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Dita Von Teese Spills Her Secret to Looking Sexy in Real Life

The burlesque legend dishes about her new beauty book, her go-to lipstick and the one makeup technique she cannot do



Dita Von Teese is not a myth. She's not an angel, not a doll, not an alien from outer space. To be honest, I wasn't entirely sure that someone so airbrushed and poised could be 100 percent human. That is, until I sat down with Von Teese at the Beverly Hills M.A.C. boutique to find out everything about her new tomato red lipstick, her new book, "Your Beauty Mark: The Ultimate Guide to Eccentric Glamour" and if she really is as unattainably perfect as she seems.

The truth? She is -- but somehow, not intimidatingly so. While Von Teese's clear complexion and delicate posture are something to behold, her Old Hollywood allure is flavored with a relaxed, inviting energy. I almost felt as if I'd met and spoken with her before (even though I most definitely hadn't, at least not outside of my head).

Von Teese's rare balance of relatability and mystique made our conversation full of surprises -- from her secrets to looking sexy off-stage to where she finds all her vintage treasures. Intrigued? Hard not to be. Here, our exclusive interview.

1) TB: Your performances are always so impressively, perfectly sexy. But what do you do to feel (and look) sexy in your everyday life?

DVT: I love candles for ambience. I have dimmer switches in every room in my house. I like to surround myself with flattering colors and really create a poetic space in my home. I like these Hue light bulbs; I don't know if you know them. You can change them to any color, dim them and really paint with light.

The only problem with that is you can have all this pink light and make everything look like Photoshop in real life, but then you get traumatized when you stumble into bad lighting. You end up going into the real world, and you're like, "Woah! I thought I looked so good!" Oh my god, I don't understand track lighting at all.

2) TB: Even in bad lighting, your makeup always looks flawless. What is your everyday routine like?

DVT: My daily beauty routine is really about skin care, a little bit of sunscreen, a sweep of face powder, red lipstick and my hair in a chignon. I really like simplified looks. I don't get in full power glamour every day. So I think it's good to have a routine that you can do quickly.

In terms of products, besides my M.A.C. color [called Von Teese], M.A.C. Ruby Woo, $17, is a really good day-to-day red. I can wear it in my Pilates class; I can spend the whole day in it. I also use the M.A.C. Mineralize Skinfinish powder, $32. I'm trying to think of something that isn't M.A.C., but honestly my M.A.C. Blacktrack Fluidline, $16.50, is another favorite.

3) TB: Your aesthetic is so iconic. Who are your current beauty influences, if you have any, and who are some of your earlier ones?

DVT: Oh gosh, I have very few current influences. You know, in the early '90s when I first started playing with retro glamour, I would get Old Hollywood portraits, books and vintage magazines. Or I'd watch old movies on VHS tapes, pause them, and try to figure it out.

I always loved Betty Grable, because I loved that era of film. I thought her backup casts had great looks. Carmen Miranda was often in her films. I also liked Rita Hayworth. I liked Technicolor, because I wanted to see the vibrant lipstick, the blush and the lashes all in color. So I loved that 1940s Fox musical era.

4) TB: How old were you when you first started adopting that look as your own? How did your friends react?

DVT: I think I started playing with the look when I was probably 17 or 18. I had one close friend in high school, and she and I were very similar. So, I didn't have naysayers around me. It was just me and my best girlfriend, and she was just like me. I mean, my boyfriend in high school, I remember him being like, "Wow, are you really going to go out like that?" And I was like, "Uh, yeah!"

5) TB: Your skin doesn't seem to have aged at all since then. What are your skin-care essentials?

DVT: There are two brands I really like. I use a lot of Éminence skin care. It's an all-natural line. And then I love this brand called Retrouvé, which is a high-end line. Their eye cream, $485, is just, wow. You have to try this eye cream.

6) TB: I feel like I've never seen you make a serious beauty mistake. Can you think of any? Do tell.

DVT: You know, I do my own hair and makeup for red carpets and such. And when I analyze the work later, I get very critical. Ugh, there's a hair out of place. Oh, I didn't have enough blush on, or too much blush. It's great to do it yourself, but sometimes it's not easy when you're the only one with eyes on it.

But in turn, Gregory Arlt [M.A.C. Cosmetics Director of Makeup Artistry] does my makeup for a lot of photo shoots. He did the makeup for my M.A.C. campaign. I can do my look really well, but I can't do any shading and highlighting. Gregory is the shading and highlighting master. In fact, he speaks a little bit in the book about the things that I don't know how to do, and tells his story about his love and fascination with makeup.

7) TB: What were some of your other inspirations for the book?

DVT: I referenced a lot of vintage beauty books for the look and illustrations. I also looked at them to get an idea of how to break down the chapters. Very interestingly, there were a bunch of books I had from the 1920s and '30s that talk about plastic surgery. I thought that was really fascinating, because people think that plastic surgery is this new thing; but it's not. It's been around since the 17th Century, when people were going off to war and having their faces pummeled, and they would get them fixed. So I thought it was interesting to reference historic things about the beauty industry, what certain cosmetics were made of in the beginning, and other tidbits of information like that. It's a massive book. I don't think anybody expected it to be that big.

8) TB: You seem to have an endless wealth of vintage treasures. Where do they come from?

DVT: I started collecting early on when they were easy to find. In the early '90s, I was touring strips clubs. That's where I started doing my burlesque show originally. In that time, when I'd be touring through Texas, and Ohio, and Indianapolis, the first thing I would do is open up the phone book, find the vintage stores and antique stores, and just clean up. I remember buying these big bangles for like $20. Because this was before the Internet. Now it's really impossible to get a deal, because everyone knows what everything is worth. You can't score as easily.

Now I shop at a lot of the weekend flea markets here in LA. Etsy and eBay are also really great, if you're good with your keywords. I go to the vintage expo here in LA, too. It's a one-stop shop with hundreds of vendors. It's a vintage shopper's dream.

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