Foreword by Dita Von Teese
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The celebrated Queen of Pinups styled her own iconic hair, did her own makeup, fashioned her own swimsuits, and was ahead of her time in endless ways, making her a source of inspiration to stars like Madonna, BeyoncÃ©i>, and Katy Perry. Against the backdrop of the conservative 1950s, Bettie Page was an advocate of pleasure, fun, liberation, and body-positivity. There’s so much to be learned from her! Within The Little Book of Bettie you’ll find:
- Bettie’s remarkable backstory
- Retro fashion and styling tips
- Vintage hair and makeup lessons
- Bettie-inspired fitness routines
- DIY pinup accessory how-tos
- Advice from “Bettie Babes” like Dita Von Teese, modern-day pinups and entertainers, and everyday women who love Bettie!
Filled with both color and black-and-white images, The Little Book of Bettie is a beautifully gifty, celebratory look at the groundbreaking style of one of the greatest icons of pop culture.
Launching my career as a modern-day incarnation of Bettie Page led to a radio show call with the actual woman herself. It remains among the great thrills of my life. Years later, Bettie invited me to go to church with her. Even during her modeling days, she attended church, as she didn’t believe a God who put Adam and Eve here “as naked as jaybirds” would disapprove of nudity. I was living abroad, so I never did get to meet my muse, my hero.
Long before her kind invitation, I had let go of the literal homages to her. I’d realized, to truly honor Bettie Page meant going my own way. Bettie stood apart then and continues to do so now because she wasn’t trying to be anyone but herself. If I was going to emulate anything about her, it would be how she lived: by her own convictions, exuding a strong will, coupled with a playful sensuality and generosity of spirit.
Some five years after Bettie died, I got a call about a suitcase under security in a Vegas warehouse that was part of the Irving Klaw Studios/Movie Stars News archives. It was filled with shoes from those infamous bondage shoots. It was also apparently headed for auction. I handwrote a letter to the owner explaining what it would mean for me to be the caretaker of a pair of her shoes. Faster than the crack of a whip, I was on a flight to look through the suitcase. Among the scruffy gems, they were there: those signature bump-toe black pumps with a distinct solid, sky-high heel that curved just so. They are unlike anything I’d ever seen then or have seen since. Shoe size: six and a half. I wear size six and a half. These were the very same ones in those first snapshots of her I fell in love with. They came home with me that day. Did I try them on? Of course! But I don’t wear them. They are a talisman, a lucky charm, the embodiment of how central Bettie Page remains in my life. (And no doubt in yours, since you’re holding this book in your hands.) I occasionally share this treasure with guests at book signings or other appearances. After all, I’m not the only one who found myself because of Bettie Page.
AFTER A WILD-CHILD ADOLESCENCE, I must have decided at some point that I had better go ahead and hide that inner troublemaker away so I could have some semblance of a normal life, whatever that is. Along the path of college, grad school, marriage, divorce, motherhood, and career pursuits, that part of myself got further and further buried until I no longer felt connected to my inner spark. That light reignited instantly when I discovered Bettie Page several years ago. That may seem dramatic, but such bold statements are not uncommon among women who have embraced Bettie as a muse. Though her original fan base was mostly men, the community of female Bettie lovers has grown rapidly over the years to the point where we likely outnumber the guys now.
Because I’m a psychotherapist and a journalist, people frequently expressed surprise—I’d say some even scoffed—at the idea that I have a serious interest in the likes of Bettie Page. Taking a cue from her bravery, I ignored their judgments and pursued my growing interest in the Queen of Pinups. I published articles about her in various online and print magazines, wrote and recorded a song about her, and after connecting with CMG Worldwide, the company that licenses the use of her image, I began managing Bettie’s official social media pages, as well as the blog on bettiepage.com.
Not long after, I got a license through CMG and started a Bettie-inspired fitness company. Through Bettie Page Fitness, I produced the first-ever body-positive workout videos, each of which is based on multiple Bettie poses and helps viewers cultivate her sense of confidence, strength, and joy. (You’ll get a taste of these later in the book.) Ultimately, all of this led me here, getting to pay tribute to my main muse and write a book for my fellow Bettie Babes, both current and to-be. So, my scoffers were wrong, and so were Bettie’s.
We are sold a lie that we must choose sides: professional or passionate; sensual or serious; promiscuous or chaste. It turns out that none of that is true, and the reason I know that is because Bettie walked this earth in her full glory, despite enduring numerous, truly hellish experiences. No matter what people told her she couldn’t or shouldn’t do in an era when many women—and men, for that matter—never questioned those prescriptions, she forged ahead with her heart as her trusty guide, and accidentally made history as a pioneer of empowerment, sexuality, and body positivity.
Bettie is the mirror that instantly reflects our potential back to us when we look at her. Once you get to know Bettie, you know that limitations are illusions and that hope can survive even the greatest hardships. One of the things I find most remarkable about Bettie’s influence is that even though her fans idolize and adore her, she mostly inspires women not to be just like her but to be our authentic selves because that’s the example she set. She lets us know that we really can have faith that if we stay true to who we are, it will all work out in the end.
Bettie spent her life just being herself—that seemingly basic thing that can actually be quite difficult. She embodied a simple complexity that often seemed contradictory. And isn’t that the very point—to ultimately be that combination of things that makes you uniquely, gloriously you? That’s why it’s probably best that we can never quite nail down exactly what it is that makes Bettie a legend, because if we could, we would no doubt be tempted to copy it at the expense of what makes us unique, as Bettie was.
But that doesn’t mean we can’t take a page—or several—from her book by looking to her for inspiration in all areas of our lives. Let’s explore the wonderful world of Bettie!
WHAT IS IT ABOUT BETTIE?” is an all-too-common question that just about anyone who knows about her will ultimately ponder. The answer is both obvious and elusive at the same time. There are a million reasons to admire her, but it’s impossible to pinpoint the precise thing that fuels her fans’ intense allegiance. “When I first saw photos of Bettie Page when I was a teenager, she had such a magical quality that drew me to her. I saw a beautiful, radiant, and confident woman, and the more I learned about her the more she inspired me,” said Miss Lady Lace, a pinup model, burlesque artist, and vintage blogger in Perth, Australia. “She has a special element that’s difficult to put into words.”
Think about this: Is there any other person in history who has scores of devotees worldwide walking around looking just like them? And that includes several top icons of the current era. Katy Perry sported a straight-up Bettie look for a long stretch of her career, and Madonna has rocked the hair and other Bettie-inspired touches (fishnets-and-gloves combo, the cone bra, fetish boots) numerous times. In 2014, these two stars even teamed up for a Bettie-inspired photo shoot for V magazine.
“When I put on the Bettie Page wig, I got into the character. I started researching Bettie Page and tried to channel her pinups and poses.”
Beyoncé has donned a full-on Bettie persona in three different music videos, first for the song “Video Phone” from her album I Am… Sasha Fierce, then again as a guest star in Lady Gaga’s video for “Telephone.” In a 2010 W magazine article in which she talks about the “seven looks that shaped her career,” her homages to Bettie make the list twice. She told the interviewer, “When I put on the Bettie Page wig, I got into the character. I started researching Bettie Page and tried to channel her pinups and poses.”
Queen Bey took it even further in her video for “Why Don’t You Love Me,” replicating the Queen of Pinups’s appearance and performance from a 1950s stag film produced by Irving Klaw. She recalled: “I was still thinking about Bettie Page, and wanted to do something that was inspired by her. This video was a secret: I paid for and codirected it and didn’t tell my label or my management. The clothes and jewelry are from my closet, the wigs are mine, and I did my own makeup.”
International burlesque sensation Dita Von Teese began her career as a Bettie look-alike before evolving into her own unique style. “Bettie Page was my very first inspiration. When I first saw her picture in a fetish shop in 1990, the first thing I noticed was her distinctive style,” she told me. “But what really fascinated me and kept my attention was much more than that. It was her sense of playfulness, her warmth and humor in those intense bondage and fetish scenes that really made me understand what captivates a viewer.”
Most likely it’s the combination of traits, including ones that seem conflicting, that contribute to that inexplicable Bettie magic. According to women who love Bettie, a huge part of her appeal is, in fact, this very ability to embody what we view as opposing qualities, to pull off something we are constantly told can’t be done.
“And here was this woman who had dark hair, curves, and people loved her. It was at that exact moment that I started to give up all of those old, impossible ideals I had set for myself and began to accept myself as I was.”
To many of these gals, their love of Bettie extends beyond simple admiration or even fangirl adoration. They will tell you she has literally changed their lives—even helped them recover from their own struggles and deep-seated societal conditioning. When someone told a glammed-up BrittanyJean, a pinup model from North Carolina who runs a blog called Perfectly Pinned Up, that she looked like Bettie Page during a night out, she looked her up when she got home. “I was stunned! She wasn’t the initial idea of what I thought beauty was at the time. I had grown up wanting to model, I starved myself to keep my weight down, and thought I would never be beautiful because it seemed all the women considered beautiful were blonde, tan, and super thin,” she recalls. “And here was this woman who had dark hair, curves, and people loved her. It was at that exact moment that I started to give up all of those old, impossible ideals I had set for myself and began to accept myself as I was.”
“Her down-to-earth vibe mixed with the naughty but girlish vibe, captivated me…”
How liberating to have an instant, explicit reminder that women have far more choices than we presumed, that we are not nearly as limited in what we can express or achieve as we were made to believe—that we don’t have to choose one or the other, after all. It was this surprising blend of traits that drew in Angelique Noire, a LA-based model. “Her down-to-earth vibe mixed with the naughty but girlish vibe, captivated me,” she explains. “She always seemed in control, even while tied up. She seemed to know how to communicate so many different feelings without saying a word.”
We have been told we can’t or shouldn’t be this and that at the same time, and yet there was Bettie—back in the even more sexist and stifling 1950s, mind you—plainly and rightfully calling bullshit on that notion simply by looking how she did and being exactly who she was. “I loved the way her attitude could easily shift from dominant to submissive, with each role an underlying sense of humor and amusement with herself,” says Von Teese. “Yes, she was beautiful, but there are so many more reasons that she’s managed to inspire generation after generation.”
It can be tremendously liberating to claim such a vast range of expression and emotion against the backdrop of restrictive gender expectations. It tells us there’s much more to explore beneath the surface—in both Bettie and ourselves. I doubt many women have learned about Bettie without also learning a lot about themselves.
“Learning more about her life and the way she tackled obstacles cheerfully—and without a care in the world about what others thought—has inspired me to have an optimistic attitude and, more importantly, to take everyone’s opinion with a grain of salt,” shares Young Sun Moon, an acupuncturist, yoga teacher, makeup artist, and model who also goes by the pinup name Sunny Moon. “Nobody will ever be happy all the time, but it is the attitude with which you face circumstances that makes the difference in how you feel about an outcome.”
“Learning more about her life and the way she tackled obstacles cheerfully—and without a care in the world about what others thought—has inspired me to have an optimistic attitude…”
- On Sale
- May 8, 2018
- Page Count
- 208 pages
- Running Press