Dita Von Teese

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Dita Von Teese in 2009

Heather Renée Sweet (born September 28, 1972, age 51), better known by her pseudonym Dita Von Teese, is a professional pin-up model and burlesque dancer. Often heralded as "the Queen of Burlesque", she has become a key figure in the burlesque revival. She was the girlfriend of Marilyn Manson from February, 2001 until December 3, 2005 when they married, up to their divorce on January 5, 2007. She is now allegedly dating French aristocrat Count Louis-Marie de Castelbajac.[1]


Dita Von Teese was born in Rochester, Michigan. Her mother was a manicurist and her father was a machinist. Von Teese is well known for her fascination with 1940s cinema and classic retro style, and this began at a young age and was fostered by her mother, who would buy clothes for Dita to dress up in. Her mother was a fan of old, Golden-era Hollywood films, and it was from her that Dita developed a fascination with the actresses of that day, especially Betty Grable, an actress that she frequently cites as her favorite.

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.

At age twelve she moved from Michigan to Orange County, California with her parents and her two sisters. 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-coloured 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, and eventually as a buyer. This was where she got her first corset. Von Teese has been fond of wearing elaborate lingerie such as corsets and stockings since.

In college Von Teese studied historic costuming and aspired to work as a stylist for period films. She is a trained costume designer.


Von Teese began her career in a local strip club when she was nineteen. Disappointed with the lack of originality in all the other strippers' acts, Von Teese created a vintage-inspired look, with bee-hive hairstyle and elbow-length gloves, confusing and fascinating the clientèle.

In Fetish and Glamour Modelling[edit]

It was during this time at the strip club that she began some glamour modelling, before she eventually became a fetish model. Her retro pin-up look, frequently emulating Bettie Page in photo shoots, set her apart from most other fetish models.

Her official website, often referred to as one of the first model sites on the internet, was created in 1992. Since, Von Teese has maintained meticulous care to own the copyright to the majority of her images, very aware of what became of models, such as Bettie Page, who did not.

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 natural waistline to 22 inches, and can be laced down as far as 16 and a half inches.

Von Teese appeared on a number of fetish magazine covers, including Bizarre and Marquis. It was around this time when she appeared, bound and gagged, on the cover of Midori's book: The Seductive Art of Japanese Bondage.

Dita Von Teese Playboy Magazine Cover 2002

Von Teese was featured in Playboy magazine in 1999, 2001 and 2002. It was her Playboy cover in December of 2002 that gave her her last name. Originally known simply as "Dita", a tribute to silent film actress Dita Parlo, Playboy insisted she use a last name. She picked "Von Treese" out of the phonebook, but it was misspelled "Von Teese". Dita, preferring the typo, adopted it as her name. Dita says that it is her appearances in Playboy that finally won her father's respect for her profession.

In Burlesque[edit]

It is Von Teese's burlesque routines that she is best known for. Von Teese began performing burlesque in 1993 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 include numbers involving a carousel horse, a giant powder compact, a filigree heart and a claw-toe bathtub with a working shower head. Her feather fan dance, inspired by burlesque dancer Sally Rand, features feather fans that are largest in the world and are 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, including once performing at a benefit for the New York Academy of Art wearing nothing but $5 million worth of diamonds. Additionally, Von Teese became the first ever guest star to perform at the Crazy Horse cabaret club in the show's history when she appeared there in October 2006.

Cameron Diaz performed a tribute to Von Teese's martini glass routine in 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."


Von Teese is also an occasional actress. In her early years she appeared in fetish-related movies, such as Romancing Sara, Matter of Trust, in which she is billed as Heather Sweet, and also in two films by Andrew Blake: Pin Ups 2 and Decadence.

Marilyn Manson and Dita Von Teese in 2006

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 is due to appear in the upcoming feature films Saint Francis and The Boom Boom Room, both expected 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 "She's Lost Control", and performed her Martini Glass burlesque routine in the video for "mOBSCENE" by Marilyn Manson.

However, Dita 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 Fashion and Modelling[edit]

In recent years the fashion world has come to accept Von Teese and her retro look, and she has appeared on a number of best-dressed lists. Von Teese frequents the front row of fashion shows, particularly Moschino 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 Mila Fashion Week, Von Teese was on the runway, opening for the Moschino diffusion label, Moschino Cheap & Chic, Autumn/Winter 2006/2007 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 2006/2007 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.

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.

Personal life[edit]

Von Teese currently resides in Hollywood, California. She is a collector of vintage china, particularly eggcups and tea sets, and she drives a 1939 Chrysler New Yorker and a 1965 Jaguar S-type.

Prior to her marriage, Von Teese had been romantically linked to guitarist Mike Ness of Social Distortion and to actor Peter Sarsgaard. She has also admitted to having several lesbian experiences including a long-term relationship with a woman when she was 20.

Dita attended Jessicka's first solo show titled, Smile Even if it Hurts with fellow artist/musician Lindsey Way which took place on November 13, 2010 in Los Angeles at the Dark Dark Science Gallery. The show featured a collaboration between Jessicka and Dita's boyfriend artist Count Louis-Marie de Castelbajac.

Relationship with Marilyn Manson[edit]

Dita, a portrait of Dita Von Teese painted by Manson

Marilyn 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, European round-cut diamond engagement ring.

A portrait of Dita Von Teese and Marilyn Manson on their wedding day.

On December 3, 2005, they were married, in a non-denominational ceremony 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. They reportedly exchanged vows in front of approximately 60 guests, including burlesque sensation Catherine D'lish, Lisa Marie Presley, Eric Szmanda, Jessicka of Jack Off Jill and Christian Hejnal of Scarling.. She wore a royal purple silk taffeta gown, made by Vivienne Westwood plus a tri-corned hat designed by Stephen Jones and matching Mr. Pearl corset. Moschino designed an additional wardrobe for the rest of the weekend, exclusively for Von Teese. The reception music was provided by the retro German band Palast Orchester mit Max Raabe. Guests were invited to participate in skeet shooting, archery and falconry in the days following the wedding. The wedding pictures appeared in the May 2006 edition of Vogue under the heading "The Bride Wore Purple".

Dita Von Teese & Jessicka Addams at Smile Even if it Hurts opening November 13, 2010

The couple lived in Laurel Canyon with their four Devon Rex cats, Lily, Aliester, Edgar and Hermann, and two dachshunds, Greta and Eva.

"A memory in snapshot form, taken by my former husband."

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 intentions of divorce. 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". The 'other girl' is believed to be 19-year-old actress Evan Rachel Wood, with whom Manson has continued his relationship after his divorce from Von Teese, despite scathing comments from critics. Von Teese also stated that she gave Manson an ultimatum, but says "it didn't work. Instead, it made me the enemy."

Von Teese is not seeking spousal support and seems 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. In return he wrote the song Putting Holes in Happiness to cope with it.


  • Romancing Sara (1995)
  • Matter of Trust (1997)
  • Pin-Ups 2 (1999)
  • Decadence (2000)
  • Slick City: The Adventures of Lela Devin (2001)
  • Tickle Party: Volume 2 (2001)
  • Bound in Stockings (2002)
  • Blooming Dahlia (2004)
  • The Death of Salvador Dali (2005)
  • Saint Francis (2006)
  • The Boom Boom Room (2007)

Additionally, Von Teese was a featured guest on the sixth episode of Cycle 7 of America's Next Top Model on October 25, 2006.



  1. New Couple: Dita Von Teese & Louis-Marie de Castelbajac!. The Hollywood Gossip. Free Britney. April 29, 2009.

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