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EXCLUSIVE: NeNe Leakes on 'The New Normal,' Gay Rights and Her 'Glam-Baby'

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NeNe Leakes

There's been much controversy surrounding Ryan Murphy's new NBC show The New Normal. In recent weeks it was banned in Utah to much disapproval of one of the show's stars — the ever outspoken and boisterous NeNe Leakes. ESSENCE.com caught up with Georgia peach to dish on the controversy, her new shoe line and all the details about her darling "glam-baby," Bri'asia Bryant.

ESSENCE.com: How much of your character Rocky is NeNe?
NENE LEAKES: Rocky is definitely part of NeNe. She's outspoken and she's smart and she's very protective of her gay boss, Bryan, who is played by Andrew Reynolds. One of the things she does that NeNe does not do is use her boss' credit card without his knowledge and buys stuff.


ESSENCE.com: Did you have a hand in helping write your lines?
LEAKES: We have a team of writers who are excellent. They follow all of our voices and they try to pick up on the little things we have said in social media, or in interviews or anything. But one of the things they have allowed us to do is, they have given us the liberty to improv. So I improv some of things… I throw them in there myself.

ESSENCE.com: What are you thoughts on the show being banned in Utah since you're a supporter of gay rights?
LEAKES: In my real life, both my bosses are gay. On the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Andy Cohen is gay, everybody at Bravo is gay – we call them the gay mafia (laughs). Over at Glee and The New Normal, my boss Ryan Murphy is gay. On the show, my boss, played by Andrew Reynolds is gay in real life. I'm surrounded by all my gay bosses. But I think it's absolutely ridiculous the show was banned without being seen. I think viewers think it is the new gay show and it's not. This show is not about being gay or anything. It's about love, it's about comedy, it's about drama. If they would at least tune in and give it a chance. I'm not gay. [The main characters] aren't even saying they're gay. They are two professional men. One is an OBGYN and the other runs a production company. It's based off of Ryan Murphy's life. They aren't walking around hugging and kissing. They are just like any other normal family. It's just that they're two men looking to have a baby. I think the people who are going to love the show the most are people who are not traditional.

ESSENCE.com: Are you hoping the show will broaden the mindset of a few Americans?
LEAKES: It's not unusual to see two gay guys sitting at the coffee shop down the street or going shopping together or holding hands. I am really shocked when people are that closed minded. It's 2012 and people are living the life that they want to live. It's exactly how you should live... I love gays, but I never really liked gay guys who aren't out of the box or out of closet. I prefer them to be out of the closet, very open, because I know from my experiences in life how freeing it is to do you and be who you are. It's Utah, these people might be very closed minded. I don't know but I can guarantee there are gays in Utah. Once the show airs and they see we're about love, family, comedy and drama I hope they will decide to put the show on out there.

ESSENCE.com: What are your thoughts on gay marriage?
LEAKES: I'm for all kinds of gay rights. I'm almost like a gay man myself. I think people should marry who ever they want to marry. That's going back to living the life you want to live. There are people who never want to be married. My dad never married in his life. He never wanted that kind of commitment. I think it's whatever works for you and it worked for him. If you want to be married, be married. I think you should do whatever you want to do as long as you're not breaking the law or doing anything illegal.

ESSENCE.com: In addition to acting, you're also developing a line of shoes too, right?
LEAKES: I'm coming out with my line of shoes and my very first shoe is called "The Nethia." How we came up with the name is that my legal name is Linnethia and we shortened it. I am working on a line of shoes, but this first shoe is for ShoeDazzle.com. That shoe is available September 10, 2012 for $39.99 and I want everybody to know that I don't make a penny, not a penny… so if you think you're purchasing this shoe and you're putting money in my pocket you are not. This shoe is going towards Saving Our Daughters, which is a charity I chose to give all of the money to. They focus on abuse and mentoring our young girls. I love the charity. I just want to help this young foundation with money. I created this shoe from beginning to end. I absolutely love shoes. This I can tell you about NeNe Leakes, I can look a hot-digty-mess but... I always have on a badass shoe. My shoe game is crazy.

ESSENCE.com: How is your granddaughter?
LEAKES: I have a glam-baby. Let's be correct, now. I'm way too young and too fabulous to be a grandma. I'm a glam-mom.

ESSENCE.com: What is it like watching your son raising his daughter?
LEAKES: I haven't been around them that much because I've been out here in Los Angeles working. Whenever I get a chance to fly home, I get the baby from them. I feel like she's my own because I'm so young and he's young. I was young when I had Bryson… we were at the same age. I was 21 years old having him. At first I wasn't happy about it, when I heard she was pregnant. I felt like they were young. This is a different time. I felt like they need to enjoy being young. I wanted him to be married. I also want my son to date a lot. So you can figure out what it is you like and don't like in a woman. I didn't want him to have children at an early age. We just love her to death. I can't wait until she gets a little bit bigger, I have already introduced her to the Neiman Marcus kid's department. She's ready to go shopping at any time. I'm excited about piercing her ears and polishing her nails. I never had a girl and I'm excited about her.

ESSENCE.com: You talked about having a troubled past with domestic violence. What are your thoughts on Evelyn Lozada and Chad Johnson?
LEAKES: I wanted to reach out to her, but I didn't. I feel like when people are going through something I'm confused about whether I should say something or not, because so many people are saying stuff to them. I don't talk to Evelyn regularly, but I do know her, we do text if we need something from another. The only advice I would have for Evelyn is to be quiet. I wouldn't say anything else. To me, it makes matters worse and I would be quiet and try to it handle privately.

Tune into The New Normal tonight on NBC at 9:30 p.m. and watch a sneak peek of the series below.

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