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Hansen: Sin is pretty in black

November 21, 2012|By David Hansen
  • Denise Levesque with an embalming table at her store, Sin is Pretty.
Denise Levesque with an embalming table at her store,… (Coastline Pilot )

If sin is unavoidable, then Denise Levesque wants to make it beautiful.

Levesque embraces all things odd because she can't help it, readily admitting that in another time, she probably would have been burned at the stake.

The Laguna Beach native hopes to fill a void in the area with a brand new shop called "Sin is Pretty," located at 1850 S. Coast Hwy. It will be a real gothic alternative to Black Friday.

Like something out of "American Horror Story," Levesque's shop resembles part vintage clothing store and part insane asylum.

That's because some of the pieces actually came from the now-closed Agnews Insane Asylum in Santa Clara, such as the still-functioning ether machine.

As in life, there are many inexplicable things that are hard to describe, and you are too afraid to ask: an antique birthing stool, monkey skeletons, 19th century Victorian taxidermy, a portable embalming table, bats, jewelry made out of beetle wings, shoes with vertebrae.

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"I've gotten people who will say, 'This kind of scares me.' And I'll say, 'Good,'" Levesque said. "I haven't gotten a hardcore Christian woman; I haven't gotten any of that yet. Everyone has been pretty open to it and digging it."

Tattooed with a fondness for punk rock, Levesque, 31, freely admits she took the long road, detouring through a stint with drugs, early pregnancy and aimlessness. She said she has seen more than 600 punk shows — The Cramps is her all-time favorite band — and became engaged during a Marc Almond concert, lead singer of Soft Cell.

Now almost 10 years sober with college under her belt, she never lost sight of owning her own business and giving back to Laguna.

"Growing up here, I just want something different," she said. "Most of what I sell is my oddity type things." "I just want to bring that odd side back to Laguna like when I was a teenager. I love that."

She is not alone.

There is the TV show "Oddities" that has made mummified cats, straightjackets and art assembled from nail clippings mainstream.

Levesque laments the popularity in some ways because it turns everything into a freak show competition.

"It's a little discouraging," she said. "I started doing all this stuff when it was still early, so I've watched it become more popular. Like tattoos, I think it's just become more mainstream."

For Levesque, it's more about the art and the quality of the corset stitching.

A trained seamstress, she makes her own custom corsets, among many other obscure talents.

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