Despite growing up in a broken home and suffering childhood trauma, Mimi Mahlasela rose above all the odds she once thought life handed her. Today she is a household name in the South African entertainment industry and is well known as a plus-sized model.
Catching up with one of the popular 7de Laan actors, Mimi Mahlasela is not as easy as picking up the phone and setting up an appointment. She is always on the run with schedules changing daily. But when you finally get her in a moment where she can chat, you meet someone who likes to laugh, live life and most certainly loves life. Taking a step back from being in the limelight we go back to her childhood.
Mimi grew up in Alexandra in her grandmother’s house with her siblings and cousins and although her mom and dad were around, they all found ‘comfort in growing up with my grandmother’. ‘We all grew up together as siblings and we were all brought up by my grandmother. My mom was a single mom and although my dad is around, I have no relationship with him and I don’t talk to him at all.’
Her fondest childhood memories are those years of growing up at her grandmother’s house and having lots of fun. ‘I mean when you are growing up you don’t worry much about anything but having fun and playing with friends. ‘My childhood was somewhat OK after my mother left my father because of domestic violence. The move to Alexandra was a good move. There was some sort of freedom around that.’
Choosing a career
Her love for acting also comes from her childhood where she was always part of a play, whether in primary school or high school. ‘I had speech and drama as one of my main subjects in high school and then went on to study drama at the then Pretoria Technikon. ‘This is where I was spotted in my third year and 17 years later, here we are.’
Although also known as a plus-sized model and being nominated for the African Social Entertainment Award last year, acting will always be her first love. ‘The nomination gave me a feeling of being recognised for the work I do as a plus-size model, recognising me in terms of what I do for body positivity, self-confidence and self-love.
The biggest highlight in her acting career is the fact that she finally got a role for which she has been auditioning for three years. ‘Even being in the industry for 17 years and not only in 7de Laan but in other movies and productions as well, this one is close to my heart. ‘It will come out in 2023 on Showmax and is called Shaka iLembe produced by Bomb Productions. ‘So yes, that’s a highlight for me to put on my CV that I’ve worked with Bomb Productions. ‘The fact that I wake up every morning doing what I love and have a job is amazing. I will always choose acting over everything else.’
Worst moments in her career
‘Fortunately, I never had one of those moments. I am blessed in that sense.
‘However, there are various challenges in this career. It is harsh and brittle and there is constant competition with so much critique. Whether from your producers or the audience. You just don’t always know about it.
‘As much as this may sound like a cliché, you have to have a thick skin and I have learnt not to take things personally.
‘Although it can leave a dent in your self-confidence I separate the two. I do, however, sometimes lose my cool a bit. I am after all only human but always conduct myself in a professional manner. Being an actor means you have to realise why you are here.
We are here to tell stories and not to be applauded for how wonderful you are.
On a personal note
Her days are often made up of 12 hours on set, working weekends and when she possibly can, family and friends come first simply because she hardly ever sees them.
Not only does she hold her family and friends very close, but she is also extremely protective of them. When asked about her private life she is quick to laughingly answer: ‘My private life? Well, it is just that. Private. What is out there and what is known is what is needed to know. I don’t want people to know about my private life and I try and keep it private.
‘I have a group of very special people in my life being my mother and her older sister, my siblings, cousins, nieces and nephews and then my friends whom I have been friends with since high school.’
As much as acting runs in her blood, so does the hustle and bustle of Jozi. ‘Being born and bred in Joburg there is no other place I’d rather be. There is just such a buzz. ‘When I catch up with family and friends we like to try different restaurants, go to theatre shows and I love live music shows. Oh, I am glad we are back!
‘People simply have to Google things to do in Joburg and they find so many different places with so many different experiences.
About this and that
Few people may know but Mimi is also a motivational speaker and often visit schools, especially in the Western Cape.
She likes reading and easily indulges in a documentary about public figures to know everything there is to know about them. Mimi loves sunshine but don’t take her camping where she has to deal with ‘goggas and that … unless it is glamping.’
Her ultimate spoil is a full spa day and her guilty pleasure is cheesecake. ‘Ooh, I love that,’ she said with that so familiar laugh.
Oh, and don’t come and visit in rainy weather and enter her house with your wet shoes.
Although she listens to just about any music she is a huge fan of hip-hop and her motto in life is to operate from a point of love. ‘I love, love. Love is a beautiful thing.’
Rise to the occasion
Mimi has been involved with the SPAR Women’s Race for a couple of years.
‘Around 2011 a bunch from 7de Laan were asked to join and be part of it and my relationship with them carried on. I was then called up and asked if want to be an ambassador for the race and I said sure.
‘Being involved in this means for me that I can show other women it is possible to stand up for ourselves, we can overcome any obstacles. There are amazing ambassadors and that alone shows me we can overcome what we are going through.
To me, it means I can share my story with others. It’s great. It is also a day where you meet new ladies and show off your fitness.
‘I can look back at all I have overcome. The heartbreak and childhood trauma. There were times when I thought I will never survive this. But here I am. I am worthy, I am powerful, I am being loved and I am strong.
‘And that is my message to women out there. You are good enough. You are worthy. Your every dream and desire is possible.
The 2022 SPAR Women’s Virtual Challenge has chosen the theme #IRise … reborn, re-energised, refreshed and refilled. They’re challenging you to rise above your challenges, struggles and obstacles that block your path.
A virtual challenge is a fitness goal that tasks you to run, jog, or walk your own race, at your own pace. Anyone can participate and it can be completed at any location. Join in on Saturday, September 3, anytime between 6am and 6pm.
You’ll need to enter (don’t waste time … entries are limited to 60 000), and your entry fee of R120 includes your Virtual Challenge pack, and for every entry, SPAR will donate a pack of sanitary pads to help keep a girl in school.
The Virtual Challenge pack includes a beautiful T-shirt (T-shirt sizes are limited to specific regions and to inventory availability), a gorgeous matching buff, a drawstring bag, a printed copy of the My Virtual Challenge Magazine and your medal. Details and entries: sparvirtualchallenge.co.za
Text: CARINA VAN DER WALT. Photo: THABO LEKALAKALA / PLANLMEDIA. Make Up: MICHELLE SCHEEPERS-LIEBENBERG. Dress: STREETCHICK SA. Hair: JABU FROM JABU HAIR SOLUTIONS