burlesque model and actress.
Early lifeDita 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 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 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.
Fetish and glamour modelingVon 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). 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.
Burlesquein the press. Von Teese began performing burlesque in 1992 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 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 routinein 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'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.
ActingVon 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 (performing her martini-glass burlesque routine) 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."
In early 2011, she played a femme fatale version of herself (stage name 'Rita von Squeeze') in an episode of CSI titled "A Kiss Before Frying"; her character seduces Greg Sanders in a plot inspired by film noir.
Fashion and modelingVon 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."
] Personal lifeVon Teese currently splits her time between her homes in Hollywood and Paris.
She is a collector of vintage china, particularly eggcups and tea sets, and drives a BMW Z4 and a 1965 Jaguar S-type. She also owned a 1939 Chrysler New Yorker from 1997 to December 2010.
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 is currently dating French aristocrat Louis-Marie de Castelbajac.
She has been open about the plastic surgery she has undergone, having had breast implants and her beauty mark being artificial.
She participated at the PETA's campaign "Animal Birth Control (ABC)."
Relationship with Marilyn MansonMarilyn Manson had been a long time fan, and was a member of her website. They first met when he asked her to dance in one of his music videos. Though she was unable to, the two kept 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 in their 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.
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, but says "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.
Year Film Role Notes
1995 Romancing Sara Allison Credited as 'Heather Sweet'
1997 Matter of Trust Girl with C.T. Credited as 'Heather Sweet'
1999 Pin-Ups 2 Credited as 'Dita'
2000 Decadence Credited as 'Dita'
2001 Slick City: The Adventures of Lela Devin Lela Devin
Tickle Party: Volume 2 Credited as 'Dita'
2002 Bound in Stockings
Naked and Helpless
2004 Blooming Dahlia Elizabeth Curt
Lest We Forget: The Video Collection Girl In Martini Glass
2005 The Death of Salvador Dali Gala Won Best Actress at Beverly Hills Film Festival
2006 Saint Francis Soul, Pica Bernard
2007 Indie Sex: Extremes Herself Documentary
The Boom Boom Room Adeline Winter Filming
2011 CSI: Crime Scene Investigation Agnes / Ellen Whitebridge / Rita von Squeeze Episode: 'A Kiss Before Frying'