Over the years, however, Von Teese — who performs Tuesday, Sept. 13, at the Wellmont Theater in Montclair and Friday, Sept. 15, at the Fillmore Philadelphia with her “The Art of the Teese” tour — observed a decided shift in the audience.
“It’s grown to a place that I never expected it to go,” she said. “The people that come to the show (now), it’s predominantly female. The men that are there that are straight are usually partners of the women who are there.
“You’d be hard-pressed to find a group of straight guys who are going there to try to see hot babes taking off their clothes. It’s not that at all, and we have a very strong LGBTQ following.”
Why the demographic shift among modern audiences? Von Teese said she likes to think it’s for the same reasons that drew her to the burlesque stage in the first place.
“I didn’t feel like I had modern role models of sensuality and beauty and eroticism that I could relate to. … The iconic sexual, sexy lady in modern times is like Sports Illustrated’s swimsuit issue (models) and the Victoria’s Secret supermodels,” she said. “They’re these like Amazon women of a certain size and shape and age and even ethnicity, and it’s like it’s very hard to create, to be inspired by that, because they’re like racehorses.
“And not to diminish what the supermodels are, I just didn’t feel like I could relate to any of that. But I could relate to the art of pin-up and the glamour for a time gone by when it was about red lipstick and hairdos and stockings and corsets and gloves and veiled hats, that very created aesthetic, it’s not about just how you look in a bikini running down the beach wearing no makeup or what appears to be no makeup.”
At its heart, Von Teese said, modern burlesque is by contrast “about the art of self-creation and it’s something that anyone can really capture the spirit of if they really want to. You can get inspired by it and use it in your everyday life.”
To hear the full conversation with Dita Von Teese, listen to the Asbury Park Press’ “Fan Theory” podcast at app.com/fantheory and on iTunes, Soundcloud and Google Play.