So by now we all know the story of Tziporah Malkah. The former Kate Fischer - who used to be a model, actress and, most titillating of all, was engaged to James Packer - disappeared from the public eye for over ten years before she was thrust back into it against her will last year, when Woman’s Day published photos of the now-overweight aged care worker walking to her mailbox.
And now, the former Vogue cover model is one of the stars of I’m a Celebrity, Get me Out of Here, and from the looks of last week’s headlines, she’s one of the most-talked about cast members. Because what could be better for reality TV than a former beauty with ties to one of Australia’s richest families “falling from grace”? Possibly one who is also brazenly outspoken, comfortable enough to appear half-naked and discuss her history of eating disorders.
There’s no doubting that Tziporah is in the jungle to be the resident trainwreck. And from the outside, that’s what she looks like. She goes braless, she often walks around half-nude (and completely nude, apparently, when the cameras are off), and, you know, she changed her name from Kate to Tziporah.
It would be easy to wring our hands over Tziporah’s portrayal on I’m A Celebrity, and worry that she is being exploited by unscrupulous TV producers.
But I don’t know about that. I think that Tziporah might just have the last laugh in the end. Because she’s not like women we see on television. Yes, she’s overweight, and she makes absolutely no attempt to hide it. We’re not used to seeing women like that. Women who are overweight, or don’t fit into society’s ideas of what “beautiful” is, are meant to hide their flaws or make attempts to cover them up.
Tziporah doesn’t do that. She talks about her struggles with eating disorders, saying that she’s suffered from age eight from various disordered eating patterns. She told fellow contestants that she’ll sometimes go days without food and then eat an entire fast food pizza. Again, we don’t hear this from women on TV. We hear that the secret to their svelte bodies or weight loss is “lots of water” or “yoga” or “a high-protein diet.” We don’t hear - and we don’t want to know - that often, there’s something much more sinister about the quest for the perfect body. She told Lisa Curry, another cast member, that she hasn’t had sex in six years - another no-no from women in the public eye (because women need to be infinitely fuckable to be on TV, right?) She’s also completely unabashed about her name change. Don’t call her Kate (or Zip, or Zippy), she told her fellow contestants in the first episode, after explaining the reason behind her name change (it’s a family name, she says). Again, women aren’t meant to be like this. Women are meant to be accommodating and polite, not aggressive and forthright. We’re not meant to tell people what we want, we’re meant to ask for it, and then apologise for having the guts to do so.
And Tziporah is open about her engagement to James Packer, and the reasons that it didn’t work out - something she’s been openly pilloried for since her The Project interview last week. A prominent newspaper called her out for allegedly being “tired” of talking about Packer… but never ceasing to do so.
Gee, do you think The Project producers maybe wanted her to talk about Packer? Do you think that might fall under the category of “ratings gold”? Do you think the producers of I’m a Celebrity told her she could come on the show and not ever talk about Packer if she didn’t want to? No.
Because that’s not how TV works, especially not reality TV, where the quest for the juiciest storyline trumps pretty much everything else, including basic human decency. Let’s not forget that when Tziporah revealed her eating disorder to the rest of the cast, hosts Julia Morris and Dr Chris Brown congratulated her for her bravery… and then asked the audience at home to weigh in on the revelation on social media.
But despite the murky waters of the ethics of the I’m A Celebrity producers, who clearly reckon they’re onto a good thing with Tziporah, I feel like she will emerge the queen of the jungle. After all, this is the woman who, upon being photographed in a bedsheet by one tabloid magazine, enlisted the help of its opposition in reclaiming her own story. She may look and sometimes sound like a trainwreck, but I don’t think she is. I think she’s probably the most normal woman we’ve seen on TV in a long time - we’ve just forgotten what normal looks