NeNe Leakes quickly became the breakout star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” and has enjoyed the rewards of her overnight stardom. However, the tell-it-like-it-is diva recently experienced what she deems a harsh reality bite on her character. NeNe reached out to ESSENCE.com to get a few things off her chest about the business of dramality TV.
ESSENCE.COM: You expressed that you wanted to set the record straight about the season finale that airs this Thursday. What gives?
NENE LEAKES: I had a meeting with production because I was really upset with the final episode because I believe I was portrayed as this evil person.
ESSENCE.COM: How so?
NENE: Well, a lot of things are edited to be seen a certain way, when in reality it’s really not that way all the time. Don’t get me wrong, the events that are taking place are real, but depending on the editing they can cut and paste and make it appear as if you say something at a certain time when it didn’t happen in that sequence at all.
ESSENCE.COM: Understood, but you’re not an ingénue to dramality TV and this practice is nothing new, so why are you so upset about the show’s portrayal of you now?
NENE: Yes, I know that’s what they do, but the first season they didn’t edit me. It happened this season because we have a different show runner and this season has been a lot more planned and scripted. Last season they just let us go which made for a great show, but this time around, the show runner will say something like, you need to go over there and talk to Kim about “Tardy for the Party.” They’ve also been making a lot of changes to the sequence of events. For instance, we all arrived to Sheree’s fashion show late because there was a huge car accident, and when we arrived they all ushered us to our seats and the show began immediately, but when you see the episode they show me talking to Kandi which is not what happened.
ESSENCE.COM: Again, what has you so upset?
NENE: This finale really makes me look like I’m the villain, as if I choked Kim. There’s a scene where I’m mad at Kim and they make it seem like I’m mad about her not wanting me on the song “Tardy for the Party,” when in fact she and I discussed that already and afterwards attended Sheree’s independence party and had a good old time. The reason I was mad at Kim was because we all attended the Bravo A-list Awards and I found out that she has been talking sh- about me, Lisa and Sheree to the New York and Orange County housewives and that’s why I was upset.
The producers told Kim I was upset and gave us time to talk, but once they realized they couldn’t use the language (meaning there couldn’t be any mention of the Bravo A-list awards) they did additional pick up shots to create [our beef] as something else. For instance, during last week’s episode featuring Kandi’s engagement party they had Kim’s stylist, Derek J, come to her house and do her hair as if she were getting ready for the party that night, and Kim told him NeNe isn’t coming for the party. Well, that was a pick up shot that the producers did after that fact. None of the ladies knew I wasn’t showing up until after the party because I was dressed and ready to walk out the door when I decided not to go. The reason I didn’t go is because Kandi and I had had an argument and I felt that this was to be a joyous occasion and I just didn’t think I should be there after she and I argued.
ESSENCE.COM: What did you and Kandi argue about?
NENE: After Kim and I got into a disagreement, Kandi came to me and said, “Well, NeNe, I heard you’ve been talking about me also.” I said,” Who? What? When?” Kandi proceeds to tell me that the producers told her I had a conversation with them and was saying all this stuff about her. I went bananas because I was just out having dinner with one of the producers she claimed told her that who just happens to be the show runner. I even took him on the red carpet with me to the opening of the W and fed his ass, so I was pissed. However, the viewers won’t see any of that and the scene makes it appear that I’ve started this argument with Kandi and tell her she’s not interesting for no reason. It’s very unfair.
ESSENCE.COM: In parting, what would you like your fans to know?
NENE: I like to tell it like it is and keep it real. I understand that the producers have to change it up and that’s why I didn’t make a stink about the first time they misrepresented me during Sheree’s independent party, but to make me seem like this evil person is not right. I’m not evil and I’m learning that this entertainment business is very difficult for someone like me who is loyal. The truth of the matter is that I was the first housewives and referred all these girls to be on the show. If I scratch your back you need to scratch mine, not stab me. I’m not saying you have to kiss my ass because you should only do things out of the goodness of your heart.
ESSENCE.COM: Does this mean you’re giving up reality television?
NENE: I have no desire to be a reality star, but I would love to have my own talk show. I’ve been offered my own reality show, but again, I have no interest in being a serial reality star. I would love to do what I’m doing on “The Insider” as a commentator talking about entertainment and different topics. I’m learning that this entertainment business is a tough place for a loyal person to be in. It’s really hard for me to see because I have always believed what’s meant for me is meant for me. I could have always been on the top if I was willing to backstab, sleep with folks and do whatever for the sake of [progressing] my career. Last year, I was the one that a lot of people connected with and showed interest in me and it was often a difficult position to be in with the other ladies. But I want people to know that I’m still the same person that I was last year and I’m never gonna change no matter how they try to portray me.
Tune in to the season finale of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” on Thursday, October 22.