What a Teese – Lessons from the Queen of Burlesque

Jan 12, 2018

Glimmering Butterfly Project – Day 18

I’ve been working on a side project on Pinterest for the past few weeks with a new friend I made on Facebook. Part of that has involved a lot of browsing on Pinterest, which means a lot of new discoveries. And somehow I found a picture of Dita von Teese that apparently captivated me, else I wouldn’t be writing this post.

Thinking she was an actress from a show I must have watched (I’m bad with remembering names), I tried to figure out who she was and watched a couple interviews of her. I quickly realized she wasn’t the person I thought she was, but her presentation, personality, and philosophies really interested me.

Even though I might not be able to relate to her in the sense of career, since you know, I’m not working on becoming a burlesque dancer anytime soon, some of the messages she believes in and shared really stood out to me, so I took some of the core ideas and translated them into my own not-a-burlesque-dancer situation.

(1.) Your Everyday Lingerie

Dita von Teese talked about the value and importance of wearing lingerie under everything every single day. While the specifics of this particular example doesn’t pertain to me exactly, the message behind it that we can extract is what’s really important (or relevant).

“Everything has to look like you didn’t try. Like, you just are. The lingerie is one of those things.

“That’s why you must wear it every day and enjoy it and wear things that fit you so that you’re just like, ‘what?’ You know, you didn’t put it on for him, you’re not like stumbling out of the, you know, your bedroom, ‘oh I put this on for you,’ and posing [awkwardly].

You’re already wearing it. He’s lucky he’s there and getting to experience it. It’s like a guy wanting me to wear little bobby socks and a school girl uniform– I wouldn’t do it because it doesn’t make me feel good and ultimately it wouldn’t be sexy if I didn’t feel good.

It’s important to be able to BE YOU and be confident as you are, no matter what you’re doing,  no matter what you’re saying, no matter what you’re wearing. And in order to do that, you have to do ALL of those things ALL OF THE TIME.

That is what I took away from it.

I am, very rarely, “truly me” in public. I lack the same confidence out in public that I do in my home. I don’t wear all of the things I’d like to wear in public. I don’t say the things that are on my mind or that I feel compelled to say very often – hell, I don’t even SAY anything very often to most people.

When we start doing the things that make us US, ALL OF THE TIME, then it becomes a default part of who we are. Wearing lingerie underneath your clothes all of the time is like setting yourself up to be your “ideal self” at all times, that way when you need it – it’s already there. You don’t have to change. It’s just there. Always.

While I’m not likely to be wearing lingerie anytime soon… this method is something I’m starting to incorporate more regularly by …

a) wearing more and more of the things I actually want to wear, little by little.

Truthfully, I’m not comfortable wearing many of the things I’d like to wear – not yet, and certainly not in most public settings. Anytime I try wearing a new piece of clothing, I usually feel awkward for a while because I’m too hyper-conscious about what people think (even though most people probably don’t even notice – or care).

But the more often I wear it, at home, the easier and more natural I feel when I go out wearing that same piece or accessory. I return to my more natural mannerisms and walk more confidently than I had compared to when I wore it for the first time.

b) talking to myself in the comfort of my room to get used to my own voice and let articulated speaking become a habit, not a conscious thing I have to focus on.

I often feel like a mad man when I’m talking by, and to, myself in my room. But it’s been having pretty profound effects in normalizing my speaking tone and volume. Since I haven’t used my voice as much as the average person, I would often surprise myself when talking to people – and speak faster and less articulated than I needed to.

So the more I use it, the more natural it becomes, and therefore gradually it will become more natural in a situation when I’m with someone else.

c) learning to give myself permission in both small and big things.

It sounds stupid and simple to most people, but I’ve been having to teach myself how to give myself permission to do both small and big things in my life. As a recovering people-pleaser, I still habitually look to other people to get approval or validation on an idea before really accepting it or diving into it.

The more I can start taking action on the little or big intuitions that my heart is whispering to me, the faster I will move in life, the more confident I will become, and the stronger and more vibrant I can become in this world.

What this really boils down to is feeling comfortable in your own skin – or in the clothes you choose to wear, lingerie or not. Because when you wearing your personality, your truth, and your ideal self in every single moment, then it won’t take work to be that person. You will always be that person and it takes no effort.

What are some of the things that we can “wear underneath” every single day? So that it becomes a part of who we are, that it becomes natural and effortless?

What can we start wearing on our soul?

(2.) Glamour: the Power of Creating Yourself

Dita talks about glamour and self-creation – so it’s probably why I’m so fascinated by her without actually knowing very much about her, her work, or her past. Learning to create myself into the ideal person I want to be is something that I focus on a lot.

She openly talks about how she enjoys glamour over beauty, because glamour is the creation of art: it’s man-made beauty, something that takes work to create. And by doing it yourself, you are becoming the creator of yourself.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with spending time and energy into creating yourself to be who you want to be, including any effort that goes into making yourself as visually “beautiful” or “cool” as you want.

I’ve often felt a certain amount of guilt for wanting to “look cool” for whatever reason or in whatever way, but I’m learning that there’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to look good. Because when you’re doing it for yourself, when you’re creating yourself, looking good isn’t something that’s done narcissistically because of other people, but because it makes you feel good to look as you designed and to put in the work to create what you envisioned.

As weird as it’s been for me to admit for a long time, I’ve admired glamour and design from visual and aesthetic points of view for a long time. And now I have a new understanding of appreciation when looked through this lense: the art of creating yourself.

Are we actively creating ourselves to be the “beautiful” or “cool” person we want ourselves to be?

(3.) Be Adventurous and Have Fun

“… I’ve bathed in my lingerie before… taken off the stockings, flung them across the wall, having them stick … you know, having a sense of adventure, a sense of humor …”

It has been really difficult for me to let loose and have fun and just be in a good mood most of the time. Not that I’m saying I need to be bouncing around and having a great time 24/7, but I know that I would be a lot happier if I learned how to be more adventurous and have fun at least a little bit more.

So that’s one of my top “questions” this year, learning how to embrace myself in all facets so that I can have more fun and bring more joy to day to day life and in my interactions with other people.

In a different video, Dita talked about her earliest adventures in burlesque performing. It wasn’t something she planned on doing long-term, doing it for fun because she was young.

After her first acting and performance success, she realized she had this little triumph and simply asked herself “what can I do next?” She went on to do the next thing. And got another triumph. “What can I do next?”

And as a result, what was just a “thing for fun,” and consistently moving from triumph to triumph… she eventually became the “Queen of Burlesque.”

Not every “great thing” we do or aspire to necessarily has be to be mapped out from start to finish. We can simply start by being adventurous and having fun with whatever captivates our curiosity. Who knows where it will lead.

So what can we do NEXT? What fun, adventurous triumph will we seek NEXT?

(4.) Only You Can Dictate What’s True For You

“You can’t dictate to a woman what should make her feel sexy. These are just the things that are true for me. You have to find what’s true for you.”

Each person is going to feel confident in their own ways. Every person is capable of making decisions for themselves, of dictating what their pleasures and guilts are, so there’s no reason in telling someone what is right or wrong – because it’s different for every single person.

This year will probably be the year of “finding what’s true for me.” I’ve developed a pretty good idea over the past few years, but I haven’t truly accepted it within myself and found the confidence to be, speak, and express that truth outwardly as much as I’d like.

In hindsight,  it’s not surprising that I find a glamorous burlesque dancer like Dita von Teese as a momentary role model of sorts, because she is someone who is extremely comfortable in her own skin and in openly speaking her truth and being honest about herself.

If we took a moment to truly be honest to ourselves, what’s true for each of us? Are we willing to embrace that truth in all facets of our being?

(5.) Break the Rules – Make Your Own Mark

“Any kind of censorship, it makes you find new ways to get around it. I like trying to get around the rules, and sometimes you arrive at something really cool.

“You can be the ripest, juiciest peach in the world, and there’s still going to be somebody who hates peaches.”

You are who you are – and there will always be someone who loves you for it and someone who hates you for it.

This is one of the hardest things for me to really take to heart right now, because I have for a long time been someone who doesn’t like to make ripples; who doesn’t like to cause a scene; who doesn’t like to be seen.

Yet, as I gain more courage in pursuing a life that I actually want to live, I’m realizing that I will need to learn to be okay with the fact that some people will like me and some people won’t.

I can’t please everyone, and by pleasing everyone I can please no-one – not even myself.

And if the life I want to live means breaking a few rules, so be it. Especially if those rules are rules that were made up in my own head, or installed into my beliefs from society.

Dita von Teese holds herself with an unmistakable poise and presence. She is unapologetically herself at all times. She’s not afraid to be elegant, powerful, nor is she afraid to forge her own path by being different.

… But why? A burlesque dancer as a role model?

A part of me wants to justify and explain why I, as a guy, would want a role model that is a burlesque dancer. As if I have to defend myself for that. Why?

Why do I do that? I know most of it’s in my head: it’s probably not as big of a deal as my mind wants to make it.

Who cares if it’s different? Who cares if it’s “wrong”? Who cares if something isn’t politically correct? Who cares if it goes against the norm?

It’s what’s true for me.

That’s it.

I find enjoyment where I find enjoyment. I find value where I find value. I admire who I admire. I’m inspired by who I’m inspired by.

So, maybe that’s why. She’s offered some inspiration and I’ve decided to translate it into what’s relevant for me. I don’t need to feel the need to defend myself for being inspired by someone.

I can be me and I can be awesome without taking away from you and your awesome.

And maybe that’s why I feel compelled to do or share some of my “weird” things about myself, because I’m trying to find the courage to embrace that for myself first. And the more awesome people there are in the world, the more courageous others might become in embracing THEIR awesome.

But I first have to start by embracing my own awesome-self in an unapologetic manner.

Sure, I’m not a glamorous burlesque dancer that wears lingerie underneath everything every day. But that doesn’t mean I still can’t garner something valuable out of who she is and what she stands for.

There’s value to be had everywhere, if we’re willing to look past some of our differences and the things that make each of us unique.

Are you willing to accept value and inspiration from otherwise unconventional places and incorporate it into your life?