amfAR, The Foundation for AIDS Research

Dita Von Teese

San Francisco Gala 2008 Honoree


Dita VonTeeseShe is one of a kind. She is the biggest name in burlesque since Gypsy Rose Lee. She tops international best dressed lists. She is a modern day fashion icon. She inspires designers from Marc Jacobs and John Galliano to Jean Paul Gaultier and Zac Posen. She is credited for bringing back the glamour and allure of Old Hollywood stars. Self-created. Distinctive. Iconic. Flawless. Often imitated, never duplicated. She is Dita Von Teese.

Born Heather Sweet in West Branch, Michigan, Von Teese grew up fascinated by Technicolor musicals, pin-up imagery, and vintage lingerie. This naturally blond, Midwestern girl transformed herself into one of the glamour girls she grew up adoring.  Well known for her retro looks and style, this international burlesque queen has also made a public commitment to HIV/AIDS awareness. 

In 2005, Von Teese caught the eye of M•A•C Cosmetics, which signed her as spokesperson for their acclaimed M•A•C AIDS Fund Viva Glam campaign. As part of the collaboration, Dita created a signature performance, “Lipteese,” which features her straddling a nine-foot lipstick that spins and bucks, while she is dressed as a burlesque cowgirl with a custom hat by Stephen Jones, boots by Christian Louboutin, and a costume adorned with more than 300,000 Swarovski crystals. Through such innovative cause-related marketing, and with the support of Von Teese and other celebrity spokespersons, M•A•C has raised more than $128 million to fight AIDS since 1994. In 2006, the debut performance of “Lipteese” was cited by the New York Times as the “highlight of Art Basel Miami.” During the subsequent two years as a M•A•C AIDS Fund spokesperson, Von Teese made appearances in Australia, Belgium, France, Germany, Korea, Russia, Spain, and the U.S., spreading her message that “safe sex is sexy.” She also made special appearances in support of Macy’s Passport events in both Los Angeles and San Francisco to raise HIV/AIDS awareness.

At amfAR’s 2007 Cinema Against AIDS Cannes gala, Von Teese performed her M•A•C “Lipteese” show, a performance that brought worldwide attention to amfAR’s research efforts. She has actively supported amfAR’s fundraising and outreach efforts through appearances, participation in live auctions, and press interviews at amfAR fundraisers in the U.S., Europe, and most movingly at amfAR’s inaugural Cinema Against AIDS Dubai, where she helped break taboos by bringing the issue of HIV/AIDS to a part of the world where such topics are rarely discussed. Her participation at these events has helped raised nearly $20 million for amfAR and its programs.

In addition to her live performances, Von Teese is a self-styled fashion icon who has appeared on hundreds of magazine covers, walked in various high profile fashion shows and topped several international best dressed lists. Bringing her distinct style to the world of lingerie, Von Teese just announced her vintage-inspired, limited edition lingerie collection for Wonderbra. She is also the international ambassador and face of Cointreau, and as such has created a new cocktail, the Cointreau Teese, as well as a new live show, “Be Cointreauversial.”