Tziporah Malkah describes herself as a “no-filter person”, and it’s true – so much so, you almost want to save her from herself. Known as Kate Fischer in her nineties heyday, the former model and actress has been in the public eye since she was a child – and has taken some bruising hits from the media over the past three decades – and yet she hasn’t lost what seems to be her honesty-at-any-cost attitude. It’s refreshing and, quite frankly, a bit shocking.
In this image-controlled era, celebrity candour has apparently become so rare that it’s puzzling when you ask someone a personal question and they dare to give a genuine answer. And yet, that’s exactly what Tziporah does – over and over – during her afternoon with The Weekly. Nothing is off the table as we visit the Melbourne homeless shelter where she lived for almost two years after she lost her life savings to a lover in Los Angeles in 2011.
Apparently without any self-censorship at all, Tziporah speaks about her rise to fame as a 13-year-old Dolly covergirl winner, her engagement to James Packer at 22, and the devastating split that came two years later. She reveals her breakdown in the homeless shelter, her strained relationship with her mother, NSW minister Pru Goward, and even the “bogan” aspects of the astronomically wealthy Packer world.
Talking about her tumultuous life at a hotel not far from the rooming house, 43-year-old Tziporah is clearly nervous – there are beads of sweat on her lip and she struggles at first to find her words – but she is a generous, articulate interviewee. Not only does she want to repair what she sees as her trashed reputation, she wants to speak out on behalf of homeless women and let readers know how easy it is to hit rock bottom, regardless of your history.
“When I talk about myself,” says Tziporah, who took her Hebrew name after embracing the Jewish faith almost nine years ago, “I like to remain raw and vulnerable, because if my experiences can help someone, then that’s really what God wants from us – just to share ourselves a little bit.”
For the past five years, Tziporah has led a quiet life in Melbourne caring for elderly psych and dementia patients, but her self-imposed exile came to a screaming halt two months ago when she was “outed” by a media outlet, photographed collecting her mail wrapped in a bed sheet.
Like her throwing half a million dollars’ worth of jewellery over the cliffs of Bondi in an effort to make a fresh start in 2011, her directness could be seen as either brave or reckless. Perhaps the same could be said of her recent lingerie shoot.
The paparazzi were stationed outside her apartment block every day, Tziporah explains, so she figured she would “beat them at their own game” with the underwear story, even if she had to sacrifice her dignity. “I was like, ‘Right, you got me in my knickers – what more can you see?’” she says. “I wanted the photographers to leave me alone, and they have.”
Back in the ’90s, when she was a regular in the Sydney social pages, she always came across as a bit of a firecracker; these days she seems more serious and deliberate. The feistiness is still there, but the happy-go-lucky-ness is gone. “I still have a lot of anger,” she says.
The way she sees it, her 1998 split with James – and the persistent rumour of a $10 million settlement – destroyed her reputation and essentially cast her out of Australia. She moved to LA to give acting a go, but eventually drifted away from show business and found Judaism. She has had relationships, but hasn’t lived with anyone since James – “it’s sort of once bitten twice shy”.
Tziporah would love to have a family of her own. “I think I’d be very happy being a mother,” she says. “And maybe just being a bit more mature about my emotions – not shutting them down with eating and drinking, being able to feel them as they come up and have someone to talk to about it. I’d like to meet my soulmate. I’d like to have somebody.”
Since she found herself flat broke and Googling “homelessness Melbourne” five years ago, Tziporah has gone through a punishing period, re-evaluating her life and her values. “I had to grow up,” she says.
Tziporah would like to get her nursing qualifications or perhaps go into politics, but it’s hard to believe that a return to showbiz would be out of the question. With her extraordinary life experiences, she makes for fascinating company, so it’s easy to imagine her as a co-host on a TV chat show like Studio 10. Maybe there her hard-won wisdom could be shared and her openness applauded.
This story originally appeared in the January 2017 issue of The Weekly.