How One Woman Went From Homeless To Celeb BFF

by KT Hawbaker

"When life gives you lemons, make lemon martinis," laughs Marie "Mimi" Haist, star of the new documentary Queen Mimi. The 90-year-old, whose life as a homeless woman living in a Los Angeles laundromat inspired the movie in theaters now, has plenty of famous friends to share cocktails with. You might not know her name, but she's a big deal to stars like Zach Galifianakis; she appeared on the actor's arm at the premiere of The Hangover III , and even made appearances in some of his early TV work, like the 2002 show Late World with Zach . However, it's the actor who is the bigger fan. "It is my honor to know that woman," Galifianakis says in Queen Mimi, which chronicles Haist's inspiring path from homelessness to celeb BFF. And, as Haist's friendships with actors like Galifianakis and Renee Zellweger show, the doc star is a fabulous force to be reckoned with.

A longtime fixture at a Santa Monica's Fox Laundry, Haist spent the last two decades as a local celebrity, helping up and coming performers do their whites, while sleeping on the facility's plastic chairs at night. The movie recalls how when Galifianakis' movies started to make him a household name, the actor quietly purchased an apartment for Haist, known for her joyous attitude despite her circumstances, cross the street from the laundromat. Today, the duo remain close friends.

While living at the Fox Laundromat, Haist captured the attention of amateur filmmaker Yaniv Rokah. Employed as a barista at the coffee shop across the street, Rokah grew interested in Haist and her constant positivity. "I would see her working at the laundromat every day and wondered how she could be so happy all the time. She was always singing to the customers," Rokah says. "We struck up a friendship pretty quickly." The director began filming Haist on his iPhone and, four years later, the documentary was released. May 13 marked both Rokah and Haist's big screen debuts.

Queen Mimi reveals many of the characters in Haist's incredible life, including the unfaithful husband she divorced at the age of 50. During the split, she lost her house and began living out of her van, running out of money and eventually living on the streets. According to the film, Haist found shelter in the laundromat when its janitor let her sleep there one chilly, rainy night.

As the documentary shows, Mimi stuck around her new living situation and earned her keep by helping fold clothes and entertaining the laundromat's patrons, which included a just-starting-out Galifianakis back in the '90s. Through this relationship, she made friends with Zellweger, who wound up furnishing three rooms of Haist's apartment. As seen in the documentary, Zellweger is just one of many fans, famous and not, who visit Haist throughout the day as she works.

It's the Queen Mimi star's personal mission to make others happy, and she hopes that the film inspires others to move forward out of sad situations. "I always keep positive. There's no point to being sad," she says. While she isn't sure what's up next for her, she's set on continuing to make those around her smile by showing up in her trademark pink outfits and wheeling around Santa Monica with her metal laundry cart, cracking dirty jokes and hanging out with movie stars. Yas, "queen" indeed.

Images: XLrator Media