Homeless, humiliated & hopeful: A cautionary tale from the woman formally known as Kate Fischer
It wasn’t actually what I sat down to watch and it certainly wasn’t what I expected but I couldn’t look away. I was on the couch ahead of the Prime Minister’s scheduled interview with Stan Grant on the ABC.
The Project was on Channel 10 and I caught Carrie Bickmore’s introduction to her interview with Tziporah Malkah, who was previously known as the model and actress Kate Fischer.
I didn’t move for the next ten minutes as Malkah opened up on her “fall from grace”: in her words she explained how she traversed the terrain from multimillionaire model who graced the cover of Vogue, who was engaged to a billionaire, to a homeless woman living in a shelter in Melbourne.
It was captivating and crushing to watch. This was a seriously intelligent woman who was completely honest about the way her life became derailed. It was devoid of malice, manipulation or the messaging celebrity media appearances so often entail.
She simply answered Carrie’s questions about the reality of her soaring career success, a very public separation, family estrangement and then plumbing the depths of homelessness.
Like many others, last year I saw the paparazzi photographs of Malkah where she was outside her home wearing a sheet. It was the first I had seen or heard of her in many years.
Like anyone with even a pinch of compassion I felt awful for having seen those images. This was not a woman wanting to be photographed. This was a woman in hiding, who the press wanted to humiliate. It turns out the photographer had been waiting outside her home for nine weeks before he captured his “money shot”.
“I think it was intended to be humiliating,” Malkah told Bickmore.
It thrust her back into the spotlight after years of living through a private hell.
She was in tears as she showed Bickmore around the women’s shelter where she lived for 2 years.
“I just sat down on my bed and wept,” Malkah explained of the day she first arrived there. “I’d tumbled from a great height.”
Being recognized compounded the ignominy of finding herself homeless.
“Even though I’d dropped out of show business eight years earlier, people still recognised me. I felt so ashamed. I thought: ‘How am I going to explain this to anybody?’”
Last night, almost 20 years after she separated from her then fiancé James Packer, she explained to Australia how it happened.
After her high-profile split from Packer she was effectively run out of town: “I looked like this horrible woman who’d run off with the Packer money.”
She wasn’t given tens of millions of dollars as was reported at the time: she was given a house and a few hundred thousand dollars.
Her professional reputation was in tatters. Her career was stalled upon dating Packer, who reportedly told her it was “tacky” for his partner to work.
“I felt like I was a bud snapped off the vine before I had the chance to bloom,” she told Bickmore. “That’s fine, you make sacrifices for love.”
She headed for the US to escape: “it felt like he had all the cards here” she said. But it didn’t work out. She ended up giving her settlement proceeds to her boyfriend to invest but he took off with it. It turned out he was married with children.
And that is how she ended up penniless, without anywhere to live.
While very few women can relate to dating a billionaire or gracing the covers of a magazine, many will relate to Malkah’s story. Because homelessness is a path almost 100,000 Australian women encounter each year.
Like Malkah, many never expected to be there.
“I was a princess in an ivory tower,” Malkah said. “I didn’t see it. It didn’t occur to me what it’s like to really, really suffer. Since I’ve had this experience, it’s really made me want to come back.”
During her time in the women’s shelter she studied at TAFE and is now an aged care worker. Through hard work she managed to get a place of her own to live in. She is now, as you have no doubt seen, in the jungle in South Africa taking part in Channel 10’s reality program I’m A Celebrity Get Me Out of Here. The charity she is supporting is Women’s Housing is a specialist Transitional Housing Service that helps women, and women with children, who are homeless or at risk of homelessness.
It is a casue very close to Malkah’s heart.
If there was ever a tale to take the sheen off any perceived glamour in marrying someone wealthy, it is Tziporah Malkah’s. We may well make sacrifices for love, as she said, but they can come at a cost.