NeNe Leakes is insisting that she received ‘a lot of unfair treatment’ as a black woman at Bravo during her years as a Real Housewife.
The 55-year-old sued Bravo, Andy Cohen and NBCUniversal in April 2022, claiming that she experienced ‘systemic racism’ during her time on Real Housewives of Atlanta and that her complaints fell on deaf ears.
By that August, however, she filed legal documents to formally toss out the case along with ‘all claims asserted’ in the lawsuit.
Yet during a new podcast appearance this week, Leakes renewed her allegations of racial bias on the part of the network where she became a star.
Retrospective: NeNe Leakes is insisting that she received ‘a lot of unfair treatment’ as a black woman at Bravo during her years as a Real Housewife
Frankel herself achieved reality stardom on The Real Housewives Of New York City, where like Leakes she was a scene-stealing presence.
Leakes was a series regular on the Atlanta franchise for the first seven seasons, then had a recurring role on season eight and was absent for season nine.
She made her grand return as a series regular in season 10, remaining on the program for three seasons before exiting the cast after season 12 in 2020.
During her new podcast episode with Frankel, Leakes maintained that she ‘was treated differently’ to white Housewives.
Leakes noted that Lisa Vanderpump ditched The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills ‘and never returned,’ but she remains in the Bravo fold via Vanderpump Rules ‘and she can still sit over there and talk to Andy all day long if she wants to.’
Vanderpump Rules has been running on Bravo since 2013, nearly a decade before Lisa Vanderpump dramatically left The Real Housewives Of Beverly Hills.
The way they were: The 55-year-old (left) sued Bravo, Andy Cohen (right) and NBCUniversal in April 2022, claiming that she experienced ‘systemic racism’ during her time on the network
During her new podcast appearance, Leakes groused that Guidice ‘can go to prison and stay for 10 years and they’ll wait until she gets back and then the show will start again. But the black girls do not get that same treatment.’
Leakes claimed she was given progressively fewer episodes every season as she neared the end of her run on The Real Housewives Of Atlanta.
According to IMDb, she appeared on 18 out of 21 episodes of season 10, then 22 out of 23 episodes of season 11, then 20 out of 25 episodes of season 12.
‘I was given less and less and less episodes every season,’ Leakes said, claiming that Bravo asked her to come back for only six episodes of season 13.
She ‘felt like I was being phased out. I didn’t understand why I was being given less and less episodes and I was asking: “Why am I given less and less and less every season and everyone else is getting more?” And I was constantly being told by the executives in the offices that I was unhappy.’
Leakes wondered at ‘how you tell a person they’re unhappy,’ while Frankel theorized that ‘you were reading unhappy on the show, I guess they were saying.’
Meanwhile Leakes brought the conversation back to the question of ‘why’ she was being, in her view, ‘phased out’ of the program.
‘And I’m an original – the only original Housewife on the show, and all the other original Housewives on their shows – all white women – and they’re all given full episodes,’ Leakes argued. ‘And I’m the only black original on my show and I was given less. I’m given six, They’re all given 18. Why?’
Warm moment: Leakes claimed she decided to leave the show after being encouraged to squabble with her castmate Kandi Burruss (right) at the height of Black Lives Matter
During Leakes’ final three-season run on The Real Housewives Of Atlanta, the entire cast was black, but Leakes was the only one who had been on since the first season.
Leakes claimed that when she was negotiating her return to the show for season 13, she was offered only a paltry six episodes.
She asserted that she initially decided to accept the deal, having been encouraged to do so by members of her inner circle including her husband Gregg Leakes.
However, she alleged that she backed out after Bravo urged her to squabble on air with her co-star Kandi Burruss, whom she had feuded with in the past.
At that point, at the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, Leakes did not feel amenable to the idea of bickering with one of her fellow Atlanta Housewives.
She stated that ‘I got on the phone with the executives, and they wanted me to come for Kandi, is what they said. They wanted me to: “We want you to get Kandi.”‘
Leakes explained: ‘I think we had maybe some issues, maybe the season prior to, and they wanted me to make sure that I confront her and I address her and all that stuff, and I said: “No, I really don’t wanna do that. This is Black Lives Matter, and I don’t wanna do that.” And I didn’t do it.’
She elaborated: ‘I felt like, it was Black Lives Matter. I should’ve been there. They were trying to push me out at a time that was very important in the black culture. And also they wanted me to appear – if I appeared that season, they needed me to argue with Kandi, and that was not something I wanted to do.’
Confab: Leakes, who starred on over 200 episodes of The Real Housewives Of Atlanta, made the accusations while appearing on Bethenny Frankel ‘s podcast ReWives
Over the course of her wide-ranging discussion with Frankel, Leakes also professed to have faced ‘a lot of unfair treatment’ over ‘a period of years on the show.’
She looked back, for example, on her early years as a Real Housewife, when her old nemesis Kim Zolciak-Biermann was on the show as the only white cast member.
‘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,’ said Leakes.
‘So there was a lot of different treatment happening on the show,’ said Leakes: ‘and I was more of the outspoken one, the one that was in the front. Like 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 wanna take cast trips, right?”‘
When Leakes threw out her lawsuit last year, the dismissal was agreed upon jointly by all parties involved. It was, however, dismissed ‘without prejudice’ which means that Leakes had the option to refile her claims in the future, if she so chose.
Additionally, the documents stipulated that none of the parties would seek to recoup costs or attorneys’ fees.
In April, Leakes filed the initial suit in an Atlanta federal court, saying that the companies that produced The Real Housewives of Atlanta oversaw a hostile and racist workplace.
Accusations: The 55-year-old reality star had previously sued the network and executives claiming that she experienced ‘systemic racism’ during her time on Real Housewives of Atlanta and that her complaints fell on deaf ears
‘NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated – if not, encouraged,’ Leakes’ legal team said in the suit.
Leakes said that Zolciak-Biermann – who was not named in the lawsuit – first made a racist remark during the show’s initial season in 2008 when the cast was slated to attend a barbecue.
She alleged that Zolciak-Biermann said ‘words to the effect of: ‘I don’t want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken,” which ‘perpetuated an offensive stereotype about African-Americans.’
That was just one of several examples listed in the lawsuit where Leakes claimed Zolciak-Biermann made ‘racially offensive and stereotypical’ remarks during the show, including the use of the N-word.
Leakes said in her suit that she reported the slew of racial remarks to the show’s executives, who ‘did not terminate their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to put an end to her racially-offensive behavior.’
At the time, the RHOA star’s lawyer said in a statement: ‘From the day the series began filming, NeNe was the target of systemic racism from co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, which was tolerated by Bravo executive producer Andy Cohen and other executives.’
In the suit, Leakes said that speaking out about the racist behavior factored into her being forced off the series in 2020, at a time when Black Lives Matter was making headlines amid social change following the police killing of George Floyd.
Leakes, a vocal supporter of BLM, said in the suit that execs deliberately kept her off episodes that were filmed at the time in which the topic was discussed by the cast.
Dismissed: Leakes dismissed her initial claims that she had reported hearing racist remarks from white RHOA co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann to higher-ups with the companies, and faced professional repercussions as a result