Noelle Politiek, as a young girl, wanted to become a nun. As a novice in the monastery, she missed humanity, empathy and honesty, which was at odds with her personal spirituality. This had prompted the then twelve-year-old to make a quick exit out of the indoctrination and from there on undertake an unusual path leading her to become a real estate magnate. In this article, together with Ibiza Style Magazine, she exclusively looks back on her eventful, thirty years on the island. It was pure coincidence that she came to the White Island at all. But first things first.
Hey Noelle, thanks for your time, much appreciated.
You’re welcome, Sasha.
You are from Holland, your parents are from Southeast Asia.
Indonesia, to be exact. I was born with them in Heerlen. Nobody knows that. (Laughs)
In the province of Limburg. Five kilometres from Maastricht.
What was it like growing up there?
Super. I had six brothers and sisters.
Were you the youngest?
For a long time, yes, until my younger sister was born five years later. We had a wonderful time and I was a spoilt child.
Which doesn’t always end well.
It did for me. (laughter)
Did you have to learn to fight for your things early on? I mean, the competition was fierce.
No, not at all. We were always couples. Two of a similar age. And we sort of shared each other’s lives. With me it was my brother. So I got everything a girl wanted – and he got everything a boy wanted. I got my dress, my brother got his football. That’s how it was.
Was it really all separate?
Of course not! (Laughter)
What was interesting was that I only wanted the dress because I knew I could have it – but I didn’t like it at all. Besides, I was only out with the boys, wanted to be outside, romping around, climbing and jumping over ponds. I was a tomboy.
These are girls who do not adhere to gender roles as prescribed by society. A topic that couldn’t be more topical. You were ahead of your time.
In some ways I was. Have always done what I think is right.
Stealing cigarettes from mum – and smoking them. (laughter)
And then played football with a fag in your mouth?
(laughter) Of course not. (laughter)
You don’t do that! (Laughter)
Principles in puberty.
Exactly. That’s when I decided I wanted to be a nun.
I beg your pardon?
Yes, I always wanted to help people.
You can do that, you don’t have to become a nun.
Yes, but because I grew up Catholic, I had a real approach to this way of life. I was always in church – and found it so beautiful. When I went in there, I didn’t come out for five hours.
What were you doing in there for so long?
There were five masses in a row – and I didn’t want to miss any. (laughter)
Seriously? That’s the same one every time, isn’t it?
Yes, the first one started at 8 a.m., the last one at noon.
But you can’t have found that really exciting?
Yes, but it wasn’t just the masses. The whole atmosphere. I loved the incense. The hosts were magical. The pastor with the long black dress and the many buttons.
Just like you today.
(laughter) Noelle wears a long black dress, precious real bling jewellery around her neck and wrists – and there are a few shimmering buttons on the sleeves).
It’s rubbed off.
Seems like it. (laughter)
I thought it was so great. I could help children and said to myself: I’ll stay there – and become a nun.
That’s unusual for a little girl. You have to do without a lot.
Yes, I wanted that. I entered a convent.
How old were you?
How was that?
You’ll only be a novice. For two years. During which you must prove that you believe only in God.
How do you prove that?
By having no contact with the outside world for the entire time.
Yeah, and I had a novice friend. Her mum got sick, died, and she wasn’t allowed to go to the funeral.
I can’t believe it.
I lost my faith.
I hope so.
I ran away. When I came back, my mum said, “I knew you’d come back!”
More than that. The same thing happened to her.
You’re not serious?
Yes. She also left the convent at 15.
But you didn’t know that?
No, she wanted me to have my own experience.
Then you turned completely around. And you started smoking pot, right?
(laughter) You would think so. But you know, Sasha, I come from a drug town. And half of my friends have died from it.
I know that too. That shapes you.
Marijuana, LSD, heroin, cocaine – everything that was readily available there: I never took it.
Well done. You can see it too, to be honest.
(Embarrassed) Thanks for the compliment. I never drank either.
You don’t have to. Many succumb to peer pressure.
Yes, Sascha, especially here on Ibiza, where everyone is often drunk.
What was your outlet back then – what did you do after leaving the monastery?
I became a model.
From pestilence to cholera.
Well, the fashion scene is not a perfect world either.
That’s true, I didn’t expect it to be.
How did you get into it?
I was doing my A-levels and wanted to work part-time. Modelling was obvious and interested me.
Where did you start?
In Amsterdam. And from there I went to Paris.
Did that fulfil you?
No, I realised what an empty world it was.
I told you so.
I told you, you’re right. (laughter)
I made really good money, but decided at the beginning of 19: Get out of here!
Like back then in the monastery.
About as fast and resolute, yes. It just wasn’t my world.
Congratulations. I mean, you were 19 – and you already had to classify and make rigorous decisions. Not many people can do that at that age.
Sascha, when you don’t see each other for half a year, the first question is: How do I look? Not: How are you? Where have you been? But when you see each other again and again at the international shows, the most important question is: How do I look? What am I doing in this world, Sascha?
I know this from Zurich, where I worked for sixteen years, regardless of the industry. When you meet someone, they first ask your name and then your profession. Depending on what you answer, they continue talking to you.
Oh yes, bad.
At some point I turned the tables and started saying that I was a rubbish man. It’s a safe bet, I tell you – nine out of ten run away.
(laughter) I said, especially to men, I was unemployed. (laughter)
And nine out of ten men left.
Sure. And you had your peace.
(laughter) I earned a lot of money with modelling, Sascha. More than anyone who ran away.
Well, I quickly got 10,000 D-marks for a shoot. Or 15,000 D-marks for a fashion show.
Did you become a millionaire as a teenager?
No, I didn’t. But I could buy a car in cash without batting an eyelid.
Still, you quit.
That superficiality was unbearable. And money isn’t everything, Sasha. Plus, if you sleep with the bosses or photographers, you get ahead. You get more jobs. I wasn’t up for that.
But what for?
That’s exactly what I thought about. I had my A-levels, could go to university, had the best contacts in the Amsterdam and Paris fashion scenes, knew renowned lawyers, pilots, doctors, musicians – all doors were open to me.
Did that make you insecure?
Yes, my life was going on. I didn’t even have to buy clothes until then. I got everything as a gift. But I wasn’t interested in all that. I’ve always been interested in people who wear these clothes. I left.
Where did you go?
I met my first husband there. And I asked him what the women were doing here. He said, laughing, “They’re all happy housewives. He had me there! (laughter)
Tell that to a feminist.
(laughter) Like I said, I care about people – and the time I spend with them.
I see. Family, that is. Taking care of each other. That was always your greatest wish. Which is why you wanted to become a nun.
Exactly, Sascha. That’s a good point.
(Smiling and enthusiastic) That was exactly my country, Sascha. No one asked me what I did, what I did for a living. I felt comfortable there.
Then I cancelled all my contracts. All of them. Fashion shows for the summer, photo shoots, new collections – all cancelled. Packed my bags. And became a tour guide in Greece.
Because you could. And wanted to.
Yes, I had enough money – and did what my heart told me. It was the right decision. I fell in love, married an officer and had a child.
How did he get you? Not with that one dad joke, right?
I met him on my last holiday before I moved there. And he wrote me letters all the time. For really long periods of time. They didn’t have mobile phones then. He did that for so long, once a week, until he won my heart.
Romantic. And then you settled down. Where in Greece was that?
Yeah, that’s right. It was in Kos. At some point I opened a clothes shop. I knew from modelling where the clothing centres were, where to order the best pieces, etc. So I was just a part-time housewife.
So just a part-time housewife after all. If at all.
(laughter) Yes, you said it.
How long could you do that? As a tradition-breaker and non-full-time housewife?
(laughter) Four years, until I realised exactly that: being a housewife is not really my thing.
But you had to make the experience.
Yes, of course. I separated from my husband on good terms and went back to Amsterdam with my son.
To do what?
I had my A-levels, but no studies. So I got a sales job at Mercedes in Amsterdam. And – long story short – after just one year I won the award for best car saleswoman in the Netherlands.
What a start to my career! What happened next?
No, here it comes.
The award for this achievement came with a prize money of 5’000 D-Mark – and a trip to Ibiza. (laughter)
And there you stayed.
(laughter) Because that’s where I met my second husband. Again, on one of the last days of my holiday.
You’re joking. No way. Come on… Did he write letters too?
Yes! Faxes!! 30 pages of faxes, Sascha! (laughter)
To the Mercedes office? Or did you have your own?
Of course to the office! (Laughter)
Yes, he then wrote in the decisive fax: “Noellecita – I think you’re so great, I want to marry you!”
That was his marriage proposal?
Yes! All of Mercedes read that!
And hopefully they all clapped.
(laughter) When I told them that I had also fallen in love with him and was moving to Ibiza, they all said…
(laughter) No, they all said: What a nightmare, you won that prize!
Yeah, I’ve been here ever since. Exactly thirty years ago. Was happily married until my husband unfortunately passed away. He was a great architect.
I’m sorry to hear that. Thirty years is a long time. What kept you here?
First of all my husband, of course, then I just loved the island. That which drives me inwardly, to get to know people without prejudice and to live my life according to my values: I can do that here. And funny things happen all the time that show my naivety and impartiality.
Can you give me an example?
Back then, there was a café in Marina Botafoch called Cafe Sydney, where I sat and drank coffee. Next to a guy who briefly introduced himself to me as Juan. And I introduced myself too. We talked about boats, sailors, children, family, Ibiza, the differences to Palma. What he preferred was Ibiza, of course. We chatted for an hour and then he had to leave. We said a friendly goodbye. Then the guy got up, followed by ten other men who were also sitting in the café. Whereupon the waitress came up to me and asked: Noelle, are you aware of who you just spoke to? And I said, yes, he said his name was Juan. Nice guy!
Which was true, wasn’t it?
Yes, she looked at me uncomprehendingly, waved it off and said: Yes, Juan.: Juan – Carlos. That was King Juan Carlos of Spain.
World class. Did you exchange numbers?
No, but it shows you how naive I am about the world. And I don’t know these celebrities. At least not at first glance. And I don’t care about their status.
Which makes them want to talk to you for longer. Because it’s a conversation at eye level. I know this well from the music industry – stars usually don’t want to be addressed like “stars”.
Yes, I talk about what interests me. Do you have children? Where are you from? What is important to you? Have you ever been divorced?
Has this happened to you more than once?
All the time. For example, when I came to the island in the early nineties, I worked at Pikes. And I did the manicures of the guests.
And there were one or two celebrities.
(laughter) Yes, indeed. Tony Curtis, for example, who offered me his drawing. (laughter)
That’s great. Tell me more?
I went to the bar to get a drink. And there was Tony Curtis asking me if I wanted him to draw me something.
Of course you wanted that!
No, I said, you don’t have to draw me anything. (laughter)
Well, that drawing would probably be worth a fortune now.
Definitely! But I didn’t want it and I still don’t want it!
I also told Niki Lauda at Pacha to take a hike when he wouldn’t stop hitting on me. He kept asking me out for a drink – I told him: I don’t want a drink. And you’re a bore. Get lost! (laughter)
You just didn’t recognise him without a helmet.
(laughter) I’d have said the same thing if I’d known who he was.
Who was the most horrible person you ever met?
That’s the one.
She just radiated bad energy, was always arguing with her husband, always in front of everyone, everyone could or had to watch it. And once when we were on Formentera, at an event, she degraded me to persona non grata because I didn’t want to snort cocaine.
Yes, I was the spoilsport then.
Exactly, and, as we discussed, I came here and stayed because in Ibiza you are valued for who you are – not what I am.
Is that still the case today?
Of course the spirit is still the same and palpable – that rare energy is what makes the island. It will always be like that. When I arrived, there were 60,000 inhabitants – now there are 150,000. Officially registered. It’s clear that not everyone knows everyone anymore.
As an estate agent, you sell and rent out properties in the higher segment. There must have been some bizarre moments, right? Property inspection or handover?
Oh yes – haha. There was this elderly Italian couple who wanted to see a fancy villa. It was rented out, but they had arranged with the tenants that viewings could take place. And so I arrived at the villa on the day in question. I see that the door is open – and enter the pool area, where there are 12 naked men, and a naked woman on an air mattress, wearing a nurse’s hat.
Yes. But the best is yet to come: this air mattress had twelve infusion tubes from which the men consumed whiskey. (laughter)
As good as it gets. How did the couple react?
The man said: If I had known, I would have come without a wife. (laughter)
Ibiza is a bit like a forbidden fruit that everyone talks about – and everyone wants to taste.
Exactly, and if you have the right faith, like me, then you can. Because that closes the circle: I always wanted to become a nun, too, because in the Christian faith I’m allowed to do what I want – if I confess. All the things that God has forbidden, I can confess away.
In the name of god, the almighty: Thank you very much for this refreshing conversation.