Dita Von Teese “I wish I were bisexual. Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could just love whoever you meet?”
Dita Von Teese greets me at her house, a mock-Tudor cottage in the Hollywood Hills. She is surprisingly composed — and rather perky — for someone who has just arrived back from a two-week stint at the Crazy Horse, the erotic cabaret venue in Paris.
The interior of her home is exactly what you’d expect from the world’s most famous burlesque star. It’s a playhouse with lots of feathery things — a stuffed peacock, a black swan and a white one wearing a little diamanté crown — as well as a stuffed tiger and a leopard welcome mat.
Dita is wearing her lounge outfit of black capri pants, form-hugging vintage sweater and black ballet pumps. Her alabaster legs complement a white velvet complexion; her look is completed by black, glossy hair and her trademark crimson lips. She’s softly spoken; shy, even — or is she just checking me out?
We met, briefly, at the photoshoot the previous day, for which she was plumped up and corseted. When I took a picture of her on my phone, she told me off. But that’s forgotten now: we’re here to talk about her latest project, a limited-edition vinyl album called Soundtrack for Seduction. The first side is the retro Von Teese; the music she uses in her burlesque shows when she bathes in a giant martini glass. Side two is moody, modern electronic music. She sings on some of the tracks. Her voice — think Peggy Lee on ice — is purring and sweet.
Sweet is actually her real name. Heather Sweet was born in Rochester, Michigan, with mousy-blonde hair. These days, you can’t tell where Heather ends and Dita begins — part of her power is the dichotomy of encompassing traditional values in a bad-girl body.
As I slump into her velvet sofa, she sits perfectly upright with the posture of a ballerina. Only her eyes move while she talks. “I like the word ‘seduction’,” she says of Soundtrack for Seduction. “People think seduction is going after someone and deciding you’re going to make them yours — but to me, the way to properly seduce someone is to be living on your own terms, to make your world a place others want to be invited to.”
Has she always been like this — super-confident, waiting for men to come to her? “Well, no... I’m a 43-year-old woman, it takes time to arrive at that.”
“I find it intriguing that a woman who basically strips for a living is actually a feminist” - Chrissy Iley
Indeed it did. It took years of working in lingerie shops and as a stripper before she discovered her own sexy and pulled Dita out of the Heather. And it took a flamboyant marriage to the goth-rocker Marilyn Manson and a subsequent divorce to break her heart and set her on a new learning curve. They exchanged vows in a castle in Ireland in December 2005, after being together for five years. In December 2006, she filed for divorce.
A burlesque artist and a rocker may be the kind of people you’d expect to have an open relationship, but Von Teese and Manson did not. She doesn’t specify what went wrong, but has said in the past that she didn’t support his “party” lifestyle.
“I still believe in marriage. I’m a very traditional person,” she insists. She is now in a full-time relationship with a creative visual designer at Disney called Adam. They share their home with Aleister — a devon rex cat with a curly, poodle-like coat, who has 60,000 followers of his own on Instagram.
She goes on to talk about the song A Guy What Takes His Time, originally a Mae West song, which she performs on the album. Is that what she likes — guys who take their time? “Obviously,” she says. “I hate fast movers. And I love that moment when you get to the point when you really know someone, and they know you, and you can spend hours and hours… That’s when you can really get involved in the details of love-making, not just the ‘Ahhh-ahhh’. I think fast is fake.”
Dita Von Teese reclines in a giant martini — a staple of her burlesque routine. “I’m paid to sit inside a glass!” she says. Her debut album, Soundtrack for Seduction, is released today
Really? “The longer you spend, the better the payoff is at the end.” Some women, I tell her, prefer multiple orgasms and not just one pay-off. She tries not to look shocked. “I hope you get to move with the fast movers and I get to meet the slow movers. Slow and meticulous.” Is Adam slow and meticulous? “Yes. He’s from Chicago. He’s not interested in showbiz. We’ve been together two years and he’s slow and steady.”
Does she think she’ll get married again? “I think about the pros and cons of marriage all the time. I have a list. The pros are: I love ceremony, ritual, promises, symbols. I don’t like the business and financial sides of things, or divorce. I don’t want to do that again.
Original article : The Sunday Times written by Chrissy Iley
Photograph : Austin Hargrave. Styling : Laura Duncan at Cloutier Remix. Dress by Vivienne Westwood