Another Woman We Want to Be When We Grow Up: ‘Sexy Vegetarian’ Mimi Kirk

No one can accuse Mimi Kirk of not living her life to the fullest. The 73-year-old spent her 30s working as a stand-in and secretary for Mary Tyler Moore and raising her four children as a single young widow. Spotted by co-star Valerie Harper on The Mary Tyler Moore set one day in her distinctively hippie fashion — head scarves, chunky jewelery, and saris were standard for her at the time — she unwittingly became the model for the much-emulated style of Harper’s character, Rhoda. After spending several years as Harper’s personal stylist and assistant — which required endless head scarf tying — she started her own jewelery business, invented an empowering board game for women (called Cowgirls Ride the Trail of Truth), became a raw food specialist, and was voted PETA’s Sexiest Vegetarian Over 50. Now she’s released her first cookbook, Live Raw. (Look at her on that cover! Don’t you kind-of want to eat nothing but raw food from this moment on?)

We chatted with Kirk and came away inspired enough to add her to our list of Women We Want to Be When We Grow Up. Here, five kernels of wisdom from an impressive life:

1. You can change your workplace’s food offerings. When Kirk first started working on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, “all they had on the set was sweetrolls. I started to request fruit, and then people started having that and loved it.”

2. You might be having the time of your life right this second without noticing. “It was such and exciting and fun time, working with Mary and Valerie. But it’s a funny thing in life. Even though you experience it in the moment, you often appreciate it later. How lucky I was!”

3. Recognize opportunity when it comes. As women across America embraced headscarves to emulate Rhoda, Harper suggested Kirk make and sell her signature accessory. “I didn’t have that entrepreneurial spirit then. I probably could have asked to write a script, too, but it never occurred to me. I didn’t think it was okay to like yourself. I just wanted to work and take care of my kids.”

4. Surround yourself with strong women. Kirk is convinced that she eventually became the self-made woman she now is because she spent so much time around Moore and Harper. “I’m a reflection of what those women were at the time. I looked up to the two of them. We all need to be mentors to each other. Any bickering or silliness is just ridiculous. That is moreso now than ever before.”

5. Give credit where it’s due. Kirk never fails to be touched by Harper mentioning her as the originator of Rhoda’s headwear. “She continues to talk to this day about how I invented that scarf. It always makes me feel so good.”


Author: Jennifer Keishin Armstrong

Jennifer Keishin Armstrong grew up deep in the southwest suburbs of Chicago, then escaped to New York to live in a succession of very small apartments and write about pop culture. In the process, she became a feminist, a Buddhist, and the singer/guitarist in an amateur rock band. She also spent a decade on staff at Entertainment Weekly, cofounded, and now writes for several publications, including Women’s Health, Runner’s World, Writer’s Digest, Fast Company, and New York‘s Vulture. Her history of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Mary and Lou and Rhoda and Ted, will be published by Simon & Schuster in 2013; her collaboration with Heather Wood Rudulph, Sexy Feminism, will be published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2013. She is the author of the Why? Because We Still Like You, a history of the original Mickey Mouse Club published by Grand Central in 2010. She has provided pop culture commentary for CNN, VH1, A&E, and ABC, and teaches article writing and creative writing. Follow her on Twitter: @jmkarmstrong


  1. Julia says:

    I’ve just bought your book. I love it!!! Thank you :o ) ♥

  2. omchef says:

    I have numerous books on Raw food prep, but Mimi’s book is my go to book for all things raw. She has a thorough understanding of the Raw path and her warmth and charm comes through every page…..cheers!

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