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In a time when women are obsessed with how they look-and over 47 percent of Indian women saying they are unhappy with their bodies-it’s clear that there’s a urgent need for body image acceptance. We’ve all had moments where we wished we were taller, shorter, slimmer whatever-er, and while it’s bad enough feeling that way fully-clothed, imagine how you’d feel if it were your job to stand naked in front of an audience? Major terror, right? But Dita Von Teese does exactly that, and she does it with ease. As I discovered during my chat with the postergirl for body confidence, the secret lies in loving yourself for who you are and making the best of what you’ve got. The Queen of Burlesque, known for her risque vintage style, and the spectacular shows she puts on without so much as flinching, lets us in on the secret ingredients required to hone stellar confidence. Cosmo caught up with the fashionable pin up star, on her first-ever trip to India as the global ambassador for Cointreau, while she visited the Taj Mahal, attended dos in her honour, and mastered the art of tying a sari…

On confidence
“I’ve never had any fear of performing or being on stage. I always have a great time when I bring my own personality to the show. Even letting people see my vulnerability helps with making the performance more real. Trying to be someone else comes across as being forcefully sexy. I think confidence is sexy because you can tell when someone sticks up for themselves, and that’s attractive. It’s really important to accept yourself for the way you are. You know, a friend of mine once told me that no matter how bad you’re feeling, don’t let anyone see it. This works really well, especially when I’ve come off stage and haven’t had such a good show. I’ve learned to accept compliments gracefully even if things haven’t gone they way I wanted them to. It’s important to do that because no-one really wants to hear you complain and crib. You’ll come across as someone who needs others to make you feel good about yourself. Not good. It’s fresh when you see someone graciously accepting feedback and growing from it.”

On self-doubt
“It’s important to remember that we all have moments of self-doubt. I feel that my body on stage is different from my body at home or in my bedroom. It’s a different experience being naked in front of someone versus standing up on stage in front of a group of people in the nude. Thankfully, I don’t really need to prepare right before I go on stage, and that’s mostly because everything about the show is very controlled-from the costume to the lighting and sound set-up…even my body. It’s all very calculated, so I don’t really have feelings of self-doubt about my body on stage. I wouldn’t say that I’m always over confident about my body but I never really have to talk myself into it. If ever I have a day when I feel less than sexy, I do everything to undo that feeling-from putting on my favourite dress to taking the extra time and care to fix my hair. What always helps is choosing clothes and lighting that make you feel great about yourself and the way you look.”

On lovin’ what you got
“I try to be grateful for everything I have. Sometimes I wish I had a little bit more of this…or a little less of that, but then I think about all the positives that I have and am very thankful for them.

It’s important to take care of what you’ve got. For example, I get a lot of compliments on my skin. So I always use sunscreen, I’m careful not to get too much sun, and I visit a dermatologist regularly because my skin is very sensitive. I’ve also been blessed with a good body (same as my mother), so to maintain it, I start my day with a workout. I think more than what it does physically, I feel better about myself mentally.

Of course there are parts of my body I’m not particularly happy with, but I never point them out, especially not to other women. It can start a very negative cycle. My biggest issue right now is that I’m getting thinner. I wish I were a little curvier. I exercise a lot and eat well, mostly because I want to feel strong. Even for walking in high heels, my workouts help! I think high heels are definitely a key to confidence. They are the best thing you can do for your shape. They change the way you carry yourself, your posture, and eventually, the way you look. The one make-up trick that always leaves me feeling more confident is a swipe of red lipstick. I feel dressed up and ready-to-go when I don’t have time for the rest of it. Basically, find what suits you and what you like, and stick to it.”

On embracing your inner sex goddess
“The first and most important thing is to be with somebody who appreciates your body. I feel like anyone who’s in my bedroom is going to like what he gets. As women, we need to remember that when a man is in our bedroom, he’s probably really happy to be there and isn’t judging us. And if he does, then he doesn’t deserve to be with you or with anyone else for that matter!

My best-kept secret is lighting. I am very conscious about surrounding myself with flattering lights-even my bathroom has dim lighting! Bad lighting has the ability to make anyone look terrible. Believe me, I’ve seen Victoria’s Secret supermodels backstage in harsh lighting, absolutely horrified by how they looked. So if you don’t like having sex with the lights on, opt for a dimmer switch. Every woman should know these little tricks about lighting-paint your walls pink, they’ll emit a softer glow; opt for dimmer lights or tie a pink scarf around a lamp for a flattering effect. Next, get a sexy fragrance. I think perfume is the vital stepping-stone to glamour and confidence. It’s one of the most important things every woman should have in her boudoir.”

On the importance of lingerie
“I have all my costumes custom-made. They’re made to come off in layers that are flattering. I don’t feel comfortable in itty-bitty lingerie. I like stockings and garters because of the way they look on my thighs. It’s sexy. So pick what you think will flatter you and make you feel sexier. I think every woman should have at least one really nice set of lingerie. Try building a lingerie wardrobe. Black lace is always sexy and chic. Remember, when you go lingerie shopping, buy the bikini bottom matching the bra. The complete look is guaranteed to make you feel sexier and thus, more confident!”



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