NeNe Leakes is spilling the tea from her time as an original castmember on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” and this time she sharing her experience with someone who can relate, Bethenny Frankel (“The Real Housewives of New York”).
During her two-part conversation with Frankel on her podcast “Just B,” Leakes dished on some old and new items like feeling like she was blacklisted following her lawsuit against NBCUniversal, Bravo, and production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original, and how Black “housewives” were not given the same privileges as their white counterparts.
But there were new revelations, like Frankel’s attempt to pitch a show starring her and Leakes called “Ebony and Ivory,” and Leakes admitting she felt executive producer/host Andy Cohen never liked her.
Leakes also recognized the jumpstart that “Housewives” gave her TV career but now wants to return to her real passion — acting. Here’s a breakdown of the seven biggest takeaways from Leakes’ and Frankel’s sitdown.
NeNe Was a Lancome Lady
Leakes has talked openly about being a stripper to make ends meet as a young mother, but she also revealed she sold cosmetics at the local Macys.
“I kinda moved around the department store doing perfume, doing makeup,” she revealed. But she always knew she wanted to be an actress.
She flew out to Hollywood during pilot season – without representation – to audition for roles. She sent her headshot to every agent she could but never heard back. She auditioned for a part in “The Fighting Temptations” but didn’t get it. They did offer her a role as an extra – ironically as a stripper – which she took.
After breaking out on “RHOA,” Leakes was cast in several Ryan Murphy projects, including “The New Normal” and “Glee.”
NeNe recommended Kim Zolciak for “Real Housewives”
Leakes claims she was the first person cast on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” which at the time was being shopped around as “The Ladies of Atlanta.”
Producers were adamant about casting only Black women for the show, but Leakes recommended Zolciak, whom she knew from the gym and their children’s daycare.
“I was very interested in her, because when I would see her at the gym, she would have a big blonde wig on and a cigarette,” Leakes recalled. “Who the f–k is on the treadmill with a cigarette? I would be looking at her and be like, ‘This is an interesting white lady!’ Because I had never seen a white woman with a wig on.”
She recalled telling producers, “‘You really need to meet this white woman. She’s a different kind of white woman!’ But they weren’t interested. The moment Kim walked into the room they were like ‘Wow!’ They were scratching their heads.”
To this day, Zolciak remains the only white cast member to appear on “RHOA.”
NeNe explains the closet scene and how producers ignored her wishes to stay out of hers
Season 11’s episode “Bye Wig, Hello Drama” became one of the most buzzy moments in “RHOA” history. It was also one of the moments Leakes said she realized Black housewives were treated differently than their white counterparts by Bravo’s production team. Leakes said she was adamant about cameras not going into her closet to film, and when crew disobeyed her wishes she felt it was disrespectful. She also didn’t want to throw the party at all, but said production insisted.
“I told production I don’t think I should have this party,” Leakes explained. “Well, they were gung-ho with having the party because it was an all-cast scene, and they’d already planned for all the girls to be at my house for this particular scene.”
With her husband Gregg Leakes going through his cancer journey, she felt at her “lowest” and said her cast mates and crew members knew that and didn’t consider her emotional wellbeing.
NeNe says Black housewives and white housewives are treated differently, and uses Kim Zolciak-Biermann and Teresa Giudice as examples
NeNe called out the difference in how Black housewives versus white housewives are treated, using the closet scene as an example. She said the scene was “blown” out of proportion when she grabbed the cameraman’s shirt in effort to stop him from filming inside her closet. She said white wives have had worse incidents and didn’t receive backlash from production.
“There’s so many girls that are doing things,” Leakes said. “You had Teresa flipping a table. You had Teresa pushing Andy [Cohen] down. You had girls busting glasses. You got people doing all kinds of stuff. But me grabbing the camera guy’s shirt. They act as if it was so freaking major.”
She went on to say she’d never physically assaulted anyone on the show, and that during her entire time as a cast member she aways brought any issues she had to production. However, when she would bring forward her complaints, she said she ultimately ended up being punished with reduced episodes.
“I personally think when Brown girls do something it is much more elevated than when you nice, vanilla-looking girls are doing something,” Leaks said.
Producers allegedly wanted NeNe to “come for Kandi [Burruss] and she refused
During the Black Lives Matter movement, NeNe Leakes said it was very important that she and the cast as an all-Black cast should be in unison on and off-camera to show support one another as a community and cast. Because Leakes and Burruss didn’t get along the previous season, Leakes said the production wanted her to “come for” Burruss, but she refused to due to the racially-delicate climate at the time, which resulted in her taking less episodes that season.
“In the end, the reason I made the decision that I’m not going to be able to take these six episodes [was because] it was during the Black Lives Matter movement. I got on the phone with the executives and they wanted me to come for Kandi [Burruss], is what they said.”
She continued: And I said, ‘No, I really don’t want to do that.’ This is Black Lives Matter and I don’t want to do that.”
Kim Zolciak-Biermann never went on cast trips, NeNe claims
Expanding on her reasons why she feels Black housewives aren’t treated the same, she pointed to Zolciak-Biermann’s absence during cast trips.
“There was a lot of unfair treatment happening to me, unfair treatment. During a period of years, things were happening. For instance, let me give you an example. We are a cast of Black women and we have a white woman on our show, she doesn’t travel, we travel. She doesn’t shoot, we shoot. There was a lot of different treatment happening on the show and I was more of the outspoken one, the one that was in the front. Me and the girls would talk about it and then we would say, ‘You know it’s unfair that Kim doesn’t have to take any cast trips, like none of us want to take cast trips,’” Leakes said.
Zolciak-Biermann ducked out of the overseas trip to Africa back in Season 4, for example.
NeNe doesn’t think “Real Housewives” executive producer Andy Cohen likes her
While Leakes and her former boss Andy Cohen were more than “colleagues,” Leakes felt like the executive never genuinely liked her. And since the legal drama, she said Cohen has not picked up any of her calls. Nevertheless, she stated that Cohen isn’t one of her concerns.
“I feel said for a person who doesn’t have a forgiving heart.” Leakes said of Cohen. “I’m not worried about him.”
She added: “I don’t want any beef. I just want it to be clean, and I’ve also asked to even— I’ve tried to find a way for he and I to sit down and talk, but he’s never wanted to do that.”