The Exotic Sinner: Tana Louise

The internet is awash with images of scantily clad women but one thing that lurks on the dark side of the net are the black and white images of young ladies cavorting in their heels and underwear in a time where such things were taboo – the 1950’s. Bent over a chair in suspenders and a girdle with a cheeky smile spoke to men in a way that some pornographic imagery does today but in these black and white images there is something quite genuine about the fun of these photoshoots and about the models themselves, they were curvy and not Photoshop perfect in any way. These women oozed real sexiness that appealed to the man on the street and more recently these women are role models for many ladies out there. As one of the most popular models of the era –  the beautiful Bettie Page was a major attraction but it is unfortunate that some other models were slightly overshadowed by her success. A model that caught the eye of many with her wicked smile and exotic looks is Tana Louise.


Tana was a burlesque striptease artist who became more famous as a fetish model and columnist in Leonard Burtman’s magazine Exotique. During her time there she was a regular model and like her contemporary, Bettie Page, she also worked with photographer Irving Klaw. Tana certainlt lived up to her dominatrix ways and was named the “Cincinnati Sinner” due to an altercation with a fellow dancer Emerald Forrest who filed a report saying that Tana had hit her over the head with a club – this added a feisty bow to Tana’s already fiery persona. She went onto marry Leonard but love hit the rocks and they divorced which resulted in her leaving the magazine and disappearing from the public eye.

In the 1960’s she teamed up with friend and fellow burlesque dancer Mara Gaye and together they started a mail order catalogue company called Tana and Mara but it has been rumoured that they had no merchandise to sell and were just making money from the catalogues themselves – whether this has been confirmed is unknown.

Although she may not be known to everyone, Tana’s image pops up quite frequently in the Irving Klaw collections and her distinctive looks and demeanour make her one of the best fetish models of our time.


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