Tess is the owner of the Burlesque, who befriends Ali as she tries to save her club, due to taxes. She is also played by Cher.
In the beginning, Ali finds Tess (Cher) and the dancers performing “Welcome to Burlesque” and decides to pursue a career on stage once she meets Jack (Gigandet). Jack refers her to Tess for an audition, but is rejected instantly and ushered out by Sean (Tucci). Instead of leaving, Ali begins serving customers at the club as a waitress, while Tess and Sean observe with Jack asking Tess to give Ali a chance.
When Georgia (Hough) becomes pregnant, auditions are held to replace her. Ali begins her audition when everyone leaves, and after performing "Wagon Wheel Watusi", persuades Tess to allow her to become one of the club's dancers, much to the annoyance of Nikki (Bell), a performer who is always late and caught drinking before numbers. Despite the club's growing success, Tess is still unable to pay the bank.
Soon pregnant former dancer Georgia marries her partner Damon. The wedding sees the dancers reunite as Sean and Tess dance together and reminisce about their history.
One night after the club closes, Tess, worried with the club's economic prospects, sings "You Haven't Seen the Last of Me". A very jealous Nikki shows up drunk and picks a fight with Tess, calling Ali a "slut with mutant lungs". Tess, who has grown frustrated with Nikki, questions her gratitude for the help she has received. Angered, Nikki quits on the spot (before falsely confessing that she slept with Vince after his and Tess' honeymoon), and the altercation ends when Tess angrily retaliates by smashing the passenger side window on Nikki's convertible with a crowbar.
Backstage at the Lounge Tess is drinking because of the failure of her financial terms and Ali walks in demanding to see her. She refuses to listen but after a short argument, Ali informs Tess about Marcus' plans for the Lounge. When Ali walked into the lounge she had noticed the sign on the wall saying 'The best view on the Sunset Strip' which had given her an idea.
The next day Tess and Ali go to the high rise apartments across the street from burlesque to tell them the plans of the development of the lounge, to the dismay of the owner of the apartments. They inform him of their air rights and sell theirs to him enabling them to pay off the club's debts.
While spending time with Marcus, Ali finds out about "air rights", which refers to the empty space above a building and what can be done with it. Ali breaks things off with Marcus after she sees his plans to build a skyscraper on the property the club is on. Ali tells Tess, and together they inform the owner of the new million-dollar condos across the street; fearing the loss of business that would result from the obstruction of his prospective tenants' view, he purchases the air rights to the club's property. The resulting money is enough for Tess to buy out Vince's share, pay off the bank, and re-fashion the club to her own vision. She also makes up with Nikki and rehires her at the club.