We haven’t seen Nene Leakes on our tv screens in a while, and we may have finally got some insight as to why. In her most recent interview with former RHOA executive producer (now creator of shows such as Love and Marriage Huntsville, and Belle Collective) Carlos King, Leakes revealed in a two-part podcast rollout the unfair treatment she received from producers and cast members. She’s since departed from the show in 2020 following season 12 and is currently in an ongoing legal dispute with Bravo and it’s producing frontrunner Andy Cohen for racism and receiving an “offer that was not fair” in contract negotiations for season 13.
Bravo’s The Real Housewives of Atlanta franchise debuted on our television screens in 2008. The reality genre was expanding—for a while, MTV had a hold on white socialites and captured their livelihoods on camera with shows such as Laguna Beach (2004) and The Hills (2006). Following suit, E! broke onto the scene with Keeping Up With the Kardashians in 2007. However, it wouldn’t be until the following year that we saw Black women reflected on screen with the RHOA.
The reality series, now in its fifteenth season, can attribute much of its success to its ensemble cast, which in the first five seasons of the show, included Sheree Whitfield, Kandi Burrus-Tucker, and Kim Zolciak-Biermann. However, at the show’s epicenter, was perhaps RHOA’s earliest cast member, and OG of the franchise, Linnethia “Nene” Leakes.
Whether people choose to admit it or not, Leakes is arguably the undisputed Black queen of reality television as we know it. Her banter, one-liners, and quotables from her nine seasons on the show have helped to make Atlanta Housewives—and pop culture—what it is today.
Check out our 7 takeaways from the two-part interview Leakes had on Reality with The King.
- The meltdown between Andy Cohen, NBC Universal, and Nene Leakes.
Nene Leakes expressed that she continues to hold “love and respect” for NBCUniversal, Bravo, and Andy Cohen, and went as far as to say that she hated that they were “in this place.” However, she highlighted a stark contrast in the way she was treated during her time on the show and after she sued the trio, compared to how her RHOA co-star Kim Zolciak and fellow former housewife Bethenny Frankel from The Real Housewives of New York were treated. While Frankel has openly criticized the Bravo franchise and its producers, Leakes noted that Frankel still receives invitations to appear on Cohen’s live talk series Watch What Happens Live! On the other hand, regarding Zolciak, Leakes felt that her co-star seemed to get away with actions that were disapproved of, such as skipping out on cast trips without facing significant consequences.
- The fallout led to Leakes being blacklisted.
In her candid revelation, Leakes admitted that there was a prolonged period during which she struggled to secure any work opportunities. She revealed that after facing legal issues with NBCUniversal, Bravo, and Andy Cohen, her career opportunities diminished significantly or were entirely abandoned. Leakes also disclosed that she had been in talks with Debmar Mercury, the production company behind The Wendy Williams Show, for a potential talk show deal. However, after her highly publicized meltdown with the veteran talk show host, the discussions with various companies suddenly went silent. Even when she had other potential contracts on the table, they would inexplicably fall through, compounding the challenges she faced in rebuilding her career following her RHOA exit.
- Who’s considered a star on RHOA today?
In both her interview with King and on an episode of The Breakfast Club, the Housewives OG said that most of the women on the show lack the “star” quality. She argued that a former friend of the show Marlo Hampton is the biggest entertainer on the show, and that’s a glaring issue, considering the other ladies with much more tenure. “If Marlo is the biggest entertainer on the show, they have got to do something,” Leakes said. She didn’t hold back in her assessment of the show recently. She added that Kandi Burrus is “overrated and overpaid,” said Porsha Williams-Guobadia has “star potential,” and that Kenya Moore is bored with her current castmates.
- Nene Leakes’ ideal RHOA cast.
The ratings for RHOA this season are historically down. According to King, RHOA went from the No.1 show on the network to the No. 3 spot, falling behind shows like Below Deck and The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The show could be saved, however, Leakes and King said it may be time for a rebuild of the cast, and the show lacks an anchor. She says, in a perfect world she would create a cast that doesn’t include herself, but instead, Porsha, Kandi, Marlo, Kenya, and Drew Sidora. She said she wouldn’t mind Zolciak-Biermann, “as long as she came to work.”
- Nene should be as big as Kim Kardashian.
While KUWTK premiered a year before RHOA, both networks are owned by NBCUniversal. Leakes argued that her career trajectory should be on par with Kim Kardashian’s and she felt that Bravo left her out to dry. Leakes’ claim is not as far-fetched as it may seem—her phrases, gifs, and memes have penetrated the cultural zeitgeist. RHOA is as large as it is today, because of Leakes’ efforts.
- Claudia Jordan gave Leakes a run for her money in season seven of the show.
Nene is known for being a good read, and it wasn’t until season seven that introduced several new faces including Demetria McKinney and Claudia Jordan that she felt up for a challenge. For RHOA fanatics, the infamous scene in Puerto Rico with Leakes’ argument with Jordan, is when she admittedly said that while Jordan is “star-less,” she gave her a run for her money.
- If Nene came back to the show, it would be for “the fans.”
According to Nene Leakes, the fans’ consistent requests are the only motivating factor that would prompt her to consider returning to RHOA. She emphasized that her decision would be entirely driven by the viewership, stating, “It would be 100 percent for the fans.” While she acknowledged that the money is not insignificant, she reiterated that her primary focus would be on making a comeback for the sake of her dedicated supporters.