Marie “Mimi” Haist sought shelter in a laundromat for nearly 20 years and has befriended a number of celebrities ever since.
Marie Elizabeth Haist, fondly called Queen Mimi, has quite the story to tell. From being a middle-class housewife to living on the streets, she ended up befriending many celebrities. Her life has been documented in Queen Mimi, a 2016 film by amateur Israeli filmmaker Yaniv Rokah. “I remember thinking, ‘Who is this older woman who’s working at a laundromat seven days a week? And why does she seem so happy all the time?’ ” the director recounted to PEOPLE. “Here I am struggling to make it in Hollywood, working at a coffee shop, and across the street there’s this ball of fire, like a pink-wearing, singing, dancing diva who turns out to be homeless.”
The mother-of-two was born and raised in LA and after she divorced her cheating husband, she ended up on the streets for years. One day comedian Zach Galifianakis walked into the laundromat where she was at and that resulted in an unlikely but beautiful friendship that lasted over two decades. The actor met Mimi when he lived in Santa Monica in the late 1990s. According to NY Daily News, he even helped set up an apartment for her and paid her rent and utilities. He also took her to the premiere of The Hangover Part II in a limousine. "All the fans were taking photos and I waved at them, I said, 'They don't know who I am!' " said Haist of her prior premiere experiences. Asked if she's mistaken for Zach's grandmother, Mimi joked that she was mistaken for his girlfriend! The charming Mimi is also friends with Galifianakis' wife. Through Galifianakis, Mimi also became close with Bridget Jones star Renée Zellweger.
“It never seemed like a big deal to her, so it didn’t seem like a big deal to me,” the director said of Mimi’s famous friends to PEOPLE. Galifianakis did not want to appear in Mimi's documentary initially fearing people would misconstrue their friendship as a publicity stunt but he eventually gave in. The actor joked to Rokah at one point in the film, “We talk about sex, Mimi and I, and we laugh a lot.” He later adds, “It is my honor to know that woman.”
Mimi was working at a laundromat, living mostly off tips when she met the actor. He was living in an apartment near Fox Laundry where she worked. Later, he found her a modest one-bed, one-bath apartment and quietly started covering her rent and utilities. “I really love it. I have a place where I can sleep and arrange things, and it’s really heaven,” Mimi told PEOPLE. “I still go to the laundromat every day to keep busy and people come in and say, ‘Oh you’re a star!’ ” she added.
While people might not have heard of her before, now a lot of people are in awe of Mimi's fiery spirit. People have even started coming to the laundromat to ask for autographs from the former homeless woman. While she admitted that she enjoyed the attention she loved that this was an opportunity to inspire other people down on their luck. “I always say yesterday’s gone, tomorrow isn’t here, you live now,” she said. “You can only live each day as it comes.”
ELLA ES MIMI, la mujer sin hogar a quien el actor Zach Galifianakis regalo un apartamento. pic.twitter.com/VdMV7lHSR9— Radio Planeta Cali (@RadioPlaneta969) November 30, 2015
"People come into the laundromat and say, 'Oh, I know you! You're a star!' It shocks me," Mimi previously said, reports Glamour. Rokah isn't surprised at all. "Mimi [says] that when life deals you lemons, just make a lemon drop martini!" he says of Mimi's many words of wisdom. "I just hope that viewers [learn] that we need to stop judging people for who they are or how they seem to appear. We need to celebrate our differences. We're all in this together, and we need love."