At first she was adored by all and sundry. A fashionista with a flair for theatrics, Mrs Mops was the charming socialite everyone wanted to befriend in The Real Housewives of Johannesburg (RHOJ). But by the end of season two of the hit reality show the claws had come out and she was labelled a bully, a gold digger, a devil with a forked tongue.
Her stunned expression when RHOJ co-star Brinnette Seopela accused her of being a gossip and a cheat in the dramatic season finale spawned memes about her breathing through the wound. Yet Nompumelelo “Mrs Mops” Mophatlane isn’t bothered by the haters because everything happened as planned.
“People like you one minute and hate you the next,” she says. “I decided not to check my Twitter when people started hating and I’ve never been happier.”
Mpumi (34), as she prefers to be called, reveals there’s more to her than meets the eye. She created the character of Mrs Mops but says that’s not at all who she is in real life.
“Reality shows sometimes lack drama and spice. I wanted to bring glitz and drama, so I created my alter- ego, Mrs Mops,” she tells DRUM.
“I sat at home and asked what contribution I needed to make on the show to help make it dramatic.”
The result was a shade-throwing, sharp-tongued clapback queen who viewers ultimately grew to hate. While Mpumi is a polite, respectful woman who avoids stepping on toes, when the cameras roll Mrs Mops is the complete opposite.
“Don’t mess with Mrs Mops because she’ll come for you,” Mpumi warns. “Mrs Mops doesn’t care, she calls a spade a spade. She calls people out on their nonsense and she’s feisty and calculating. Creating her was my coping mechanism throughout the show.
“I often create characters in my head to cope with different situations. It’s nothing new – I’m an actress, after all.”
Despite making both fans and foes with the show, given the chance Mpumi – who’s had small roles in Gogo Wodumo and Impi Ka Thandazile – would return for another season.
“I’d do it all over again, except better, with more strategy and drama,” she says.
“I have absolutely no regrets. I live for the moment. Even the dramatic reunion didn’t break me, it just taught me not to trust people.”
Being on the show taught her valuable life lessons .
“Next time I’ll have my guard up and tread with caution,” she says.
“Yes, I was dramatic, but I was also too nice, especially to Brinnette, who turned out to be underhanded. “She crossed the line when she attacked my marriage, claiming I was cheating on my husband. She lied just to get back at me. All gloves are off from here onwards. Next season I hope to return just to show her how much I don’t care. I’ll make sure I don’t invite her to anything,” she says, laughing.
Aside from Lethabo “Lejoy” Mathatho, she hasn’t kept in touch with her co-stars.
“I came to the reunion hoping to clear the air and hash things out, but things just ended sour. I don’t have an issue with the ladies, but they can go to hell. Except for Lejoy, of course. That’s my girl.”
Her BFF had her back throughout the fall-out of the finale, which Mpumi says didn’t affect her marriage to IT mogul Isaac Mophatlane. The couple have been together for more than a decade and social-media users often wondered why Isaac (47) didn’t feature on the show.
“He’s a businessman,” Mpumi says. “He wouldn’t want that sort of attention, but he was very supportive of me being on the show. I told him what happened and he laughed because he knows I’d never cheat on him.
“We’ve been married for 11 years, three children down. We have a solid family that can’t be destroyed by gossip,” she adds.
“I love how supportive he is of my career and my dreams. I respect his mind and the way he thinks. He’s very smart.”
When Mpumi told Isaac she was thinking of having breast enlargement surgery, he was more than understanding.
“I’m a mother of three kids and I breastfed all three. After my last child I wasn’t happy with my boobs, they were just all skin. My husband encouraged me,” she says.
“Now I have a choice of whether to wear a bra or not. I love the way clothes look on me. It’s boosted my confidence.”
Like her perfume, her confidence wafts in the air as she steps into our offices clad in a pink linen shirt, blue jeans and pink Chanel flats. Mpumi finishes the high-end look with a silky weave and trendy 5D eyelashes. But you’d be wrong if you think the wealthy socialite spends her days shopping up a storm.
The minute she steps into her mansion, she activates mommy mode and Mrs Mops disappears.
“I remove the wig, the lashes and makeup and I become a great mom and wife,” she says.
The proud mother of Khumo (10), Marang (6) and Sekai (2) does the school run every day.
“I drop and fetch the kids from school. I’m always chilling in my tracksuits and the rest follows. I’m a homemaker, the chef of the house and a wife, first and foremost.”
Despite their affluence, the reality star says she and Isaac are just a regular couple. “We enjoy dinner dates and movies or chill with the kids.”
After dedicating herself to her family for the past 11 years, she’s itching to get back into the entertainment scene. The middle child of former taxi boss Tsotsi Sithole and mom Duduzile, a former primary school teacher, Mpumi says she was born for the limelight.
“I had the best of both worlds. I’ve seen it all. The violence of the taxi industry has made me street-smart, and my mom helped me love education.”
She has an acting degree from Tshwane University of Technology and she’ll soon put her national diploma in broadcasting, which she obtained from the same university, to use.
“Everything’s still on the hush but I’ll be on radio soon. People say I have an annoying voice. I’m about to annoy them even more when they hear me on radio.”
She’s thrilled to be riding the airwaves but acting remains her first love. “I’d love to be on a show like The River and play a villain,” Mpumi says.
“I want to be a villain who seems nice but poisons your drink. I have that villain inside of me – we all do.”
*This article previously appeared in the print edition of Drum