Art by Olivia De Berardinis
Here we have Bernie Dexter, pinup queen, fashion designer and model. Her clothing line is inspired by the 1940's and 50's style and is made in the United States. Bernie has even been the subject of a painting by Olivia De Berardinis who is best known for her Bettie Page artwork. She now resides in Portland, Oregon with her husband, Rockabilly Hall of Famer Levi Dexter. We wanted to know more, so on to the interview. We absolutely love her and her gorgeous smile. You can also follow Bernie on Facebook. All photos unless otherwise stated are by Levi Dexter.
I'm sure that many people are curious about what brought you into Pinup?
I was really into Rockabilly & Swing music back in the 1990’s. I loved going to see bands and dancing all night long. It was different then, you had to get a paper and search for things to do. There was no internet to depend on. I would go to thrift shops and look for clothes to wear. I was such a fanatic. I only wore vintage clothing & I even only used to wear vintage lingerie. I had already given up my dream of modeling by the time I was 22. I went to beauty college & learned to do hair.. I got a job with MAC and that was where I learned to do make up. I would freelance doing hair , make up & I also provided clothing for photographers. Most of the time I would help post the models for a more authentic look. Soon they were asking me to come back to be the model.. it was wild and has been a whirlwind! =D I have enjoyed every minute of it!!
What words of wisdom would you give to an aspiring Pinup?
Follow your heart, express yourself thru your photo shoots. Keep in mind it is not about who you know or networking, it is just about doing the images and putting them out there and waiting to see if people respond. The public will pick who they want to pin up. =D
You're obviously in great shape. What do you do to keep that beautiful figure?
Aww thank you!!! I have been working hard at it. When I started modeling in 2001, I was not in the best shape. I did Weight Watchers. I learned about portion control. I also walked a lot. I kept slim & fit for 10 years till I was hit with 4 aggressive growing tumors in 2012. It is a common condition but not at the rate mine were growing. It was pretty scary. Aggressive ones like I had are more likely to be cancer… so we wanted them out and fast. I had to be on medication to shrink them before I could have them removed. Then it took 3 years to be able to really work out again. I started with yoga. It was great for stretching… then back to the treadmill 25 min a day EVERY DAY and strict portion control and low fat meals. It only took 6 weeks to get back to the shape that I was in before the nightmare. Now it's just maintenance like before. =D
Are there any beauty tips that you'd be willing to share?
Sure, I love Laura Mercier cosmetics & skin care. I never travel with out Aquaphore and I love Ceravie moisturizer. Best lip liner is Cherry liner by Mac and lipstick is Russian Red by Mac. I've been wearing them for 20 years. I LOVE Bare Minerals for photo shoots.
You're also a clothing designer. Where do you draw your inspiration from?
My inspiration is really from the music that I listen too , films that I watch and vintage pieces that I have owned over the years. The prints that I choose are usually inspired by places that I have been and seen. I live in my own technicolored world =D
All of your brand name clothing is made in the United States. How important is this to you and why?
Yes and it is so important. I am celebrating the female form and knowing that I am putting people in the USA to work is amazing. I get emails all the time to produce in China or India, but I just do not have the heart to do it.
Was designing clothing something that you've always wanted to do?
Yes as young as I could remember, I wanted to be a model & fashion designer =D It was what I dreamed of every day.
You've recently opened a brick and mortar store in Gresham, Oregon. What made you decide to take that step?
It has been so amazing. It was scary really. you never know how people will perceive what you're doing. I live in a wonderful small community and the shop is only a 10 min drive from my home. I have the most amazing customers. Quite often we hear them say when they come in, Oh so cute but you won’t have my size… and we say yes we do! I LOVE seeing their faces when they try on a dress or jeans… Their smiles are so rewarding to me.
If a shopper comes into your store, will they see you there in person?
A lot of the time they will =) I am normally backstage working doing shipping =D
Is there anything that you'd like to add about your clothing line? Where can you purchase it?
It can be purchased at Berniedexter.com
You've had a lot of ventures in the Rockin' scene. You've played a big part in the Atomic Festival, hosted the PinUp pageant and Fashion Show at the Rockabilly Rave U.K. just to name a few. You'll be hosting the PinUp pageant at the Nashville Boogie in May. Do you have any other future events planned?
I have been so lucky, and I don’t take any of it for granted. I really have enjoyed every minute of each event. I will be meeting and greeting at a Jungle Tigers show with Levi Dexter in Germany in July and again in Jan. 2017. We will be back in Germany for another Levi Dexter
Jungle Tigers show and celebrating my birthday. Levi is also playing another festival In England in 2017 in Devon =D I will be with him.
Which events are your favorites and why?
Ohh so MANY!
Hemsby is such a great festival!! It is so traditional and intimate, I just love it. The Rockabilly Rave is great too. Totally different but insane fun. I loved Waldorf weekender in Germany, such lovely people. I also love Blue Monday in France. I love that it is intimate and such wonderful people run it and the fans that go are so lovely.
Who are some of your idols and inspirations?
I love Ginger Rogers. she is such a wonderful mix of glamor and fun. I have adored her for as long as I can remember. I even took tap dance because I wanted to be like her. Myrna Loy is another fave, so exotic and once again beautiful and funny. Bettie Page is always queen and Marilyn… wow those two I could just go on for days… For modern inspiration, I love Imelda May, she is such a wonderful example of a successful person who is well grounded. She is gorgeous and just a lovely person. I also really love Immodesty Blaze. BEAUTIFUL sexy sophisticated lady & so kind.. I get most of my inspiration from Olivia De Berardinis. She is the Vargas of our time. She has been a wonderful friend and source of inspiration. Not just by her art work, that is obvious, but by her encouragement to keep going and that I have “something” whatever “it” is. And she was there for me when I needed a shoulder to cry on, and lets face it she is just BEAUTIFUL!!!
What are some of your favorite things to do?
I just love to spend time with Levi Dexter. We love to go to England whenever we can and just walk everywhere!
Who are your favorite original 50's artists?
Charlie Feathers, Joe Clay, Warren Smith, Ruth Brown, Johnny Burnette… oh so many =D
What are your favorite parts about weekenders?
DANCING!!!! =D and seeing friends.
Do you have a favorite song or songs?
Oh YES such a long list
All Through The Night
Train kept Rollin'
That Certain Female
Slipping Out Sneakin In
I Wanna Bop
Every thing by Levi Dexter! & so MUCH MORE…..
And.....the most important questions....bop, jive, stroll or all three?
ALLLL THREEEEEE =D
Photos by Levi Dexter
Photo by Vestige