In 1905, Gretha began exotic dancing. It inspired her and triggered a radical reinvention of herself.
In a flash, Margaretha Geertruida Zelle MacLeod was gone forever, and in her place was a Javanese princess named Mata Hari. The name Mata Hari gave herself is Malaysian, and translates to “Eye of the Sun”. And somehow, in less than a year, the tragic Gretha disappeared, replaced by the dazzling Mata Hari.
Her divorce from MacLeod was finalized in 1906. Mata Hari was unemotional. Her ex-husband was a mere relic of a past life.
The only thing she could not let go of was her longing to see her small daughter, Non. She stayed in contact with MacLeod, occasionally pleading with him to see the child, but he never consented.
As her fame grew, photographers were eager to photograph Mata Hari. As a subject, she offered continual variety. It was part of her charm that she could change her appearance so easily with makeup, clothing, facial expressions, and demeanor. She could look matronly and Victorian one day, and classically beautiful or seductive on the next.
Paris was enthralled by her. Her fame as a dancer and a courtesan spread across Europe, and audiences in Vienna, Milan, and Berlin clamored to see her. She had numerous lovers. Throughout the 1900s and into the early 1910s, Mata Hari’s fame grew.
It was only with the advent of the Great War that Destiny again intervened in the life of Mata Hari.