NeNe Leakes Talks Faith, Spirituality, and Why She Says She Never Prayed for Fame
Charles Sykes/ Bravo

NeNe Leakes is a homebody who constantly prays, and considers her children her greatest teachers? There’s so much we still don’t know about the Real Housewives of Atlanta star. As we wait to watch part three of the explosive season 7 reunion tonight, NeNe opened up to ESSENCE about her side of her we rarely hear about. 

Do you consider yourself religious or spiritual?
I consider myself spiritual. Someone recently asked me ‘What is the one thing that people would be surprised to know about you?’ and my husband said, ‘They would be surprised to know that my wife prays all the time.’ I’m not religious but I pray all the time. When I need to get a sense of myself I pray. I was brought up in church going to Sunday school and that’s what we did, pray. Every time I take off in an airplane, I pray for my family, I pray to put angels on the wings, I pray that my kids will be okay. When I land I thank Jesus for bringing me back home safe, child. Hallelujah!

Has there been a time recently when you felt that your faith was tested?
Whenever the cameras start rolling. They test me, child. I think our faith is tested whenever we go out into the world everyday. Working on a show like Housewives, I feel my faith tested because you work with people who may not have the same beliefs as you and they are willing to do things that you’re not willing to do. You feel like, ‘Listen, we don’t have to go that far. If you held back a little bit, we might be getting a little extra money, fool.’ I didn’t know they can go out here and hire people who would do this for a dollar and fifty cents.

Who do you consider your greatest teacher?
My aunt has been my greatest teacher. She’s 85 years old. She raised me. Also, my children. They’ve taught me a lot. I’ve learned to be kinder. I’m prone to listen to them, more than anyone else. They say, ‘Mom, you never listen.’ I may not listen to them then, but I can be riding in my car, and think, ‘I guess I could have listened.’

Would you say that they are your greatest accomplishment?
I can’t even believe that I have two children first of all. When I was younger I would say that I didn’t really want to have children. When I had my first child, I knew I would never have any more kids. My children are almost 10 years apart. I wasn’t a girl that wanted to have a lot of kids. You’ve got to be a special person to have children. Good God almighty.

Is the success you’re enjoying what you prayed for?
Sometimes I hear people saying, ‘You asked for this fame.’ I don’t remember asking for the fame. What I remember praying for was to be able to do what I loved to do, which was acting and working in television in some capacity. That’s what I prayed for. I don’t know if I prayed for fame. I might have to go back and ask God to remind me. What I wanted to do was work and take care of my family. The fame part just happened to come along with. That was a little extra bonus. That part is a little shaky. I love the check, but the fame, that’s a beast right there.

Have any famous people told you any tips on dealing with fame?
No, they haven’t. Everything that’s happened to me has gone way past what I imagined. I’ve gone way past anything I thought I would have done. Being in this industry, and being on this little show called the Real Housewives of Atlanta has taught me so much about myself. [Fame] has definitely instilled fear in me about who I have in my circle. I’m scared to trust people. I’m scared to have friends. That part has not been good. I think I’ve learned now that I can live as my authentic self …

One great thing about Nene, I can tell you this, I am very comfortable in the skin I’m in. Every time you ever see me, this is the authentic Nene. I am comfortable with me. I know exactly who I am. I don’t need anyone to tell me ‘You’re beautiful.’ Never in my life do I need to hear ‘You’re beautiful.’ I don’t validation.

Do you find yourself beautiful?
Oh my God, I’m the sh*t. My husband says, ‘Slow down Nene.’ I’m like ‘Catch up player.’ You’ve got to have the confidence. Being fabulous is an attitude that you have to have within you. You can have your hair messed up, eyebrows needing arching, but still be fabulous inside. It’s an attitude.

When are you happiest?
I’m really happy being at home. I like to travel, but I’m a homebody. When I’m in Atlanta, I’m really at my house. I go to little places, like my favorite restaurants and around my neighborhood. I have a couple of stores I like to go in. I’m not a clubber. I like to go eat, that’s my problem. I love being in my bed. My husband’s like, ‘Come out of that bedroom.’ When I’m at my house I go straight to my bedroom to take off my clothes. I put on something comfortable, and I’m just in my room.

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