There is a lot we don’t understand about Mimi’s tolerance of Stevie J’s bull, but when the “Love & Hip-Hop” Atlanta cast member admitted in a therapy session during an episode two weeks ago that her mother abandoned her for Scientology, we began to get it—sort of.
The Village Voice dug a little deeper though. In an interview with the reality TV star, they got Mimi to open up about life as a child when her mother joined the religion, being pressured to follow in her mom’s footsteps, and never getting closure before she passed. Here’s the story in Mimi’s words, as told to the Voice:
“When my mom joined Scientology, I was still living here in Atlanta. I think I was six or seven when she was introduced to Scientology. By the time I was 8 or 9 she just went balls to the wall and sold everything we owned. Our house, our car, everything.”
As Olaiya considered joining the Sea Org, she left behind her life in Atlanta. Mimi’s two older siblings, a brother and sister, stayed behind. But Mimi was too young to be on her own. Mimi found herself being taken along with her mom to Scientology’s administrative headquarters in Los Angeles.
“That’s what she wanted to do. She didn’t care what we thought about it,” Mimi says. “We moved to Big Blue.”
Scientology’s LA headquarters on Fountain Avenue is housed in what was once the Cedars of Lebanon hospital. Formally known as PAC Base, for Pacific Area Command, the complex is more commonly known for its blue paint job.
Once Mimi and her mother arrived, Olaiya joined the Sea Org, signing its billion-year contract.
“Life was completely turned upside down,” Mimi says. “We lived in a room with bunk beds. We went to the cafeteria for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. And my mom was working all the time. I only got to see her during what they called ‘Family Time,’ from five to seven pm. Just two hours a day.”
We wrote earlier that people who worked with Olaiya say she was working for the Sea Org’s “Office of Special Affairs,” its intelligence and legal affairs wing — some have called OSA Scientology’s secret service.
But Mimi says that her mother never told her about the work she was doing. “I still don’t know, to be honest with you. I had no idea what she did from the day we got there until the day she died.”
Mimi said that after being at “Big Blue” with her mom for four years, the organization started pressuring her to convert.
“At 13, they told me that I was a freeloader. I was eating their food and staying in their facility. They told me I either needed to sign a billion-year contract or I had to leave.”
I asked Mimi what her mother had said about signing the contract. Did she encourage her daughter?
“My mother never outright said she wanted me to join the Sea Org,” Mimi says. “She knew how I felt. I just knew that it was not what I wanted to do.”
Even after four years, Mimi hadn’t bought into Scientology’s quasi-military culture.
“I was just a child. I wasn’t going to run around calling people ‘sir.’ It wasn’t what I wanted to do,” she says. (In the Sea Org, even women are called “sir” and referred to as “he.”)
So what did she do?
“I packed up my little bag and left,” she says.
I told her that must have been terrifying.
“It was. I had no idea where to go. I figured my mom would try to stop me. But there was nothing. She didn’t ask me where I was going, she didn’t ask if I had bus fare. I think that’s what hurt the most. That she just watched me walk away.”
Mimi caught a bus to a friend’s house. “She was a friend but I called her my cousin. I went to her place. I just had to figure it out. And this was the crazy part. I was still going to a Scientology school. It was the middle of the school year. After staying with my cousin over the weekend, I had to catch a bus back to the school on Monday.”
Mimi said she finished the school year at the Mace-Kingsley school in Silver Lake, named after it’s Scientologist founders, by sleeping at a different friend’s house every night. After that, she managed to get a job in her cousin’s pharmacy and never ended up having to be homeless. But, it wouldn’t be for another four years that she’d hear from her mom again.
When I was 17, my mother called and said she wanted to see me. We hadn’t seen each other in four years,” Mimi says. “I caught the bus back down to the building. It was great to see her. I got a hug.”
They were in Olaiya’s office at Big Blue, catching up, Mimi says, when another Sea Org member came into the room. And then another. And then another. And then one more.
“I looked up, and there were four Sea Org officers standing there while my mom and I were trying to catch up. I thought it was really odd.”
Then, the four officers began pressuring Mimi about joining the Sea Org.
“They started saying I needed Scientology to be a better human being. And I thought, ‘Here we go with the bullshit.’ Then they pulled out a contract, and a pen, and they told me to sign it,” she says.
It was the Sea Org billion-year contract.
“They said over and over, ‘Sign the paper. Sign the paper. Sign the paper.’ They were chanting it. I thought I was in the Twilight Zone,” she says.
“I look at my mom, and she’s looking out the window. I felt like I was there on my own again,” she says. “I didn’t sign it. I told them sorry, I’m not going to sign the thing.”
Mimi says she got up to leave. But the Sea Org officers shut the door and locked it.
“They taped the contract to the door. And they told me to sign it again.”
She was told that she couldn’t leave the room without signing the contract.
I asked her how she got out of that situation.
“I just acted like a complete fool,” she says. “I cursed and screamed. I just lost it.”
She laughs, but I can’t help thinking it must have been a disturbing scene.
“They finally let me out, and I just hauled A$$. I was so mad at my mom. It was years before I saw her again. And we never spoke about that moment until I was 27,” she says. “She had the nerve to tell me that she didn’t know I felt that way, and she didn’t know why I was so upset.”
Growing up as Oluremi “Mimi” James, Mimi explained that her mother’s full name was Gloria Eva Simmons James, the last name coming from a man her mother was married to at one point. Eventually though, her mother changed her name completely to Olaiya Odufunke when she joined an African religion prior to scientology. Mimi made a name change of her own in 1996 when she discovered her biological father and took on his last name of Faust.
By 2003, Mimi’s mother fell ill from cancer, and eventually died at the facility. Mimi noted that “When she was dying, I flew out to see her. But I was not allowed to be alone with her. Even when she was dying, they had a chaperone in the room.” Asked if her mother ever expressed any regret for the life she chose for herself, and consequently Mimi, she said this:
“She never did. She wouldn’t say she was sorry for anything, but she did recite a poem called ‘If.’ It took her about an hour and a half to get it out. Her body was breaking down, her breathing was bad. It was awful. But she was determined to get this poem out. It was about forgiveness. She couldn’t have just said that she was sorry,” Mimi says.
“My mom was always searching for that something in her life. For whatever reason she found it in Scientology. But she gave up her kids for it.”
What do you think about Mimi’s story?
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