'Burlesque is in a wonderful place right now': Dita Von Teese talks body positivity, creating new acts and the Glamonatrix tour ahead of Birmingham show
She's the undisputed 'Queen of Burlesque' and can count the likes of Elton John, Marc Jacobs and Christian Louboutin among her all-star fans.
And cabaret extraordinaire Dita Von Teese is set to show adoring fans in Birmingham exactly why she earned her legendary status when she brings new show, Glamonatrix, to the city's Alexandra Theatre.
"It’s a classic American-style burlesque variety performance that follows the same kind of format as my previous show," the raven-haired vixen said.
"It contains all-new routines and I think fans will love the extravagant new sets, props and costumes. I think we’ve managed to up the ante with regards to the production.
"I’m also very excited about the cast - there’s just as many men in the show as women.
"People who have never seen a burlesque show will receive a great introduction to the practice.
"It really is a collection of the best burlesque performers from all over the world in one show."
Glamonatrix follows Dita's first show that came overseas in 2018, The Art of Teese, that sold-out multiple dates at the London Palladium as well as across Europe, Canada, Australia and the United States.
The uber-glamorous variety show presents an extravagant new production with costumes created by famed corset maker Mister Pearl, British designer Jenny Packham, French couturier Alexis Mabille, Brooke Brothers and more.
Shoe aficionados will also delight in extraordinary bespoke footwear by Christian Louboutin.
Following the 2018 tour, Dita returned home more inspired than ever, diving straight into building new acts.
And now, the 47-year-old star cannot wait to return to the UK once more - this time touring multiple cities.
"It took a long time for me to manage to bring the full shows to Europe and the UK, so it's really exciting to finally be able to do that not just once, but twice now," she enthused.
"I'm thrilled and excited for people to see what we've been working on."
The multi-talented dancer, model, designer, singer, actress and entrepreneur first got a taste for stardom at an early age. Dita, real name Heather Renée Sweet, was classically trained as a ballet dancer and first performed solo at 13.
The Michigan-born starlet began practising burlesque in 1992 as a proponent of the neo-burlesque movement, 'putting the tease back into striptease', she said, with elaborate dance elements, props, and characterisations.
Neo-burlesque, also known as new burlesque, bases its roots in the classic American traditional burlesque performance, but encompasses a wider range of performance styles, introducing elements of modern dance, theatrical dramas and comedic mayhem to the classic striptease.
Von Teese chose her stage name by adopting the name Dita as a tribute to silent film actress Dita Parlo. Her name was originally Dita Von Treese, but after Playboy misspelled it 'Von Teese' as part of her 2002 cover, she decided to keep the moniker.
From straddling a bright pink bucking bronco machine to riding an ornate carousel and dancing atop a martini glass, Dita's career has seen her transform the art of burlesque into something straight out of a fantasy film with luxurious costumes and elaborate props unlike anything ever seen before.
Her feather fan dance, inspired by burlesque artist Sally Rand, featured the world's largest feather fans, now on display in Hollywood's Museum of Sex.
This new production will feature a plethora of new and exciting burlesque routines, with Dita working closely with her creative partner, Catherine D'Lish, to come up with innovative ideas to wow the audience.
"We have no lack of ideas and we thrive in creating brand new, never-before-seen routines," she stated.
"Since we started working together about 20 years ago, we have had a lot of fun coming up with ideas.
"We kind of brainstorm routines. Some of them seem ridiculous at first, but we smash through it and figure out if it's an idea really worth pursuing.
"A lot of times I'll start with a small plan. Every year I do a New Year's Eve gala in Los Angeles at The Orpheum, so I sometimes work out new ideas there.
"Then I flesh them out further and make them suitable for touring. I don't make anything that I think 'we won't be able to take that routine on tour'."
The Glamonatrix revue will not only see performances by the legendary Dita herself, but also from a supremely talented cast of burlesque artists from across the world.
Dita's previous UK tour saw appearances from the likes of Ginger Valentine, Zelia Rose, Jett Adore and Dirty Martini, compèred by stand-up comedian, musician and podcaster Jonny McGovern.
When it comes to selecting the cast for her shows, Dita not only looks at talent, but for people changing the definition of what it means to be a burlesque performer as we know it.
"Representing different types of beauty, body shapes and genders is all very important to me," Dita tells us.
"It's important for me to feel like we are evolving and that the audience sees something they are inspired by.
"I also think about whether these people are amazing to be around - because traveling together, for me, is like being with family.
"I find that most people I have toured with have fit the bill - the best performers also happen to be the most lovely people to be around."
The past decade has seen a surge in the social movement of body positivity, with more and more public figures embracing their looks while challenging the ways in which society presents and views the physical body.
Social media has helped heighten the presence of the movement, challenging unrealistic standards of beauty and the avoidance of any imperfections.
Model and feminist Tess Holliday founded '@EffYourBeautyStandards', which brought an outpour of support to the cause.
Dita has worked hard to champion body positivity and inclusion within her shows, finding her own confidence in the stage.
"What I create onstage makes up a controlled environment where the costumes are chosen by me to make me feel good about myself," she revealed.
"We do a lot of tricks with the stage lights, which I know sounds a little bit far-fetched, but you can do the same thing at home. You can create beautiful lighting-scapes in your house that make you look and feel fantastic.
"Much like making a film, burlesque shows involve directing a mood and sometimes a little bit of a storyline - it's curating an aesthetic and making people feel something fantastic.
"I always tell people there's a lot of tricks in the burlesque trade you can use in your everyday life to give you confidence.
"I've been watching the burlesque scene evolve since the early 90s, and I think it's a wonderful place to be right now.
"We now see a predominantly female audience, whereas when I started it was mostly male. I've also seen a huge rise in burlesque's LGBTQ+ following, which has been amazing.
"I think its because of all the rhinestones and glamour of burlesque. It makes people feel confident as they watch and has its own meaning for every single person in the audience.
"I really love being at the forefront of the body positivity movement. It has helped create an environment that means these shows are for everyone.
"Burlesque is constantly evolving, and I feel like we're in a really good place right now, as a society, where people are starting to understand why people want to go and see a burlesque show.
"More than ever, people are realising the importance of indulging in fantasy, glamour and sensuality in a way that feels inspiring and powerful for some people."
Aside from her burlesque career, Dita has taken a page out of the books of vintage starlets for years gone by and hit the big screen, making her film debut in 1995 with a role in Romancing Sara.
She has since starred in the likes of Matter of Trust, Pin-Ups 2, Decadence, Slick City: The Adventures of Lela Devin, Bound in Stockings and The Death of Salvador Dali, which saw her win Best Female Performance at the Beverly Hills Film Festival.
The star has also appeared in a number of TV shows, such as America's Next Top Model, RuPaul's Drag Race, Hell's Kitchen, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation and even the Eurovision Song Contest.
Green Day, Thirty Seconds to Mars, Die Antwoord, Monarchy, and ex-husband Marilyn Manson have all asked her to appear in music videos.
Dita is well known for her fetish and glamour modelling, renowned world-over as a tightlacer. Through the wearing of a corset for many years, she reduced her waistline to 22 inches, and can be laced down as far as 16.5 inches.
She can frequently be seen in the front row of fashion shows, and has hit the catwalk for the likes of Jean Paul Gaultier, Christian Dior, Vivienne Westwood and Marc Jacobs.
In 2015, she was an ambassador and spokesmodel for HIV and AIDS awareness when she was selected alongside Eve, Debbie Harry, and Lisa Marie Presley for MAC Cosmetics' Viva Glam VI campaign, in which all proceeds were donated to HIV and AIDS charities.
The star has attracted millions of followers on all of her social media accounts - even her beloved Devonshire Rex cat Aleister boasts his own Instagram with more than 100,000 followers.
Von Teese's passion for lingerie began when she worked as a salesgirl at 15, eventually working her way up the ladder to become a buyer.
She went on to launch her very own clothing and underwear line in 2012, offering a range of high-quality lingerie available worldwide.
Dita has become the poster-woman for glamour, attracting all-star fans that regularly watch her perform - some even in attendance with their families.
"There's a lot of moments I've been starstruck or excited about someone taking notice of my show," Dita says.
"Last time we were at the London Palladium, we had Michelle Dockery up in the royal box. She's a lot of fun.
"One time Steven Spielberg brought two of his daughters to come see me perform. I thought that was amazing that he came to see the show not just for himself, but for his daughters.
"I had Sofia and Roman Coppola hire me for Francis Ford Coppola's birthday once and the whole family was there."
For Dita, it is the celebration of burlesque within families that makes her feel a deep sense of achievement.
"It means a lot to me when people make coming to my shows a family affair," she says. "When I see several generations of women in the audience it makes me feel so proud."
"It makes me feel so good when the whole family is involved. I see it more and more now that someone has brought their mother or even their grandmother along to see me perform.
"I think that's a really amazing thing for burlesque to be at that level now."
Dita has created a career as glamorous as her extravagant costumes, and it looks like she won't be slowing down any time soon.
With a booming clothing business, worldwide tours and exciting new projects, Dita is continuing to put burlesque on the map for generations to come.
"After the UK tour, I'm going to announce some US dates," Dita disclosed to us.
"I'm working on my lingerie collection all the time and doing photo shoots - I always keep myself busy.
"I have also released a line of striptease candles with different performers from my show, from the past, present and future.
"It's kind of a fun project. When the candles heat up, the clothes fall off.
"I'm also working on a new book, so it's a very exciting time for me."
Dita Von Teese's Glamonatrix comes to Birmingham Alexandra Theatre on Saturday, April 18.
For more information, visit atgtickets.com.
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