The emotional “turmoil” of that breakup was offered in a carefully-worded public mea culpa media statement as partial explanation for the fact she had been charged with drink driving on Australia day with her 5-year-old son in the car.
Thousands of people are charged and convicted of drink driving each year across the country, but in Bridges’ case her celebrity makes her charge national news.
And the devil was in the detail of the story.
According to police, by the time Bridges was taken to Waverley Police Station, she is alleged to have returned a breath test reading of 0.086. That was before noon. That she was said to be driving with her young son in the car only compounded matters.
In the matter of a few seconds, 20 years of hard work, dedication and determination to build a glowing reputation was tarnished.
The country woke up to the image of Bridges holed up in her Potts Point apartment, apparently under siege from prying lenses, her ashen face peering through the drapes trying – unsuccessfully – to avoid detection.
It was an image far removed from the red carpet bombshell who seemed to turn up to all the best parties in town and happily posed for photographers, twirling about and bathed in flashbulbs.
Nor did it bear much resemblance to the straight-shooting personal trainer from the Biggest Loser, the show where she first met fellow trainer Commando, who has turned the lives of millions of people around by getting them fit.
Over the years I’ve gotten to know Bridges and she always seemed a woman in control, though she was also a woman very much on high alert – especially around gossip columnists. Given the salacious headlines surrounding her romance with Willis, and their former marriages, it was understandable.
But over time she would relax when we crossed paths – though not so much Willis, who did not appear to enjoy the more public aspects of their life together.
In 2015 Bridges made her debut on the Richest Women in Australia list, coming in at No.29 with a empire estimated to be worth a whopping $53 million: not bad for a girl who arrived in Sydney with all her worldly possessions in the back of a clapped-out old Barina and $300 in the bank.
Her 12 Week Body Challenge, her line of active wear, her own range of kitchenware, her books, her videos … all of it is built around her personal Michelle Bridges brand, which up to this point has been carefully orchestrated and controlled.
Some say a little too much so, with Bridges bordering on becoming immortal in a world of mostly flawed mortals.
She survived the scandal which surrounded the start of her relationship with Willis, and indeed the country was able to move beyond damnation over the two failed marriages which preceded their romance.
Bridges even continued to work with her ex-husband Bill Moore, her business manager for many years.
Bridges herself says integrity is at the core of everything she does.
‘That’s never been my ambition to build an empire … that’s part of the success in a strange way,” she revealed in a marketing podcast a few years back.
“I never had an ambition of being on TV or building an empire, I wasn’t pushing for it. My ambition was to help people get their act together and look after themselves better.”
Given the events of the past few days, Bridges would do well to heed her own advice.
Andrew Hornery is a senior journalist and Private Sydney columnist for The Sydney Morning Herald.