Natalie Decorte: The Former Ballerina on Love, Life & Her Passion For Polo

Natalie Decorte: The Former Ballerina on Love, Life & Her Passion For Polo

“Savour every moment with your children as they grow up too fast! It’s only taken me till my third child to actually heed this advice though. My first two were 18 months apart, so it was a little hectic and I was always just willing the next stage on. I kept telling myself  'it will be easier when they start solids, sleeping through, crawl, talk, walk… and it does get easier, but you don't get those moments back’”...

Bondi mama Natalie Decorte is full of sage advice. She’s also insanely gorgeous. Those genes? We were intrigued too. Her dad is from northern Italy and her mother is Peruvian, hence her dramatic beauty. “Family gatherings were always lively with Italian and Spanish spoken, and definite culture clashes between the outgoing Peruvians and more reserved Italians!” she says. Decorte started her career as a ballerina before hanging up her dance shoes and pursuing modelling. She’s now a busy mama of three – Indigo, 7, Blaise, 5, and Cassian, 5 months – and is the editor-in-chief of digital magazine The Polo Project (her husband Janek Gazecki founded Urban Polo). “It’s a way to share the stories and lifestyles of polo players and their families from Australia and around the world,” she says. Speaking of polo, next year, they’ll be holding a ‘Polo in the Vines’ event next year on 7th April at the Dark Horse Vineyard (have your Pretty Woman moment and get your tickets here – it’s an event for the whole family). We caught up with the beautiful Decorte to talk love, life and her passion for polo.  Photography: Michelle Holden | Hair and makeup: Jess Diez | Location: Dark Horse Vineyard

SHOP: Indigo wears Seed Heritage top, $49.95, and skirt, $49.95. Blaise wears Cotton On Kids T-shirt and Target shorts. Natalie wears Rosie Assoulin dress, from Parlour X, and Alexandre Birman shoes. 

What is the best advice you’ve been given about motherhood?

To savour every moment with your children as they grow up too fast! It’s only taken me until my third child to actually heed this advice though. This time with Cassian I’m making sure I really enjoy the baby stage. It sounds crazy but I’m truly sad when he drops a night feed or starts rolling – I don’t want him to grow up!

What does every mother need to get through some of the most trying stages of motherhood?

Perspective and a sense of humour. Friends and family because it really does take a village. Wine helps too.

Can you tell us about your childhood?

I grew up on Sydney’s North Shore. I think I had a pretty typical upbringing for those parts. My dad is an industrial chemist born in Northern Italy and my Peruvian mother was a fashion buyer before she had us and then a stay at home mum. I am the eldest of three with a brother two years younger and a sister seven years younger.

Where did you spend your summer holidays?

We spent many summer (and winter) holidays on the Hawkesbury River and Broken Bay. My dad has always loved boats and whether it was on his own vessel or a hired houseboat, we would be out on the river fishing, swimming and exploring every summer. Hunting for yabbies at low tide, building teepees out of sticks on the hidden beaches and falling asleep exhausted to the sounds of the waves lolling against the hull. Sunday afternoon at the marina, the big game fishermen would bring in their catch to be weighed and my brother and I would sit wide eyed watching all the Marlin, Tuna and Sharks being hauled up on the scales, it was a little gruesome but we loved it. These days it seems a little more crowded but we still enjoy getting out on river, now with three generations!

SHOP: Indigo wears Seed Heritage top, $49.95, and skirt, $49.95. Blaise wears Cotton On Kids T-shirt and Target shorts

Talk us through your career path – what do you remember about the days when you first started modelling? What have been some highlights?

I was actually introduced to modelling through my ballet career. I started ballet when I was five years old and started to take it seriously when my teachers noticed I had a natural talent for it. At 15, I was offered a scholarship to the Royal Ballet School in London, after winning a silver medal in an international ballet competition. So I left home and after 18 months of training in the school, I was offered a contract with the Royal Ballet! It was an amazing time of my life to be so far away from home at such a young age, even though I felt totally grown up at the time. After an initial year of boarding, I then shared an apartment with three other dancers, we had to cook and clean and budget for ourselves on top of a rigorous 8am to 5 pm dancing and study schedule so I grew up pretty quickly. I would come home once a year to see my family in the English summer and spent the shorter holidays with friends or family in Europe. I got into modelling accidentally when I was chosen to participate in a photographic collaboration with a jewellery company, Dom Perignon and the Royal Ballet. A well-known photographer, Rankin, was shooting and afterwards, he helped to get me an agency in London. I am on the shorter side for a model but my dancing experience seemed to give me an edge over the other models, especially when it came to television commercials and music videos. After six years living in London, I decided to come home and joined the Australian Ballet. I continued to model alongside my ballet career and eventually retired from dancing in 2006.

What is the most challenging part of modelling?

Compared to ballet, modelling is easy! But if I had to pick one thing it would be shooting summer outfits in the middle of winter! I hate being cold.

How did you meet your husband?

I first met Janek at one of his Polo events when I was living in Melbourne but it took us over a year and more chance meetings to actually start dating. We kept bumping into each other around Sydney, so I took it as a sign that I was meant to get to know this man! Despite his dashing good looks, I Initially thought he wasn’t my type because we were so different but I realise now that it works perfectly. There is a balance and where one of us is lacking, the other steps up. I can’t believe we have been together over eight years now, time really does fly…

Can you talk us through The Polo Project? What inspired the magazine?

Janek and I decided our events needed to have more of an online presence, something other than just the actual event day. We have always managed to get great publicity and exposure through print, radio and television, but with the e-zine we are able to control the aesthetics and narrative a bit more. It’s a way to share the stories and lifestyles of polo players and their families from Australia and around the world. Equestrian themed editorials, curated polo fashion tips and what to wear (would you believe that’s the topic we most get emailed about! ). Also included is information and rules about the game, all without being too horse-y. We want people that know nothing about polo to have a browse through and enjoy the articles, then attend the events knowing a little about the background of the sport and what goes on behind the scenes.

Can you talk us through what you do for Polo Events Australia?

Lately, not much as my youngest has been taking up most of my time! Usually I help Janek with the fashion and beauty aspects of the business and I’m also the Editor of ‘The Polo Project’. Getting together the magazine is quite labour intensive and I’m learning as I go along. When the series first started, there wasn’t much of an emphasis on polo fashion, but now we have a lot of sponsors coming on board and crossing over from the races as polo fashion is more versatile and fun! On the event days I coordinate the best dressed competition, picking finalists and helping the judges to choose the winners. It’s a lot of fun and the audience really gets involved, with lots of heckling and cheering.  

What are your time management tips – how do you juggle it all? Do you ever feel overwhelmed?

All the time! I think the main thing is preparation. I use the times when the kids are asleep or at school to make sure everything is ready for the next session. I prep school lunches the day before, always cook double and freeze leftovers, and have the next days clothing laid out ready to go for all the kids. Still, no matter how prepared you are, babies always have the best timing and manage to need a nappy change or vomit all over you when you are desperately trying to get somewhere on time!  Those moments are when the sense of humour comes in handy.

How do you handle sleep deprivation with two other children to care for?

Cassian has been a dream baby in regards to sleeping, but in the early weeks when I was feeding every three to four hours round the clock, I made sure I had day naps when the kids were at school. We did think the ideal time to have our third was once our other two were at school and it has worked out perfectly. I can quite happily go to bed these days at 8:30pm though and 10pm is a crazy late night for me.

What keeps you sane?

Adult conversation! I am lucky to have Janek working from home so I can hassle him whenever I need a dose.

What are your tips for home organisation with children? How do you keep your home organised?

Teach the children to tidy up their own stuff! I haven’t perfected this one yet but I am really trying to teach the elder two to be responsible for their belongings. Also, in the mornings I have a chart that they can tick off as they are getting ready for school, so I’m not having to nag them to brush teeth, put on shoes, pack readers and aim to get out of the house on time! The kids also need to be putting their pyjamas under their pillow, dirty clothes in the wash basket and plates in the sink… all those little things add up throughout the day and make me feel less like a slave!

SHOP: Indigo wears Seed Heritage top, $49.95, and skirt, $49.95. Blaise wears Cotton On Kids T-shirt and Target shorts

What is your approach to health and wellbeing?

Health and wellbeing is very important to me. Kids copy everything you do so if you can set a good example when they’re young, exercising and eating well will come naturally to them. I cook everything from scratch, with as many vegetables squeezed in as possible. I aim to exercise three times a week (I love my yoga) and teach the children to get outside in the fresh air instead of being stuck on iPads. In addition, I feel its important to know when to relax and let your body recuperate. I didn’t do anything other than walking for 4 months after Cassian was born and with Indigo it was 6 months. I eat well the majority of the time but I enjoy wine, cheese and chocolate without any guilt.

What do you love most about raising children in Sydney?

I love the community feel in Bondi. Its been really lovely to have neighbours that you can rely on and there’s a great village feel, especially in the North End. The beach is such an energy source and in the summer we try and go swimming before school. In winter, we walk to the North Point and spot whales. It’s incredible to be so close to a bustling metropolis but then to live on the edge of the immense pristine wilderness that is the Pacific Ocean! There are not many places in the world like Sydney and I feel very fortunate to be able to bring up my family here.

What makes you feel stressed?

Clutter. I may be mildly OCD.

What’s your approach to fashion – what’s a typical look for you when you’re with your kids and what brands do you love?

I’m fan of vintage clothing so if I can work a few of those pieces into my daily outfits, I’m happy! Otherwise it’s just high waisted jeans and a tee or casual shirt, with trainers or loafers. If it’s hot, I love a floral maxi dress or skirt from Auguste the Label.  They also do Little Auguste and use the same fabrics so Indigo and I can match! There is even mum and daughter swimsuits, I know she won’t want to match me forever so I’ll make the most of it now.

Last destination you travelled to?

Bali, for a third baby recovery session. We had a live in Nanny and it was wonderful.

After you answer these questions, you’re going to….

Bed, its way past my bedtime.

Natalie's List of Little Loves...

  • Brownies from North Bondi Wholefoods – I may be slightly addicted and have had to limit myself to one per day.
  • Lullaby Baby Skincare – I was sent a package when Cassian was born. The base for all the creams is organic aloe vera as opposed to water so they are super luxurious and smell divine.
  • Dark horse vineyard Rose – Delightful and perfect for spring soirees.
  • Joonya baby wipes – Hypoallergenic, eco friendly wipes that come in bulk and delivered straight to your door, ticks so many boxes!
  • Wisteria – It covers our back patio and is in full bloom right now.
  • Eminence Coconut Milk Cleanser – I love it so much that I actually wash my face twice a day now instead of my old skincare routine which involved just splashing it with water in the shower.
  • Playa by Lucy Folk – The shop on Gould Street makes me want to book a million back to back summer holidays.
  • Savasana. Doesn’t really need an explanation, right?