wellness

"I was in bed for days crying." Fiona Falkiner on the moment the paparazzi broke her.

Fiona Falkiner gets her photograph taken for a living.

The TV presenter and model works with some of Australia's biggest fashion brands, modelling their clothes and appearing in their campaigns.

But she's in control when these photos are taken. 

She knows the photographer behind the lens; she knows what she looks like, how to pose, and she knows what to expect when the images get published.

When the paparazzi take photos of her, she has zero control over the situation.

From 2015 to 2017, Fiona was the host of The Biggest Loser, a decade after appearing on the reality TV show herself. During that time she was single, going to events, and casually dating.

It was during this time the paparazzi started taking photos of her.

They would snap Fiona leaving a restaurant after a date, out with friends, and even on a packed beach in Europe.

While the TV presenter always hated the intrusive pap photos, there was one moment in particular where the paparazzi crossed the line. 

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In 2019, Fiona and her fiancée, Hayley Willis, were wedding venue hunting in Byron Bay. Before flying out on their last day, they went to Wategos Beach.

It was the middle of the week in winter and the beach was near-empty.

Because Fiona models underwear, she needs to avoid tan lines. Since there was no one on the beach that day, she sunbaked topless. 

"[It was] stupid in hindsight," Fiona told Mia Freedman on Mamamia's No Filter podcast.

"But the thing is, I do sunbake topless, but I don't expect that there is going to be some creep, with a camera, taking my photo."

Sure enough, there was.

By the time Fiona and Hayley arrived at the airport that night, the photos of them at the beach had been published. 

When Hayley saw the photos, the colour drained from her face - and Fiona instantly knew what had happened. 

"[Fiona] cried the whole flight," Hayley told Mia. "She just sobbed the whole way home."

"It's so intrusive," Fiona added through tears. 

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"How can it be legal for someone to do that to someone, when if we were at Bondi Beach and there was a man taking photos of topless women he could be arrested. 

"But it’s not illegal for someone to take photos, and then publish them for everyone to see.

"Every single time it happens, it shakes me to my core. I just hate it so much."

Listen to Fiona Falkiner and Hayley Willis entire chat with Mia Freedman on No Filter. Post continues after audio.


After those particular photos were published, Hayley tried to track down the photographer as it was affecting Fiona so much.

"It took me days to recover. I was in bed for days crying," Fiona recalled.

"It wasn't like I was going to report them to the police," Hayley said about the photographer. 

"I actually just wanted to have a genuine conversation to say, 'Do you know how this affects someone?'"

Eventually, Hayley ended up getting ahold of the photographer.

Following their conversation, the photographer came for Fiona on social media.

"[They were] like how dare you call me and accuse me," Fiona said.

"But at not one point did I accuse him," Hayley added. 

"I said, 'Look, I know your job is you're a paparazzi and whether or not you took the photos of Fiona, I don't know. [But] I just need you to understand the impact this has on someone and their mental health... I can't even put it into words.

"[Fiona] has not been able to come out of her room for three days in fear that she will be papped again."

Now, getting photographed by the paparazzi is something that gives Fiona anxiety whenever she goes out in public. So much so, she tends to drink before events to calm her nerves if she thinks they might be there.

At Mamamia, we have a policy where we don't participate in the paparazzi economy or publish their photos.

This is a clear example of why.

For more of Fiona and Hayley's story, listen to No Filter on the Mamamia app or via your preferred podcast platform.

Feature Image: Instagram/@fionafalkiner.

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