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Exclusive: Dita Von Teese interview

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Cointreau Prive, London’s most exclusive speakeasy - think decadent dining and illicit entertainment in a top secret location - launches later this month for a three week stint. As this is housed in stunning surroundings that hearken back to the age of old-school glamour, it comes as no surprise to hear that the international burlesque star Dita von Teese , has collaborated with the iconic French liqueur house for the opening of this much anticipated cocktail lounge. Guests will be privy to a series of private salons, steeped in opulence, that are all modelled on von Teese’s Los Angeles home. The star will take to the stage for the highly anticipated opening where she will perform to a select audience of just 300 people. The Queen of Burlesque, spoke to Stylist exclusively about the art of seduction, PETA, style icons, fashion and her plans for the future. Scroll down to watch the video of Dita speaking about the new Speakeasy bar.

What’s the secret to being a truly seductive burlesque act?

It must look effortless...it never is, of course, but every move, every piece of clothing removed has to look like it's second nature! The best burlesque acts exude the performer's personality, and the dancer must never look like she/he is trying to be sexy! Touches of humour make a great burlesque act. And last but not least, it shouldn't be a cliché of commercialized faux-burlesque...no striped tights and sailor hats, and please don't use the song "Fever" ever, ever again! A good burlesque act has a thread of authentic burlesque, which means there is always a form of striptease involved. Faux-leque is what we call this recent phenomenon of girls lip-syncing old standards and dancing around with feather boas. It's OUT. Follow the history of striptease, but be creative and evolved!

Is burlesque predominantly an art for men, women or both (in your opinion) and why?

It was originally a variety show geared toward men, with striptease acts being the main attraction. But you also had great stars like Gypsy Rose Lee who had a strong female following, and shows like hers could later be seen in upscale shows like Minsky's and the Ziegfeld Follies. Now, in the neo-burlesque movement, you have a much stronger female following. The majority of my audience is female.

What would you say to critics who claim that feminism and burlesque don’t mix?

I would say they should do a little more research on the modern burlesque movement. The fan base is mainly women, so the argument becomes complicated. Feminism is becoming redefined.

The best burlesque acts exude the performer's personality, and the dancer must never look like she/he is trying to be sexy.

You’re famed for your very individual and iconic retro style. What are your must-have items to complete your look?

I love things that are very overtly feminine, things that exaggerate the feminine form.

Do you have a muse or style icon that you are inspired by?

I have many...I would say Chantal Thomas, Catherine Baba, Diana Vreeland, Babe Paley. The only modern celebrity I can think of to say I could admire is Diane Kruger, because she doesn't use a stylist. She's like me, we go choose our clothes ourselves, without an entourage.

If you could name one thing that makes a man sexy, what would it be? And the same for women?

For a woman, it's about self-confidence and a good demeanour....girls' girls. I like to be around women that are trustworthy and have a sense of camaraderie with other women. For men, I appreciate elegance and good manners.

Do you ever get nervous before going on-stage to perform and if so, how do you combat that?

I always get slightly nervous because I want to do a good job, but I never have nerves that need soothing, I do my best shows with a touch of excitement and nerves! It's not something I need to combat, and never inhibits me. It's hard to explain. Actually I suppose it shouldn't be described as nerves, but more of an adrenaline and concern!

As a previous supporter of PETA, what are your thoughts on their plans to launch a porn site?

I was spokesperson for one cause for PETA only, just to encourage pet owners to spay and neuter, so I was never involved with their other work. I have not heard anything about their proposed porn site.

Tell us a little about the design of the new Cointreau Privé speakeasy…

My close friend Fiona Leahy is overseeing all the decor and aesthetics, she also organized my wedding, and is a close friend who knows my world and how to recreate the kinds of things I have in my home and the things I love to be surrounded by. It's going to be a private members only club, and fans can gain access via a website Cointreau will have set up.

Are you excited to be performing in the UK for the launch?

Yes! It's been a while since I performed in London, and it's always been a special place for me since I first started performing burlesque there in the early 90s, and burlesque has since become more embraced in London than anywhere in the world!

I'm living out many dreams right now, I must say!

What next for Dita Von Teese? Is there anything you haven’t yet done that you would really love to?

I'm living out many dreams right now, I must say! I have two lingerie collections, a perfume, a dress line....but what I'm really excited about doing is creating a full length show which will tour in 2012. But beyond that, I really want to step back and direct a revue, that's my next step, to create shows and actually be able to watch them from the audience!

Dita Von Teese launches the Cointreau Privé, London’s most exclusive speakeasy, open for a limited three-week period from 29th November 2011. Visit www.cointreauprive.co.uk

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