best known for her burlesque routines and is frequently
dubbed "the Queen of Burlesque" in the press. Von Teese began performing
burlesque in 1993 and, as a proponent of New Burlesque, has helped to
popularize its revival. In her own words, she "puts the tease back into
striptease" with long, elaborate dance shows with props and characters,
often inspired by 1930s and 1940s musicals and films. Some of her more
famous dances have involved a carousel horse, a giant powder compact, a
filigree heart and a clawfoot bathtub with a working shower head. Her
feather fan dance, inspired by burlesque dancer Sally Rand, featured the
world's largest feather fans, now on display in Hollywood's Museum Of Sex.
Her signature show features a giant Martini (cocktail)|martini glass.
Her burlesque career has included some memorable performances. She once
appeared at a benefit for the New York Academy of Art wearing nothing but
$5 million worth of diamonds. Additionally, Von Teese became the first
guest star to perform at the Parisian Crazy Horse cabaret club with her
appearance in October 2006. Also in 2006, Von Teese appeared on an episode
of America's Next Top Model cycle 7 doing a workshop to teach the
contestants about sexiness by means of burlesque dancing and posing. In
2007 Von Teese performed at the adult entertainment event Erotica 07 in
London alongside Italian Rock noir band Belladonna.
Cameron Diaz performed a tribute to Von Teese's martini glass routine in
the film Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle. Von Teese's name appears in the
credits, listed under "Special Thanks."
Von Teese's first book, which consisted of her opinions on the history of
burlesque and fetish, Burlesque and the Art of the Teese/Fetish and the
Art of the Teese, was published in 2006 by HarperCollins. Vanity Fair
called her "a Burlesque Superheroine."
In 2008 Von Teese was one of the contributors to Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna's
book Cherry Bomb.
Von Teese participated in the Eurovision Song Contest 2009 in Moscow,
Russia as part of the stage performance for the German entry "Miss Kiss
Kiss Bang." The act placed 20th out of 25 participants in the final round
of the contest. Later, she said her cleavage was censored during the show
because of her voluptuous figure.
Von Teese is also an occasional actress. In her early years she appeared
in fetish-related, soft-core pornographic movies, such as Romancing Sara,
Matter of Trust, in which she is billed as Heather Sweet, and also in two
hard-core fetish films by Andrew Blake: Pin Ups 2 and Decadence.
In recent years she has appeared in more mainstream features, such as the
2005 short film, The Death of Salvador Dali, written by Delaney Bishop,
which won best screenplay and best cinematography at recent festivals,
including SXSW, Raindance Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival, and
Best Actress for Von Teese at Beverly Hills Film Festival. She appeared in
the feature films Saint Francis and The Boom Boom Room, both in 2007.
In addition to this, she has appeared in a number of music videos,
including the video for the Green Day song "Redundant," the video for "Zip
Gun Bop" by swing band Royal Crown Revue, Agent Provocateur's video for
their cover of Joy Division's "She's Lost Control," and performed her
Martini Glass burlesque routine in the video for "Mobscene" by Marilyn
Manson. She has also been featured in a striptease/burlesque act in George
Michael's live tour 2008, for the song "Feelin' Good."
However, Von Teese has said that acting is not at the top of her agenda
and she would only take roles that she feels are right for her, stating,
"I don't understand why women feel the need to go into acting as soon as
they become famous...But I suppose if the part were aesthetically correct,
then maybe I could consider it."
Von Teese has appeared on a number of best-dressed lists and frequents the
front row of fashion shows, particularly Christian Dior and Marc Jacobs,
labels she is often seen wearing.
She has also done various catwalk work. During Los Angeles Fashion Week,
Spring 2004, she modeled for former club kid Richie Rich's fashion label,
Heatherette. In 2005 she appeared in the Autumn/Winter Ready-to-Wear show
for Giambattista Valli, a former designer for Ungaro, in Paris. In the
2006 Milan Fashion Week, Von Teese was on the runway, opening for the
Moschino diffusion label, Moschino Cheap & Chic, autumn/winter 2006/7
show. In 2007, she appeared twice in the Jean Paul Gaultier Haute Couture
show during the Paris Fashion Week. Additionally, she has starred in
several ad campaigns. She appeared in Vivienne Westwood's spring/summer
2005 collection adverts and became the face of Australian clothing range
Wheels and Dollbaby for their 2006/7 Spring/Summer advertising campaign.
Currently, she is a spokesmodel for MAC Cosmetics. Von Teese has appeared
in Vanity Fair, Vogue, Elle, and international issues of nearly every
fashion magazine. She has also campaigned on behalf of People for the
Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and appeared in their ads. Most
recently she has designed a new lingerie range with Wonderbra.
In spite of this, Von Teese states that she never uses a stylist. "The one
time I hired a stylist, they picked up a pair of my 1940s shoes and said,
'These would look really cute with jeans.' I immediately said, 'You’re out
of here.'" She does her own make-up, and dyes her naturally blonde hair
black at home. Von Teese's unique style is "inspired by eccentric women
like Luisa Casati, Anna Piaggi, and Isabella Blow."
Von Teese currently splits her time between her homes in Hollywood and
She is a collector of vintage china, particularly eggcups and tea sets,
and drives a 1939 Chrysler New Yorker, a BMW Z4 and a 1965 Jaguar S-type.
Von Teese frequently mentions that her best friend is fellow burlesque
performer, Catherine D'lish, who designs all of Von Teese's burlesque
Prior to her marriage, Von Teese had been romantically linked to
vocalist/guitarist Mike Ness of Social Distortion and to actor Peter
Sarsgaard. She has also spoken of several lesbian experiences including a
long-term relationship with a woman when she was 20. She has been dating
French aristocrat, Count Louis Marie de Castelbajac since April, 2009.
She has been open about the plastic surgery she has undergone, with both
breasts and her beauty mark being artificial.
She participated at the PETA's campaign "Animal Birth Control (ABC)."