- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 19, 2017

Growing up not far from Detroit, Dita Von Teese watched 1940s films with her mother, drawn to the attitudes and looks of stars like Betty Grable, Rita Hayworth and Hedy Lamarr.

When Miss Von Teese moved to Hollywood to pursue her own dreams of stardom, it was those classic screen sirens whose spirit and looks she aimed to emulate.

“We’re living in the era of the … supermodel running down the beach in a bikini. That’s what we see as our role models of sexy,” Miss Von Teese, 44, told The Washington Times. “I didn’t really feel like I had modern role models of beauty and sensuality that I thought I could relate to, so I became obsessed with the artifice and the style of [classic] Hollywood.”

The model, actress and television personality attained fame via her traveling burlesque revue. Her show, “The Art of the Teese,” will open Thursday at The Fillmore in Silver Spring.

Burlesque started as an offshoot of vaudeville with jokes that were racier and typically sexually oriented, Miss Von Teese said.

“It’s no longer what burlesque was in the so-called Golden Age of the 1930s and ’40s,” the show mistress said of her interpretation. “In its modern form, it’s become kind of an interesting feminist movement.”

Her assertion is backed by the fact that audiences for her shows are overwhelmingly women.

“These performers are no longer just pinup girls dancing on stage. It isn’t just about being thin or young,” she said. “I think that’s why the show has resonated with women and the LGBT crowd.”

Miss Von Teese began crafting burlesque revues in the early ’90s, dressing up much as her classic Hollywood role models had done and dying her naturally blond hair brunette to match their sultry appeal.

“My idols in beauty were more creative instead of warm and beautiful,” Miss Von Teese said. “For me, posing as a retro-style pinup and then creating a burlesque show was an outlet [to feel sexy and confident],” she said. “I could control the entire environment and create this goddesslike persona in burlesque.

“I think that’s why it resonated with a lot of other women. They’re not there to ogle, or see girls take their clothes off.”

While the burlesque theater of Europe often had a political bent and lampooned prominent figures of the day, its American cousin is less about satire and more about eliciting guilty giggles, Miss Von Teese said.

“It’s a little confusing because the word ‘burlesque’ can mean a few different things,” she said. “An American burlesque show is a variety show where a bunch of the jokes are more risque [and features] striptease artists.”

The showrunner said her career as a burlesque impresario has helped her grow and mature as a performer and as a person. It is this same sense of confidence that she wishes to inspire in the women who come to see “The Art of the Teese.”

“What I’m most proud of is putting together a cast [wherein audience members] can walk away feeling they saw someone they can relate to and want to be more like,” she said, adding that her revue includes women and some men of all ethnicities, body types and “gender fluidity.”

“This is all stuff that means something to someone,” Miss Von Teese said. “They can see that looking like a Victoria’s Secret supermodel is not the end all, be all of what it means to be sexy.”

Tickets for Dita Von Teese’s “The Art of the Teese” Burlesque Revue are available at LiveNation.com.

Copyright © 2018 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

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