Bio of the Pin Up
Pin up girl Bernie Dexter
"Fashion design is the way I celebrate the female form."
Pin up girl & dress designer Bernie Dexter, born to Bernadette Belle, my brother and sisters started calling me Bernie the day my mother brought me home from the hospital. My mother is from Oklahoma City and became a burlesque dancer at the age of seventeen. My father is from the Philippine Islands and was in the US Navy. I can remember back to when I was as young as five years old, standing by my mother's side, watching her transform from girl next door to stunning vixen. I was fascinated by her. I would always try on her high heel shoes when she left the room.
When I was not studying my mom, I was enthralled by the Family Film Festival. I was so inspired by the glamour of Ginger Roger’s tap dancing, that at the age of five I begged my mom for tap dance lessons, and continued for ten years. I was signed up for my first beauty pageant when I was twelve years old and then continued participating in the pageant circuit until I was eighteen. Those pageants taught me a great deal about poise. At eighteen I won “Miss Teen San Diego County, USA, 1988,” and went to the “Miss Teen California, USA” pageant where I placed among the top fifteen contestants. In 1991, I moved to Hollywood to try modeling. I signed with an agency right away, but found it impossible to get work. It was different back then: there was no Internet so people could not really see my capabilities as a model. Ultimately, I realized that if I could not be in front of the camera, I was happy being behind it, and I decided to go to cosmetology school. I found that hairdressing came easily to me. The next thing I knew, I was doing all my friends’ hair and makeup before we went out to nightclubs.
My first job after graduating was in a salon on Melrose. I loved working there and it was at this time that I discovered the rockabilly scene. The music, dancing, and, of course, the fashion, were so exciting to me. I found it difficult to make friends in that setting, but I was so enthralled by it that I ended up going to shows alone and dancing with whomever asked. Through these connections, I heard that M.A.C. Cosmetics was looking for a new makeup artist. I was lucky enough to get the position and received the best makeup training during my time there. After one and a half years of working at M.A.C., I decided to freelance. I worked on shoots with photographers that specialized in pin up styles. I did hair, makeup, and wardrobe. I have worked on some of the most beautiful women in the world, including Dita Von Teese, Holly Madison, and many more!
One night, one of the photographers I worked for needed a test model and I volunteered. I submitted the photos to a pin up contest on the web and immediately the job offers came flooding in. One of my very first shoots was with "What Katie Did,” a line of vintage lingerie that has helped promote me since the very beginning. It's been a whirlwind!
I am influenced by many eras and artists, from the Golden Age of glamor to the bizarre and exotic. My favorite artists are John Willie and Olivia De Berardinis. I love champagne and potato chips, the colors red and baby blue, tight lacing corsets, high heels, stockings with garter belts, opera gloves, bullet bras, rockabilly music, old films, thrift shops, and antique stores. I love my collection of reproduction Exotique books. The people who inspire me include, Olivia, who gave me the encouragement to keep modeling; the love of my life, Levi Dexter; Mom, Immodesty Blaize, Poison Ivy; Ginger Rogers; Jean Harlow; Anne Miller; Anne Margaret; and Myrna Loy. * for the past 10 years i was advised by my lawyer not to mention Bettie Page. This has been something that has made me very uncomfortable an the cause of a lot of hate emails. It is because of the company who owns the rights to her images. It was the only way i could protect myself from them. However, I do love all of Bettie Pages images, of course she is a big influence, I do. I think she is amazing. She embodies everything "pin up". I never thought i looked like her, of course i see the resemblance now & i feel it is very much a blessing & a bit of a curse at the same time.