Dita Von Teese made a name for herself wearing racy lingerie during her shows as a burlesque dancer, so it’s no wonder she was in Australia to launch her own range of sexy underwear, exclusive to Myer. I caught up with the 41-year-old while she was in town to chat about how she maintains her porcelain skin, her hopes to one day start a family and how retirement is not on her agenda.
When you go through customs, do you put ”burlesque dancer” as your occupation?
No, [laughs] I try to tell the truth but I try and be as low-key as possible. I usually say ”entertainer” or ”dancer” and hope they won’t ask what that means. When people ask me what I do I get very shy about it. I was sitting next to Beyonce’s father once on a plane, and I know Beyonce, and I’m sitting there minding my own business and all the flight attendants were coming over to tell me how much they like me, and I was dressed up like I always am, and he finally was like “who are you and what do you do?” and I was like “well, I don’t know if you remember your daughter when she did a video clip [for her song Naughty Girl] in a giant champagne glass, that is what I do every day, that is my job”. Sometimes I just cut to the chase and say “I’m a stripper” and they get so confused that I am a striptease star and how anyone can make a living out of that, and I get a lot of joy from people trying to figure it out.
How do you prepare for your shows?
In the weeks before, I bump up my workouts. I’m a little bit more careful about what I eat, not so much for how I look but for how I feel as I need to feel really strong. But I’m careful not to get too thin – looking too thin on stage with burlesque is a big faux pas.
How do you stay fit?
I do a lot of Pilates and I also take ballet classes. I do dressage and I just started fencing, which I’m very interested in.
Do you get annoyed at the imitators and people copying your shows?
It depends where it’s coming from. I get annoyed with people who are just doing it for profit. I’m very joyful when girls are embracing burlesque, but at the same time there are people who will copy my show exactly. I have had lawsuits with people who have completely ripped off [my show] for profit and I’ll stand up for myself when someone is interfering with my business.
What is the strangest thing a fan has done?
I don’t like to use the word strange because I have great fans. But I do get letters from prison that I really do enjoy and I think, “wow, this is old school to be a burlesque pin-up and get a letter from prison”.
What are you doing while in Australia?
I am here to launch my lingerie collection in Myer so it’s really exciting. I got my start working in a lingerie store when I was 15 and so my love of lingerie is what led me to my love of pin-up photos and burlesque shows, so it’s really interesting to come a full circle.
You are a sex symbol to many men, what do you find sexy in a man?
I think it’s really important to be around men who have their own sense of self and own self-worth. I find that some of my best relationships with men are [with those] who understand me and what I do. They want to know Heather Sweet from Michigan [her real name and home town], but they understand that it’s not a dual persona, it’s not Dita Von Teese and Heather Sweet. Everything that I do on stage is a part of who I am. It’s not like two personalities and sometimes men are so quick to want to dismiss the stage persona. I’ve dated men who have not wanted to see my stage show and I’m like “how can you not want to see my show?”
Have you got a man in your life?
I’m casual dating. I am at this amazing moment where I’m on second dates with several different men. I’ve always been a serial monogamist, in relationship after relationship, and right now I feel that I don’t just want to have boyfriends any more. I want to date and keep it casual until it blows the doors off my life and think “this is the man I want to be with forever”.
Do you hope to one day get married and start a family?
Yes, I would definitely love to be married [she was married to rocker Marilyn Manson from 2005 to 2007] and I definitely would like to have a child but it’s really interesting, as women we are told “go, go, go, career, career, career” and then suddenly you go “wait, no one warned me that I should kind of think about, you know”.
Will you ever retire?
I think of evolution a lot. There are things that I would never do in my show, the way that I did back when I first started. I now want to feel womanly and there are shows that get retired because they seem a little girlish now, so it’s important to always evolve. Some of the greatest burlesque dancers in history were not the youngest, the prettiest or the best dancer, sometimes it’s something else and it’s a lot to do with intelligence and sense of self. Sally Rand performed well into her 60s but in a different way. When people rely too much on their beauty and youth you have nothing when that’s gone, so you have to keep cultivating all the other things that make you interesting.
You have amazing skin, how do you maintain it?
Sunscreen, no smoking, I drink this thing called the glowing green smoothie every morning, by this nutritionist called Kimberly Snyder. She has this book called The Beauty Detox Foods and I follow that regime as best as I can. The smoothie is 70 per cent green and 30 per cent fruit, so I put in spinach, ginger, coriander and add fruit.
WE WENT TO Quay Restaurant, The Rocks.
WE ATE Salad of albino and chioggia beetroots, preserved wild cherries, goat’s curd; organic Korean green rice, seaweed, buckwheat, mountain spinach and sesame; milk-fed Suffolk lamb with green lentils.
WE DRANK Sparkling water, Sancerre Terre de Maimbray 2011.
I WORE a LOVER dress
For video footage of our interview see smh.com.au