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Oh Dita! You’re such a tease
by Sylvia Toh Paik Choo

MISS Dita Von Teese has no regrets.

The queen of burlesque would "like to get married a few more times" because "it's fun to have celebrations of love".

Never mind that her 2005 marriage to pasty shock rocker Marilyn Manson lasted only one year. The prospecting men in her future would have to get used to her "keeping my high heels on during sex".

One of her keynotes is: "It is important to keep the 'tease' in a relationship... to remember that man likes to hunt, so you have to not make yourself so available, so easily.

"I am a very good cook, but I would not readily bake pies and cookies for just any man who comes along.

"Do not give 100 per cent right away to a man who doesn't deserve it yet."

The small-town American girl began life as Heather Renee Sweet, middle of three daughters of working-class parents.

Dita Von Teese, with its Betty Boopish ring, is the 39-year-old model-actress' stage name.

Large conclusions cannot be made from short interviews on hotel sofas, even if it is a plush one in the presidential suite of Raffles Hotel.

She appears from an inner sanctum, pale, petite and more than pretty, sits herself down ever so effortlessly elegant, in Christian Dior and Christian Louboutins, and we're all out of alliterations.

Did you know Cointreau is an aphrodisiac? I asked.

(She has been the liqueur's brand ambassador these four years and is in Singapore to star in a Cointreauversial show tonight at Zirca in Clarke Quay - once the home of Crazy Horse, a burlesque revue she has performed in, in Las Vegas.)

A perfect eyebrow went quizzical.

Well, I met the Cointreau family 20 years ago and the head told me he has eight children. The manicured slasher red lips part in laughter.

You have the surreal impression you are talking with a pin-up poster girl of the 1940s. With values true from that era, on glamour and femininity and men, which she practises close to her bosom.

"There is nothing more romantic and sexy than being seductive."

The lady is a "one-woman show" and fiercely protective and obsessively meticulous about her image - one honed from when she was all of 13.

She danced solo for a local ballet company, then went behind a department store lingerie counter at 15, and studied historic costuming in college.

By age 20, she had put "the tease back into striptease" as the main proponent of the new burlesque. Having seen her shows at Chopard parties in Cannes, they are elaborate artful performances, not unlike scenes from an opera. Verdi would have put her to music.

Her acts are as far removed from those "take it off!" shows in stripclub joints, as much as a geisha is leagues away from a hooker.

"The image I created belongs to me," she said, frank and purposeful.

"I own the glamour, (from) since I bought my first lipstick."

Her immaculately crimped ebony tresses are out of a bottle, by the way.

"We didn't come from money, and I wanted to show that a girl can get a look, from emphasising with lipstick and make-up, if she uses it right.

"You don't have to be rich, a bottle of hair dye (does it)."

Those lashings of lashes also look down on not dressing well.

"There is a lot about not caring and being seen as understated, but dressing well is a form of good manners."

Behind her tip-top manners there is no entourage.

"I don't rely on (other) people, I do it all myself, it's a good image for the fans." (Mostly women and gay men, "I can't gauge how many are straight who come to my show," she says teasingly.)

Her appeal (among which, four times featured in Playboy magazine) she explains away as "happy to see a different form of beauty and sensuality, not the Sports Illustrated type (of suntanned bods and teeth), I'm pale and I've created a (signature) glamour instead of lamenting, 'oh why am I not a supermodel'".

Her skin-tone is pre-Raphaelite ghostly, you don't wonder why she is not in the Twilight series as an otherworldly seductress.

Each of her shows takes three years to perfect.

"Sometimes I get a mental block," she admits, because she does it all herself.

"I have many obsessions."


Perfection is definitely top on that list.

"I'm nervous about letting other people do it for me and then taking credit for it."

Costumes, music, props and staying impeccable 24/7, plus dating the son of fashion designer Jean-Charles Castelbajac, how does she fit it all in?

(In the fetish world, she is a "tightlacer" - someone who has worn a corset all her life, with a 22-inch waist.)

She says in-between smiles: "I have personal rules, drinking green smoothies and not eating eggs is one."

Pilates is another - "the only time I have worn a T-shirt, a black one sculpted for me". Of course, she has never owned a pair of jeans.

Driving slow cars is another obsession.

"I have a '53 Cadillac, a '46 Ford convertible, a '39 Packard. And I don't allow anyone to drive it. Except my mechanic."

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