In the late 90s, Zach Galifianakis met a homeless woman. He paid her rent for 27 years.

For 20 years, Marie 'Mimi' Haist was homeless and living out of a quaint laundromat in the beachfront City of Santa Monica, California.

Across the street from the laundromet was a coffee shop where Yaniv Rokah, then an aspiring actor, worked as a barista. He later became a director and filmmaker.

"I remember thinking, 'Who is this older woman who’s working at a laundromat seven days a week? And why does she seem so happy all the time?'" Rokah told People in 2016. "Here I am struggling to make it in Hollywood, working at a coffee shop, and across the street there’s this ball of fire, like a pink-wearing, singing, dancing diva who turns out to be homeless."

The pair became fast friends and he soon began recording their days together on his iPhone 4. It would be footage later used in the 2014 documentary Queen Mimi - a project that Rokah would obsess over until its completion.

Watch the trailer for Queen Mimi. Story continues after video. 

Video via Youtube.

The documentary is where we learnt more about the story of Zach Galifianakis and Haist, who had been true friends since the 1990s.


"I taught him how to wash his clothes," Haist recalled to Glamour in 2016.

At the time, Galifianakis had been struggling to make it big. Around that time, he met the elderly homeless woman, sleeping between the gaps of the washing machines and dryers on a plastic lawn chair. She'd been there for two decades before Galifianakis stumbled upon her.

After a lot of prying, Haist explained she was born and raised in Los Angeles and this hadn't always been her life. Once she had been a housewife with two children. But when her husband was unfaithful to her, she divorced him and lost the house in the process. 


In Queen Mimi, she explained she began living in a van at 50 years old. But when she ran out of money, the vehicle was towed away. She migrated about 25 kilometres to Santa Monica and slept on the streets. 

On one particularly cold and rainy evening, a janitor took pity on her and let her stay in the local laundromat. She charmed the owner too, who let her stay as long as she needed. And that's what she did for 20 years.


From there, Haist made enough to eat and drink by helping passersby do their laundry. It's how she and Galifianakis got along so well. 

He then found her a comfortable apartment and quietly paid the rent. 

We were first introduced to the pair on the red carpet of 2009's Hangover, where Galifianakis brought her along as a date. Despite resisting to appear in Queen Mimi because he didn't want their friendship to be a publicity stunt, he later agreed to an interview with Rokah and explained their decades-long friendship. 

"We talk about sex, Mimi and I, and we laugh a lot," he joked, before adding, "It is my honour to know that woman."

Through Galifianakis, Haist also met Renée Zellweger, who helped to furnish her apartment. But their celebrity status didn't excite her. 

"I really appreciate Zach and Renée for [everything they've done]," she said. "I have a place to live now and my own bed. I now get my social security, so it helps me pay [for food] and my phone bill." 

Mimi Haist and Renée Zellweger. Image: Instagram @mimi_haist.


While she was able to move out of the laundromat and make a new home for herself, that didn't stop her from frequenting the laundromat whenever she could.

"I still go to the laundromat every day. I do my own washings, of course. I go there to keep busy and teach people how to wash their clothes," she told Glamour. "People come into the laundromat and say, 'Oh, I know you! You're a star!' It shocks me."

Sadly, Haist died in 2021. She was 95. 

Feature Image: Getty/Instagram @mimi_haist.

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