SHE’S LONG BEEN THE FACE OF MODERN AUSTRALIAN WITCHCRAFT. AND NOW MEDIA PERSONALITY FIONA HORNE IS REINVENTING HERSELF AGAIN
Singer and white witch Fiona Horne on her latest incarnation.
It’s said that witches possess a whole host of strange abilities.among them is a talent for shapeshifting. Which, if nothing else, is a constant when it comes to Fiona Horne. To many Australians, she is the woman who turned them on to modern witchcraft. But her many public incarnations have also included singer, media personality, free diver, skydiver, scuba diver, fire dancer and yogini. She’s now reinventing herself once more.
These days, 51-year-old Horne is based in the US Virgin Islands, working as a commercial pilot who primarily flies humanitarian aid missions. On the day she speaks with Stellar, she has shifted course, though only slightly: she is coordinating a trip for two large dogs from a local animal shelter. Their owner – a war veteran in his 30s who served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan – recently passed away. Horne is arranging for the dogs to be transported back to New Jersey, where they will be united with his parents. “I’m the pilot everyone calls to do this stuff because I do animal rescue,” Horne tells Stellar. “The responsibility is not just about operating a machine. It’s got so much heart and soul in it – and that’s where it resonates really strongly with me.”
THE PATH THAT led to Horne’s current island paradise was full of twists, paved with bumps and studded with more than a few unbelievable pit stops. She grew up in Sydney, an adopted child who felt isolated and misunderstood. Horne never felt like she fit in, was
relentlessly bullied at school and eventually decided that it was all too unbearable. She didn’t finish Year 10 and left home with just a toothbrush and the clothes on her back. On her own at the age of 15, she scrambled to survive – moving from place to place, job to job.
Horne began hanging out with the wrong crowd and she started to take drugs. At one point, her bedroom was a toilet block in Sydney’s Kings Cross. Rootless and restless, she began to follow bands around as she fell into a chaotic music scene. Eventually that exposure – coupled with her natural artistic leanings – led her to form her own group, the techno-rock outfit Def FX, in 1990.
For the next seven years, Def FX toured Australia, the United States and Japan alongside the likes of Nine Inch Nails, No Doubt and Smashing Pumpkins. Horne was a fully-fledged, crowd-surfing rock goddess.
“I felt like a big dag – someone who was convincing everyone that she was a rock star,” she reveals. “I didn’t feel on the same level with those people. I put them on such a pedestal.”
Among them was Chris Cornell, the Soundgarden frontman whose band hit its peak in that era; just a couple of weeks before Horne spoke with Stellar, Cornell was found dead in his Detroit hotel room, having taken his own life. Horne looks back fondly on time spent with Cornell during a tour stop in Auckland. The pair, she says, “ended up hanging out and talking a lot. He was just a guy doing the best he can, like everyone. But he was a massive rock star and had all that pressure on him. It broke my heart to read what happened.”
Adoption laws changed in Australia while Horne was on the road with Def FX; when she found out information about birth parents had become available, Horne decided to track down her biological mother and try to make some sense of her unhappy childhood.
On her birth documents, Horne’s father was listed as a “used car salesman”. However, when she met her birth mother, Erika, Horne learnt his actual identity. Her dad was George Korner, founder of the Madame Korner beauty empire. It turns out his identity had been concealed – to protect him.
Korner died 15 years ago, says Horne. “I met him twice. I enjoy a very pleasant relationship with his wife Judit. My three half-sisters [Olivia, Rebecca and Jessica] are amazing girls.” Stranger as he was, Horne recognises something of Korner in herself.
“I inherited my father’s and my mother’s survival instinct,” she adds. “For all the things I haven’t done well, there’s one thing I have done really well – and that’s survive.”
She was forced to do it again after Def FX abruptly split in 1997, leaving Horne not just unemployed but also broke once more. True to form, she diversified by falling back on a skill she had been quietly cultivating during downtime on tour. When a friend introduced Horne to a publisher, she pitched an idea about “a rock star writing about witchcraft”. The following year, Witch: A Personal Journey became a bestseller. Horne would go on to write nine more books about the subject, and became Australia’s go-to witchcraft expert in the process.
Television and radio appearances piled up; she would host shows and segments on Triple M, Network Ten and the Nine Network. During this time, she interviewed Tom Jones, who was promoting his comeback hit ‘Sex Bomb’ and performing sold-out shows around the country. A few weeks after they met, Horne was invited backstage at his Melbourne concert. For two weeks after, she says, “we were physically sharing a bedroom”.
She says they remain friendly and recalls a meet-up in Las Vegas years later. “Tom was in the same restaurant. It’s funny – people you have a connection with, you just end up bumping into them without even trying. I said, ‘God, you’re looking really good,’ and he said, ‘I haven’t had a drink for over a year!’ He looked great.”
Horne is something of a rock-star magnet. Growing up, she was a massive KISS fan; as with Jones, she met the band backstage at one of their Melbourne gigs. Gene Simmons invited her to travel with them to Brisbane and she soon found herself kissing the band’s guitarist and vocalist Paul Stanley – and not for the first time. “I kissed a poster of Paul
“For all the things I haven’t done well, there’s a thing I’ve done really well, and that’s survive”
goodnight religiously from when I was 10 until I left home,” Horne marvels. “Every night, I would tell him I loved him.” The dream proved better than the reality – ironically, she now refers to him as “the worst kiss I ever had”.
AT LEAST ONE good thing came of their meeting. Gene Simmons became a mentor and convinced Horne to move to Los Angeles, where she started over once more. She was up for a role on the hit TV series Charmed, but it never eventuated. A stint on a reality show led to another book deal, and at age 39 she decided to pose again for Playboy, having already fronted the Australian version in 1998, when she needed the cash.
Horne regrets none of it. “Nudity was a selling tool,” she explains. “I said yes to everything to try to survive. It was a way to pay off the mounting credit card bill I was incurring while trying to keep up appearances in a cutthroat, flaky town.”
She eventually took a job as live-in house manager at Jerry Seinfeld’s former mansion, which the star had since sold to a banker. Horne lived in the famous home for four years, and she claims it was haunted.
She took up skydiving, which piqued her interest in flight – high above Earth, she found a kind of serenity. Today she has more than 500 jumps under her belt, once held the world record for head-down formation flying and keeps that pilot’s licence close. There is pride in her voice as she talks about the achievement: “I worked three jobs for three-and-a-half years, saved all my money and did my flight training in the LA basin, which is one of the most congested and challenging airspaces in the world.”
Dannii Minogue, who has been one of Horne’s closest friends for nearly 20 years, says this accomplishment comes as no surprise. “Fiona is gentle and kind, but strong and brave,” she tells Stellar. “I admire her determination to always rise above anything that tries to drag her down. Her resilience is an inspiration, and her biggest thrill is helping others.”
TODAY, HORNE’S LIFE is a world away from the excesses of her past. When she moved to the Caribbean, she arrived with three duffel bags. She rarely wears make-up and doesn’t watch TV. The aid missions Horne flies are on donated time – she has already gone on two to Haiti this year.
“A day of flying in the islands can involve transporting doctors, bee keepers, seeds, and even 350 baby chicks! Also, animal rescue flights, human remains [reuniting families for island funerals], as well as people on their Caribbean holiday of a lifetime and business people getting to their island offices,” Horne says.
A few years back, she was staring down the barrel of her 50th birthday. Asked by her former publisher if she had another book in her, Horne figured it was time for a proper memoir. She wrote much of The Naked Witch on the road, in places as far-flung as South Africa and Puerto Rico. In sorting out her life, she realised how much more value she places in the woman that all of those moments, lush or louche, combined to create.
“I didn’t like who I was before,” Horne says. “I like who I am now. I know I’m the best version of myself I’ve ever been, and I forgive myself for all the times I got it wrong. I’m just happy to be here now – and grateful.”
“Nudity was a selling tool. I said yes to everything to pay the mounting bills”
FLYING HIGH (clockwise from top left) Fiona Horne cuddles up to KISS’S Paul Stanley; as a pilot in St Kitts; with her biological mother Erika (left) and aunt Magda; her long-time friend Dannii Minogue; onstage in her Def FX heyday.