Marie ‘Mimi’ Haist was homeless for 20 years, living in a lovely laundry in the beachside city of Santa Monica, California.
Yaniv Rokah, an aspiring actor at the time, worked as a barista across the street from the laundromat. He went on to become a director and filmmaker.
“‘Who is this older woman who works seven days a week at a laundromat?’ I wondered. And why does she always appear so happy?'” Rokah revealed to People in 2016. “Here I am, striving to make it in Hollywood, working at a coffee shop, and across the street is this ball of fire, like a pink-clad, singing, dancing diva who turns out to be homeless.”
The couple quickly became good friends, and he began documenting their days together on his iPhone 4. It would subsequently be utilized in the 2014 documentary Queen Mimi, which Rokah would obsess over until its completion.
We learned more about Zach Galifianakis and Haist, who had been real friends since the 1990s, in the documentary.
“I taught him how to do his laundry,” Haist told Glamour in 2016.
Galifianakis was struggling to make it big at the moment. Around that time, he saw the old homeless woman who was sleeping on a plastic lawn chair between the gaps of the washing machines and dryers. She’d been there for over two decades when Galifianakis discovered her.
After much prodding, Haist revealed that she was born and raised in Los Angeles and that this wasn’t always her life. She used to be a homemaker with two children. When her spouse betrayed her, she divorced him and lost the house in the process.
In Queen Mimi, she revealed that she started living in a van when she was 50 years old. However, when she ran out of money, the car was hauled away. She walked around 25 kilometers to Santa Monica and slept on the streets.
A janitor took pity on her and let her remain at the neighborhood laundry one especially chilly and wet evening. She also won over the owner, who allowed her remain for as long as she needed. That’s what she did for the next 20 years.
From then, Haist supplemented his income by assisting passers-by with their laundry. It’s one of the reasons she and Galifianakis got along so well.
He then discreetly got her a comfortable apartment and paid her rent.
We first saw the couple on the red carpet of 2009’s The Hangover, where Galifianakis brought her along as a date. Despite first refusing to appear in Queen Mimi because he didn’t want their friendship to be used for publicity, he eventually consented to an interview with Rokah and discussed their decades-long friendship.
“Mimi and I chat about sex and we laugh a lot,” he quipped, before adding, “It is my honor to know that woman.”
Haist met Renée Zellweger, who helped her furnish her flat, through Galifianakis. But their notoriety didn’t pique her interest.
“I sincerely appreciate all Zach and Renée have done,” she stated. “I now have a place to reside as well as my own bed. I now receive social security, which assists me in paying [for food] and my phone bill.”
While she was able to move out of the laundromat and establish a new home for herself, she continued to visit the laundry whenever she could.
“Every day, I go to the laundry. Of course, I do my own laundry. I go there to keep myself occupied and to teach people how to wash their clothing “Glamour was informed. “‘Oh, I know you!’ people remark as they enter the laundry. ‘You’re a rock star!’ It astounds me.”
Feature Image: Getty/Instagram @mimi_haist.