By Steve Knopper
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) In addition to Dita Von Teese’s tours, including the long-running “Burlesque: Strip, Strip, Hooray” and a new one called “The Art of the Teese,” Von Teese has become a marketing machine, she has fragrance, lingerie and eyewear collections in addition to her three books.
At 4 years old, Heather Sweet of tiny West Branch, Mich., did not see herself as a burlesque dancer who would take off her clothes and bathe in a giant martini glass onstage. If anything, like many girls her age, she saw herself as a ballerina.
“You just never know, right?” says Sweet, who is better known today by her stage name, Dita Von Teese. “Some people become Olympians and some people achieve greatness at something, and then others don’t. I loved it, but my skill level was never up to par.
“It’s kind of a blessing in disguise,” she continues, by phone from her Los Angeles home. “I got to use all my ballet training in a different way, and I got ultimately what I fantasized about, which was not dancing, but beautiful costumes and wearing tiaras and being backstage and having spotlights on me and overcoming my shyness.”
Von Teese, 44, is the “Meryl Streep of burlesque,” as Vanity Fair once put it, a dancer who va-va-vooms to elaborately arranged striptease music on stage while seductively removing her clothing, in the style of 20th-century heroines such as Gypsy Rose Lee and Lili St. Cyr. She has worked as a stripper and a rave-party dancer, but identifies not so much with the titillation but the fashion and pageantry.
Her book, 2015’s “Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour,” has a title printed in bright red lipstick, photos of Von Teese in backless dresses, a bit of biography and beauty tips like taking care of your skin because “all the shimmering eye shadow and ruby lipstick in the world won’t make you dazzle if the complexion underneath it all is dull and damaged.”