Few people have shot to fame as quickly as the woman formerly known as Kate Fischer – nor fallen so far. She rose fast, starting as a teenage model, escalating to magazine covers, and even starring in Hollywood movies.
Now going by the name Tziporah Malkah, she says her downfall was difficult to accept. “Reality came to me like a real bucket of cold water in my face,” she tells Sunday Night’s Denham Hitchcock. “It was a very, very, very fast fall. It was a shock to the system. It was hard to cope with.”
Her rise to fame started in 1987, when she won the Dolly Covergirl Competition. “In my own thirteen-year-old brain, absolutely I was ready for it,” Kate recalls. “I mean, how exciting.”
Not only did she win, but it led to Kate living in New York and working fulltime as a model. The magazines couldn’t get enough, and the child model became an international movie star, starring in Sirens in 1994 alongside Elle McPherson and Hugh Grant.
Her next role would change her life – as the girlfriend of Australia’s most eligible bachelor, James Packer.
“I have just finished Sirens and I have run into him at a Sydney trendy night spot,” Kate remembers. “He congratulates me, is very kind and then said, ‘Would you like to go out for dinner?’ So I said, ‘Yeah.’”
“It took a couple of years for him to say, ‘I want to be exclusive with you.’ I said, ‘No. I don’t want to be one-on-one with you.’ He was a little gobsmacked.”
But Packer was persistent, and Kate eventually changed her mind. The decision was helped by a proposal and large diamond engagement ring.
“I found the lifestyle very exciting and dazzling,” Kate explains. “It wasn’t as if I had an open cheque book. I had an allowance per month. We had a great friendship. There was love, but there [were] complications in that love, because of my own jealousy and my possessiveness.”
“I realised that our relationship was in trouble when people started suggesting and hinting that he was seeing someone else.”
Packer started a very public relationship with Jodhi Meares – then Erica Baxter, and more recently, Mariah Carey.
A heartbroken Kate left Australia for an acting career in Los Angeles – and she was well off. Packer left her with close to $3.5 million in assets, but somehow she either spent or lost it all.
“Some of it went on lifestyle, and some of it went into an investment that never eventuated. I was told that I was going to be given my own property in Los Angeles.”
Kate says she was scammed out of close to $2 million by a man she was dating. “Realising that I’d been duped and swindled, it was just beyond the betrayal.”
For the first time in her life, the bank account was empty. Kate was broke, so she fled back to Australia. Out of options at the age of 37, she arrived on the doorstep of a homeless shelter in Melbourne.
“I was terrified when I walked through the refuge doors,” Kate recalls. “I was also ashamed, and just felt lonely and angry.”
She also changed her name from Kate Fischer. “The name Tziporah has been in my family for generations,” she explains. “It does signify how proud I am to be Jewish.”
There was another change to come. By now, Kate had stopped caring about her health. “I turned to the comfort of food and alcohol,” says Kate. “I really hit it hard. I hit it harder than I ever had.”
“I’d always been a fish and salad, mineral water person, and going from that to two bottles of wine, a family sized pizza, soda in the morning to wake you up – the desserts and the garlic breads and maybe some vodka just to amp it up a little bit – I was drinking heavily.”
Even so, Tzipora managed to get a job in aged care. She moved out of the women’s refuge and into her own apartment. Then with a single photo of her in public wearing nothing but a bedsheet, her life changed again.
“I was actually checking my friend’s letterbox in our apartment building,” she explains. “It was just hot and so that’s all I had. I was lying on my bed with a sheet on.”
Tzipora Malkah became clickbait – so naturally, the headlines and reality TV followed.
There’s also been some real-life drama: a drink driving charge, and then in January this year, a fight with her boyfriend – and police.
“I was under the influence of my antidepressants, some alcohol and a Stilnox,” she claims. “I was asleep when I was arrested and don’t really remember.”
The point came when Tzipora knew she needed help. She’s headed to a health retreat on the New South Wales south coast. Here, she plans to work on improving both her body and her mind, and make a positive change in her life.
Reporter: Denham Hitchcock
Producers: Kristy-Lee Lorraway