Dita Von Teese (born Heather Renée Sweet on September 28, 1972) is an American burlesque dancer, model, costume designer, and actress. She is thought to have helped re-popularize burlesque performance and was once married to Marilyn Manson.
Early life[edit source | edit]Edit
Von Teese was born in Rochester, Michigan, the middle of three daughters in a middle-class family. Her mother was a manicurist and her father was a machinist. She tweeted during Eurovision Song Contest 2009 that she is of partly Armenian heritage. Dita later clarified that one of her grandmothers was half-Armenian and adopted into an Anglo-Saxon American family. Her grandmother's birth father was Armenian, making Von Teese 12.5% Armenian. Von Teese is 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 age-era Hollywood films, and it was from her that Von Teese developed a fascination with the actresses of that day, especially Betty Grable.
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 toOrange 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 abuyer. 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 films. She is a trained costume designer, often designing (and copyrighting) her photo shoots herself.
Career[edit source | edit]Edit
Von Teese got her stage name by adopting the name Dita as a tribute to silent film actress Dita Parlo. For her breakthrough 2002 Playboy cover, she was required to have a surname, so she chose Von Treese from the phonebook. In the magazine, this was misspelled as Von Teese, which she decided to stick with.
Fetish and glamour modeling[edit source | edit]Edit
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 waistline to 22 inches (56 cm), and can be laced down as far as 16.5 inches (42 cm).
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.
Burlesque[edit source | edit]EditVon Teese is a prominent neo-burlesque performer
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 1992, and, as a proponent ofNew 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 signature show features a giant martini glass. Her feather fan dance, inspired by burlesque dancer Sally Rand, featured the world's largest feather fans, now on display in Hollywood'sMuseum of Sex.
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 at Paris's 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.
Von Teese's first book (in collaboration with Bronwyn Garrity), 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 (and in New York by Regan Books). Vanity Fair called her a "Burlesque Superheroine".
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 it was too voluptuous.
Acting[edit source | edit]Edit
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 Andrew Blake hard-core fetish films, 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, includingSXSW, Raindance Film Festival and Mill Valley Film Festival, and won Best Actress at Beverly Hills Film Festival. She starred in the feature film Saint Francis in 2007.
In addition, 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 (performing her martini-glass burlesque routine) the video for "Mobscene" by Marilyn Manson. She has been featured in a striptease/burlesque act in George Michael's live tour 2008, for the song "Feelin' Good." In 2013 in the music video "Up in the Air" by Thirty Seconds to Mars.
She has expressed that acting is not at the top of her agenda and she would only take roles that she feels are right for her, stating in 2007, "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."
In January 2011, Von Teese guest-starred in the CBS police procedural drama CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, which her friend Eric Szmanda stars, in season 11: episode 12 called "A Kiss Before Frying" where she played a femme fatale version of herself under the stage name Rita von Squeeze who seduces Szmanda's character Greg Sanders in a plot inspired by film noir.
Fashion and modeling[edit source | edit]Edit
Von Teese has appeared on a number of best-dressed lists and frequents the front row of fashion shows, particularly Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood, Jean Paul Gaultier and Marc Jacobs, labels she is often seen wearing. "Jean Paul Gaultier, John Galliano and Vivienne Westwood were the first designers that really made an impact on me. Jean Paul has a lot of the same obsessions that I do, like corsetry, ballet-peach satin and silks, black silk velvet, bullet bras and girdles. When I was a teenager, I would look for 1930s peach satin lingerie pieces to try to get his look for less, because there was no way I could afford his things back then. It was a dream come true to meet him and become friends with him. I met him the first time when I was doing my first fashion pictorial, which was for Flaunt magazine, and it was a huge story of me wearing the most important pieces from his haute couture archives, and that was a dream!" 
She has also done catwalk work. During Los Angeles Fashion Week for 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. 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. She was an ambassador/spokesmodel for HIV/AIDS awareness when she was selected (along with Eve, Deborah Harry, and Lisa Marie Presley) for MAC Cosmetics' Viva Glam VI campaign (a collection of lipsticks and lipgloss where 100% of the proceeds are for worldwide AIDS charities and to raise awareness for HIV/AIDS). Von Teese has appeared in Vanity Fair, Vogue, Elle, and international issues of nearly every fashion magazine. She has campaigned on behalf of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), and appeared in their ads.
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."
She has designed a new lingerie range with Wonderbra. In May 2012, Dita Von Teese launched her makeup collection "Classics" in partnership with the German cosmetic brand Art Deco. Compact powder, blushers, eye styler, eye shadows, mascara and lipstick were produced to recreate the burlesque performer's retro look.
In 2012 Dita Von Teese launched her own clothing line and underwear line called: Von Follies. In 2013 Dita was both model and muse for the 'Dita' 3D printed gown designed by Michael Schmidt and Francis Bitonti and 3D printed by Shapeways exactly to fit her body. Constructed of over 3,000 interlocked 3D printed components and over 12,000 Swarovski crystals it is one of the first fully articulated 3D printed garments to take the technology from haute couture to a sensual fabric-like form.
Personal life[edit source | edit]Edit
Dita frequently takes Pilates and dressage lessons. Her house is dedicated to early 19th-century decor, along with a complete pink kitchen with vintage appliances. She also has a room dedicated to hats. She participated at thePETA's campaign "Animal Birth Control (ABC)."
Von Teese currently resides in Hollywood, California. She is a collector of vintage china, particularly eggcups and tea sets, and drives a 1938 Packard One Twenty Eight, a 1946 Ford Super De Luxe, a BMW Z4 and a 1965Jaguar S-type. She also owned a 1939 Chrysler New Yorker from 1997 to December 2010.
Prior to her marriage to Marilyn Manson, she was 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 serious relationship with a woman when she was 20. She also dated French aristocrat Louis-Marie de Castelbajac.
Marriage to Marilyn Manson[edit source | edit]Edit
Marilyn Manson had been a longtime fan of hers and was a member of her website. They first met when he asked her to dance in one of his music videos and though she was unable to, the two remained in contact. On Manson's 32nd birthday, in 2001, she arrived with a bottle of absinthe and they became a couple. Manson proposed on March 22, 2004 and gave her a 1930s, 7-carat (1.4 g), European round-cut diamond engagement ring. On November 28, 2005, they were married in a private, non-denominational ceremony at home.
A larger ceremony was held on December 3 at Gurteen Castle in Kilsheelan (County Tipperary), Ireland, the home of their friend, Gottfried Helnwein. The wedding was officiated by surrealist film director and comic book writer Alejandro Jodorowsky and appeared as a feature in the pages of Vogue. On December 29, 2006, Von Teese filed for divorce from Manson citing "irreconcilable differences." Von Teese left their house empty-handed on Christmas Eve, and was not able to get in touch with Manson to inform him of her intention to divorce him. In an interview with The Daily Telegraph, Von Teese says "I wasn't supportive of his partying or his relationship with another girl. As much as I loved him I wasn't going to be part of that." Von Teese also stated that she gave Manson an ultimatum, and said that "it didn't work. Instead it made me the enemy." Von Teese did not seek spousal support and seemed to have no interest in his assets. The news broke for the public and for Manson on his birthday on January 5, 2007, when he was served the divorce papers.