Dita von Teese Biography

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Birth Name: Dita von Teese

Born Sept. 28, 1972 in Rochester, MI, Heather Renée Sweet grew up idolizing Hollywood's Golden Age glamour, particularly the pin-up girls, the elaborate lingerie and the art of subtle seduction. A trained dancer, she moved with her family to Orange County, CA as a teenager, where she was close enough to Los Angeles to soak up classic Tinseltown style while working as a lingerie buyer. Originally planning to be a stylist or costume designer, she found herself drawn to the world of fetish modeling, where her retro look and innate sense of style made her an immediate standout. She earned the most fame, however, for her involvement in the world of burlesque, the smarter and more sensual big sister to stripping, which, like Gypsy Rose Lee decades earlier, she helped elevate with her stylishness and sense of humor. So popular was she that she appeared in several softcore erotic films, including "Romancing Sara" (1995) and "Matter of Trust" (1998), but the rising star decided she needed a name as glamorous and evocative of her strikingly beautiful image. Adopting the name "Dita," she added the "Von Teese" when she posed for Playboy in 2002.

Without a doubt the queen of the new burlesque, Von Teese developed a reputation as a sexy and cerebral performer who appealed equally to women and men of all ages, focusing more on seduction as an elaborate, intricate art rather than an aerobic bump-and-grind. Her most famous routine consisted of her performing a striptease in an oversized martini glass, but she was also known for her elegant fan dances, creative numbers and extravagant costumes encrusted with crystals, diamonds and sequins. Helping to emphasize the fantasy and mystique of sex and romance, Von Teese made headlines around the world for her straightforward but playful attitude toward all things erotic, reminding more than one fan of the legendary Bettie Page. Although certain circles had always followed Von Teese's rise with great interest, she achieved a mainstream breakthrough due in part to her relationship with the notorious rocker Marilyn Manson, who was an ardent fan of hers, appreciating Von Teese's fearless style. They became a couple in 2001 and he shot her famous Playboy cover the following year. The twosome made international headlines when they married in 2005.

Helping fuel fascination with the pair was the general public's perceived similarities between the two, including their pale skin, dark hair and a sense of Goth-edged glamour, as well as the differences, most notably Manson's reputation to many as a frightening rocker and Von Teese's as a quirky but levelheaded enigma. Seen by many as an offbeat power couple, their marriage brought them both to a new level of fame, but ended a year later due to Manson's alleged hard-partying ways. Reluctant to pursue acting unless the part fit as perfectly as her famous corsets, Von Teese made appearances in several fetish films, including "Bound in Stockings" (2002) and "High on Heels" (2007), but also lensed the occasional mainstream role, including a fun turn as a burlesque dancer on "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" (CBS, 2000- ). A frequent guest on talk and reality shows, Von Teese helped critique contestants in a burlesque challenge on "RuPaul's Drag Race" (Logo, 2009- ) and choreographed a slinky dance number for the titular crime-fighters (Drew Barrymore, Lucy Liu and Cameron Diaz) in "Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle" (2003). Launching her own lingerie and cosmetics lines, Von Teese also achieved considerable success as a mainstream model and spokeswoman, but maintained that her most important and treasured role was as an ambassador of the arts of burlesque and retro glamour.

By Jonathan Riggs