7de Laan’s Mimi Mahlasela and her mom
7de Laan actress Nobuhle Mimi Mahlasela opens up about how her teacher mom inspired her and taught her discipline
SHE may be a celebrity who oozes star quality and has a face so famous she’s recognised wherever she goes, but when she’s at her family home Nobuhle Mimi Mahlasela is still her mama’s little girl. And if there’s one day she really treasures with the woman who gave her life it’s Mother’s Day.
She has big plans, the plus-sized model and 7de Laan star tells us when she and her mom, Nonhlanhla Sisi Mahode (60), meet us at DRUM’s studios.
Mimi has just come off the 7de Laan set where she plays much-loved Aggie. She was working through her scenes with onscreen boyfriend Vince ( Jacques Blignaut), who’s preparing to pay lobola for his sweetheart.
Nonhlanhla has come straight from her job as a Grade 1 teacher.
“I have a special surprise for my mom and my aunt, Teressa,” Mimi (37) says. “But I can’t tell you too much about it as I don’t want to ruin it.”
But it will be special, she adds, because she loves to celebrate her mom.
Mimi sees a lot of herself in her mother as she grows older. “I don’t live with my mom anymore and all those things I hated doing when I was a child are the things I do today,” she says.
“My mom would make us clean the kitchen after doing the dishes and she would never allow us to go to bed when the house was untidy. Today I do the exact same thing. I can’t sleep if the house is a mess, even If I come home at midnight. I have to wash the dishes and mop the kitchen floor.”
Even though Mimi is all grown up she always reverts to that little girl when she visits her, Nonhlanhla says.
“She still has to do the dishes, cook and clean.”
NONHLANHLA raised Mimi and her brother, Mafa (39), as a single mom and instilled a sense of discipline in her kids. Mimi was also taught by her mom when she was in Grade 2 and 3 and it was tough at times, she admits.
“My mom was so strict and so hard on me at school. I didn’t understand it then, but as I grew older I knew that because I was the teacher’s child she needed to set an example using me.
“Being taught by your own mom isn’t easy. You get disciplined all the time, your homework always has to be up to date and you can’t miss a day of school in case you’re seen to be getting special treatment.”
Nonhlanhla says it was difficult to be so hard on her daughter. “But luckily both my kids are well-behaved and I didn’t have to do too much disciplining as a teacher.”
Her “baby girl” is now more disciplined than everyone in the family, the proud mom adds.
Mimi believes she’s taken a lot from her mom and her late grandmother, Lindiwe Mavis Mahode, who was also a teacher and taught her in Grade 1. “My granny was also so disciplined,” she says.
Strong women have always been a dominant force in Mimi’s life. Her parents separated when she was four and she hasn’t seen much of her dad since the split.
Mimi becomes tearful when she talks about how she’s still struggling to come to terms with her dad leaving them.
“I can’t really go into it,” she says emotionally. Nonhlanhla hopes her kids will one day forgive their father and move on. “My relationship with their father and what happened between us has very little to do with my children. I hope for their sake, they forgive him and move on.” Mimi is in awe of her mom’s forgiving heart. “She’s very brave. I wish I was like that. For her to up and leave and figure things out on her own, especially in those days when divorce was still a taboo, was brave. Look at her now, she’s still standing today despite all she has been through with my dad. “Life has thrown my mom too many curveballs and the separation was one of the worst, but she still has a positive outlook on life, and I love her for that.
WHILE her family have always believed in her, it took Mimi a long time to convince them that acting was the career for her. All the women in Mimi’s family are teachers and her mom wanted her to follow in their footsteps.
But it wasn’t her calling, she told them. “And she’d say that teaching doesn’t pay,” Nonhlanhla recalls.
“Even my granny told me teaching doesn’t pay,” Mimi quips.
She initially wanted to study travel and
tourism before she realised her passion lay in acting.
“It took me a long time to come out but I sat them down and told them I wanted to be an actress,” she says.
After Grade 12 Mimi studied drama at Tshwane University of Technology and Nonhlanhla encouraged her daughter so study further so she’d be equipped to direct or produce if acting didn’t work out.
Mimi was all for it. “My mom believes in education and that keeps me motivated to push myself even further.”
She has completed a director’s course through 7de Laan and looks forward to one day working behind the scenes and creating work of her own. But for now it’s in front of the cameras where she belongs.
“My mom is a bit shy to say it now, but my family weren’t sure it was possible to make a career out of acting,” Mimi says.
Yet she’s shown them just how possible it is – she’s played Aggie for 13 years and has become a household name.
And when” she’s had enough of the bright lights and intense pressure of showbiz, she retreats to her mom’s home to spend time with her family.
“They now keep me grounded in this crazy acting industry,” she says. “They understand it’s not child’s play and I work long, hectic hours and sometimes attend events until late at night and then have to be on set the following day at 6am.”
She still loves every minute of it though, Mimi adds – but there are some days she keeps aside only for her mother.
And when Mother’s Day rolls around, it’s all about spoiling the most important person in her life.
‘It’s not child’s play and I work long, hectic hours’
Mimi and her onscreen boyfriend, Jacques Blignaut. She’s played 7de Laan’s beloved Aggie for than a decade.
LEFT: Mimi and her gogo. ABOVE: With her brother, Mafa. RIGHT: The actress knew early on she wanted to be in showbiz.