Each week, ESSENCE will check in with Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes during her tenure on season 18 of Dancing with the Stars.
Last week, I started to freak out when I got on stage for the first show. A couple of producers came over to talk to me and they were like, ‘You'll be fine.’ I went up on stage and looked down at the band. Everyone was giving me thumbs up. And that's when I really freaked out. Then I looked up and saw some of the fans in the audience waving, and I thought, ‘Lord, please just let me get through this.’ But as soon as I heard the music, I just went with it.
I thought everything the judges said about me was accurate. When Carrie-Ann [Inaba] said I should be light on my feet, she was right because the whole time I was doing the dance I felt like my technique was off. That’s something that I’ve been really working on. And when Bruno said I’m a sassy sister, I think he’s correct.
This week I’m exhausted and a little sore. But I’ll be alright. Rehearsing for week two has been a lot because the jive is different from the cha cha. There's a lot of jumping and quick steps. It’s been really tough and we’ve been doing like six-hour rehearsals. I’m totally out of my element. This is not what I do. I’m just really happy to be able to get through the dance.
This is a very tough show. And really, only the strong can survive, because it literally takes your life. Like, there’s nothing else you can do besides dance all day and go to sleep. Or lay down somewhere. We dance twice a day; four hours in the morning, and then we meet back up in the evening. You definitely can’t go and have a cocktail with your girlfriend.
I'm learning that my endurance really needs to be up. I need to work out more—I don't work out at all. After this, as tough as it’s been, I need to keep it going. I shouldn't finish the show and not exercise.
I do know that I have to room to grow and people can see my improvement every week. I’m really proud of myself.
Catch NeNe on Dancing with the Stars, tonight at 8pm ET on ABC.