To dear Bettie,
With your raven hair and tantalising smile, you were more than just a pretty face - you were a pioneer of our industry and the only pin-up nobody could ever pin down. So as we celebrate your centenary, I can’t help but feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude and admiration for the incredible impact you have had in the burlesque and fetish scene.
Today, 100 years after your birth, your legacy continues to live on through the countless women you have influenced and inspired. You broke down barriers and challenged societal norms with your bold and unapologetic approach to sexuality, paving the way for a new generation of women to embrace their femininity, celebrate their bodies, and push the boundaries of what is considered acceptable in mainstream society.
Dita Von Teese cites you as one of her biggest inspirations, channelling the same glamorous style, playful attitude and mastery of classic burlesque that you revolutionised. Immodesty Blaize incorporates elements of your signature looks, such as black leather and animal prints, into her own performances. Kalani Kokonuts has even portrayed you in a stage production about your life.
1955 was the year you appeared in the legendary film “Teaserama”, alongside Tempest Storm. It remains one of the most noteworthy showcases of your uniqueness, a classic of the burlesque genre, and one of my muses. Your playful innocence juxtaposed with Tempest’s seductiveness represents self-expression as being just as crucial as a well-timed wink or sensual removal of a stocking when it comes to the burlesque art form.
Your artistic genius helped to shape fashion and costuming within the fetish and burlesque scene, and your bold and unique style continues to captivate the minds of seasoned and budding showgirls alike. The black leather corset - perhaps your most iconic outfit of all - has become a staple within my own wardrobe. You made it the ultimate symbol of sexiness, turning the most vanilla of outfits into a tantalising feast for the eyes. Today, a fetish party can’t be attended without seeing someone clad in a tight leather corset, channelling their inner Bettie. Through a singular item of clothing, you showed the world that sex appeal and rebellion will always be in style. As an iconic pin-up model, you also introduced high-waisted underwear, bullet bras and other vintage lingerie styles that have become synonymous with the burlesque genre. And let’s not forget the leopard print bikini that you first wore during a photoshoot with Bunny Yeager. Suddenly, every fashionista was spotted sporting some sort of animal print, from a leopard print scarf to a cheetah print coat. The whole world had gone on safari, hunting for the fashion staple that showed off the wild side they knew you emulated so perfectly. Thanks to you, Bettie, animal print has become a symbol of my own feline grace, and it claws its way back into my wardrobe year after year.
Today, a lingerie line exists in your honour - Bettie Page Lingerie by Playful Promises. It embodies the values of sexual liberation and body positivity you championed throughout your career. It features vintage-inspired designs that celebrate the natural beauty and sensuality of women, while encouraging them to embrace their bodies and feel confident in their own skin, to embrace their own desires and fantasies, free from shame or judgement. The high-waisted underwear, garter belts, bullet bras and corsets you single-handedly popularised bring a sense of retro glamour and sophistication to modern lingerie. I have been lucky enough to receive the Dahlia Set as part of your 100th Birthday Celebration.
Your impact on the cultural landscape of the fetish and burlesque scene is undeniable. Your daring and provocative modelling shoots helped normalise and popularise the feature of leather, bondage and other taboo subjects within fetish culture. In the 1950s, your bondage photos were considered particularly risque, as you were often depicted in suggestive poses wearing little clothing. Clad in only a Santa hat and a strategically placed wreath, your appearance in Playboy magazine in 1955 was also particularly scandalous, just as incorporating suggestive movements and risque costumes into your dance performances was frowned upon by many. For this reason, I have embraced my own kinks and delved into exploring my own erotic expression, such as within my Big Domme Energy act. The unapologetic embrace of sexual liberation is now an unwritten doctrine within my performances and has demonstrated how freedom of expression and removing censorship are the quintessence of burlesque.
In a male-dominated world, you were a trailblazer for women’s rights and sexual liberation, challenging traditional gender roles and empowering women to embrace their unique style and sexuality. At a time when women were expected to conform to strict gender roles, you used your presence on screen, within the media and on stage to portray women as assertive, independent and sexually empowered. Your willingness to challenge societal norms and expectations has made you an icon for future generations of women - especially those within the creative community.
Your influence has empowered many people to embrace their unique beauty and celebrate their sexuality. Your fearless spirit and unwavering confidence inspire me personally, and every aspect of your life captivates and enchants me; you were a walking contradiction in the best way possible - shy yet bold, simple yet exotic, sweet yet sultry. I cannot overstate your influence on my artistic identity; your natural ability to connect with your audience, playful and charming demeanour and immersive approach to performing are attributes I aspire to embody each time I set foot on stage.
So, dear Bettie, thank you. Your impact on the industry is immeasurable, and your legacy will continue to inspire future generations of performers and creatives - within the world of burlesque and beyond - for another 100 years to come.
With all my love,
Evana De Lune