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.

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