Tabloid Prodigy, Prodigal Daughter

For three years as a tabloid reporter, Marlise Kast ’96 pursued celebrities to create headlines for Globe. Today she is making news herself with a tell-all book, “Tabloid Prodigy.” The first-person account describes the tactics she used — lying, assuming false identities and crashing parties — to uncover personal information about the stars.

Why did a Westmont graduate with a degree in English and communication studies decide to work for a tabloid? “I wanted a job as a writer, and I was young and inexperienced, “ she says. “Globe was willing to hire me.”

She soon discovered that tracking down celebrities created an adrenalin rush she craved. “The greater the challenge, the more I was willing to risk,” she wrote in the book. She thrived on the seemingly impossible stories the editors assigned her. “I thanked them for the adrenalin that kept me going.” It became a kind of addiction.

As Marlise grew more adept at finding the material Globe wanted, her success and frequent byline spurred her on. The stars themselves held no fascination for her; she simply wanted the story. “I had become a skilled liar and hypocrite, masquerading in identities that were not my own,” she admits. “I thought I was doing some sort of service exposing stars who behaved badly; I didn’t realize I was losing sight of my own identity.”

But some of her­­ experiences started to trouble her, especially when sources lost their jobs through her stories and deceptions. While she could document and support everything she wrote, editors changed her words and created sensational headlines that distorted the truth. In some cases, sympathetic stories about struggling celebrities turned into inaccurate rants. When Globe changed ownership, she decided to leave. Tainted by her tabloid reporting, she couldn’t get another job as a writer, so she became a nanny for a wealthy European family for two years, traveling extensively with them.

Eventually, she developed a new career that fits her affinity for adrenalin: writing about extreme sports. Assignments on surfing, snowboarding and kite surfing take her around the globe, from the beaches of Morocco and Costa Rica to the mountains of Switzerland and New Zealand. The travel thrills her.

Does she regret her years as a tabloid reporter? “Absolutely not,” she says. “I regret the lies I told. But it was great training on deadlines, quick turnarounds and investigative journalism. It really shaped who I am. I had to hit bottom to find out who I really was.”

Raised in a Christian family, Marlise remained close to her parents and sister (Heidi Kast Woelbern ’95) despite being immersed in the Los Angeles nightlife and celebrity culture. “I kept my family on overtime praying for me,” she says. Describing her mentality as both “pure and polluted,” she realizes now that her identity “was lost somewhere between a minister’s daughter and tabloid reporter. The two sides of me never seemed to mesh.”

The process of writing “Tabloid Prodigy” helped her return to her faith. “I was like the prodigal daughter coming back home, back to the person I once was. My parents can finally say they are proud of me.” She intends to continue the account of her spiritual struggles in the sequel she is writing. “It’s a story of redemption,” she says.

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