Rediscovering the Art of Glamour: Girl-Next-Door Bernie Dexter is Modern Answer to Bettie Page
Sugar & spice and everything nice. Bernie Dexter is the stuff that dreams are made of. Boys fantasize about her, girls want to be her. Channeling the charm and sweet sophistication of a bygone era, the once shy gal pretty much bares it all these days in sheer style.
The epitome of old-world glamour, there’s undeniably something special about the beautiful Bernie Dexter. It goes way beyond her timeless beauty and cursory comparison to the late, great iconic Bettie Page.
Born to a burlesque dancer from Oklahoma City and a U.S. Navy serviceman from the Philippines, the Southern California gal was destined for stardom—although it didn’t come easy and wasn’t so straightforward.
From tap dancing at age five to her first beauty pageant at 12, Bernie was crowned Miss Teen San Diego County at 18. Her very brief foray into modeling quickly sidelined into studying cosmetology, landing her gigs as a makeup artist and hair stylist, as well as a set and wardrobe designer on photo shoots for the likes of Dita Von Teese and Holly Madison.
Surprisingly, it wasn’t until her early 30’s that Bernie stepped out from behind the makeup brushes and in front of the lens that her career as a pin-up girl picked up.
From the pages of international magazines like Elle (Sweden and Italy), German Playboy, Barracuda, and Bachelor Pad, to being a spokes-model, a video vixen, and fashion designer, today, Bernie is larger than life.
Carving out a true niche for herself, she has been recognized as one of AskMen’s Top 10 modern pin-ups. She is the face of True Corset, Stumpton Tart for Bridgeport Brew, and 50’s online fashion boutique, Ars Vivendi. She can also be seen gracing the cover of the newly-released Rockabilly Dolls CD by hubby Levi Dexter with Steve Hooker—and heard making her vocal debut, singing backups on “Jack the Ripper”—a cover of a Screaming Lord Sutch song.
Jumping from stills to live action, Bernie gets groovin’ in her first music video for Si Cranstoun’s “1950′s Pin Up Girl”—a song Si penned especially for her. She is set to star in his follow-up video this October.
If that’s not all, the raven-haired beauty even designs her very own retro fashion collection, Bernie Dexter Clothing.
Forever young, a role model and true inspiration to women worldwide, Bernie Dexter stopped to catch her breath and show A.U.D.R.A. some love, fresh from all the excitement of her recent trip to Europe.
Um, so you were actually turned down by Playboy?! Do tell.
Yes, I actually tried out to be a playmate. It was nice because the photographer was aware of who I was already and even had me sign magazines he had there with me in them.
I got the dreaded reject letter. Then a couple months later, I was at an Olivia art show in Hollywood, and Keith Hefner was smitten and said he saw a Playboy pictorial in my near future. Never heard from them. I chalk it up to politics in Hollywood and I do not play the game. I refuse too. Just having Keith go nuts over me at the party was wonderful enough.
It goes without saying, the resemblance is stunning. Do you ever get tired of parallels being drawn between you and Bettie Page?
Thank you so much. I do not get tired of it, it just makes me sad. I use to love it, but over the years there have been so many problems with CMG Worldwide who won the Bettie Page Estate & the likeness to her image.
How does it feel to be compared to such an iconic figure?
It is amazing. Really, I do not think I look like her as much as I have a similar effect on people.
What gives Bernie Dexter her edge?
I think it is because I am true to who I am. I am not pretending to be something I am not. It is great to be inspired by others, but you cannot “be” someone else. I realized this early. The more myself I was, the better my projects came out.
You’ve been dubbed the queen of pin-ups in your own right, and compared to the likes of Dita Von Teese. We know the groove is in your heart. Is the world of burlesque anywhere on the horizon?
Awww thank you! I leave burlesque to the gals who do it best. However I did dance in a music video for Si Cranstoun when I was in England last month. It will be out real soon. The name of the song is 1950′s Pin Up Girl.
You always seem to be the picture of perfection: Perfect skin, perfect hair, perfect physique. What’s your secret to your keeping yourself looking so fresh? Do you have any special beauty regime, and tell us just how do you maintain your flawless shape—especially with a love for potato chips?!
Well, I use Aquaphor healing ointment everyday on my face, and Bare Minerals makeup and I think it is AMAZING. It photographs so well! I do love my potato chips with champagne, but the key is not everyday—only on special occasions. I also follow Weight Watchers!!
Following in the footsteps of your mom’s platform stilettos, what is the single most cherished beauty secret she shared with you from her burlesque dancing days?
Oh yes! I learned all my make-up and hair techniques from her. She always said: “Do not look too close in the mirror.” She meant if you look close you will find flaws, and no one looks at you that close.
You obviously have an eye for classic style. What celebs do you admire in terms of fashion?
I LOVE the fashion sense of Jennifer Lopez, Debi Mazar, Dita Von Teese—these women have their own style and wear it so well! Timeless and elegant.
Tell us about your fashion line. Why did you decide to start designing and how involved are you in the process?
It is a reflection of my own personal style. I have modeled for so many new clothing lines, intermitted their pieces and watched them grow to great success. So, I thought I should share my point of view. It has also been a great success, and growing so fast!
Does a gal have to be pin-up to wear your clothes?
You do not have to be pin-up to wear Bernie Dexter. I design classic pieces anyone, any age can wear!
What would you say is the biggest misconception of pin-up models today?
That they are all rockabilly. Most I have met are borrowing the style but not really into the lifestyle and music. I was a rockabilly girl long before I was a pin up model.
Why are pin-ups so popular these days? What’s up with this resurgence?
It is amazing for women to re-embrace their femininity and realize that contrary to feminist in the 1960s, our femininity makes us strong! Women and girls are rediscovering the art of glamour and loving it!
How competitive is the world of the modern pin-up, and how does it compare to the mainstream modeling industry?
It is very competitive. It seems almost every girl on the Internet is a pin-up model! I think it is great! There is absolutely no way to compare to the mainstream modeling industry because a lot of the modern style models have a slim, thin, tall build. Pin-ups have an obvious hourglass shape much like women in the 1940s and 1950s.
With the almighty web, anyone can become a celebrity overnight. How has the Internet affected your approach to your career?
This is so true. The thing I love is that in-person I may not be an “obvious” choice, but the Internet gave me a chance to show what I can do. I have gotten so much work based on my photos on the Internet—sort of a virtual portfolio! After the first photo I posted, job offers came flowing in!
Congrats on becoming the face of True Corset! You’ve been the spokesmodel for 50’s online fashion boutique Ars Vivendi and Stumpton Tart for Bridgeport Brew (have to say, you don’t seem like a beer drinker!). Where else can we catch Mrs. Dexter these days and what’s next?
Thank you! I JUST released the new Bridgeport Brew Stumptown Tart beer! Strawberry infused! I am more of a Champagne girl! heheee
What advice can you share for women when it comes to pursuing their dreams?
I have learned never give up on your dreams. Just because things do not work out the way you want or hoped, does not mean there is not something great in store for your future!
What is the single most thing people would be stunned to learn about you?
I am 41 years old and 5’2, self-made businesswoman with a high school diploma and a cosmetology license. I have a work hard ethic!!
Would you say you’re living the dream life?
Oh YES! I am living out every dream I ever had! I feel so lucky. Everyday I count my blessings.
Photos by Levi Dexter
Clothes from Bernie Dexter Clothing; Lingerie from Bernie Dexter for Lucy B.