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NeNe Leakes at the 2014 Bravo Upfronts

NeNe Leakes is a Real Housewives of Atlanta institution. And she is the only original Housewife from Bravo’s most popular franchise.

Last season things were rough for NeNe, who battled with Kenya Moore and lost her friendship to Cynthia Bailey. Still NeNe reveals that despite the negativity she’s returning to the show to use it for the amazing opportunities it presents. And she’s also giving an inside scoop on the inner workings of the show, the cast relationships, and whether or not Phaedra Parks will be back! 

“Every single season, somehow people think I’m not coming back. Somehow, I’m the only one who people ask, ‘Is she coming back or not?’ But I think that people don’t understand it’s not really our choice like that,” NeNe explains. “When I signed on for season 1, I signed on for a number of seasons. We’re like actors, we sign for a number of seasons and they’re either going to pick you up at the end of the season or drop you, unless you finish out your contract. So I have obligations. It’s not like I can just walk away from something like it’s just that easy, it’s really not.”

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“And I have to say, listen, although the show can be very negative, it truly, for me–now I know it ain’t happening for everybody because I looked and I’ve got two big ole eyes– but for me it has opened many doors of opportunity,” NeNe admits. “It has been a major platform for me. It is a negative show from time to time. And it does suck from time to time but it’s also an amazing platform and it definitely opened up doors of opportunity for me.”

As for why she has succeeded when others have not, NeNe cites her intelligence. “Everybody on these shows are not smart. Everybody isn’t smart. Trust me. A lot of girls are on the show and they walk around and they’re not that smart. They’re not…that…smart. They’re not business savvy, how about that?”

Part of that negativity for NeNe has been dealing with friendships that have fallen apart. Like her relationships with Cynthia and Marlo Hampton. Marlo was even a “bridemaid” in NeNe’s re-wedding to Gregg

“I think the people who watch these shows, they don’t see everything, one,” NeNe reminds us. “Marlo, first of all, has never been a housewife, she’s never signed on. She doesn’t have a contract. We’re all contracted. She’s just a character that just comes around to play. When we do a show like this, there will be new girls that come on these shows all the time.”

NeNe continues, “I will give you a good example: when Kenya came on the show I never met Kenya Moore a day in my life, until she came to Atlanta and they signed her to be a housewife. They obviously have to connect her with somebody. And then when the shows air, you guys watch the show and think ‘She fell out with her friend.’ It’s like girl, I’ve only known her for six months and she talked about me, she’s not my friend!”

“Same thing for Cynthia. Not saying that Cynthia and I did not have a friendship. We actually formed a real friendship in real life. They signed Cynthia up to do this show, I never met her a day in my life. I know people said she modeled, I’m just keeping it real, I’d never seen her model, I never knew her name, I never knew anything about her. They brought her to my front door step and said ‘This is who you’re shooting with today’. It was the first time I met her a day in my life,” NeNe dishes to Madame Noire.

“Outside of that we did form a real friendship. But people who watched “I Dream Of NeNe,” know I have real friends in my real NeNe Leakes life, who I have been friends with for 15-20 years.Some of my newer friends or my tv friendships, they showed up as bridesmaids because we are doing television and so they were there for TV.” Personally I thought NeNe’s ‘real friends’ (ALEXIS!) were way more fun than her TV ones. Sorry Marlo… 

“As far as Marlo, she’s a non-factor, really. She really, really is,” NeNe declares. “Cynthia I honestly had a real friendship with her. I don’t know where all this is coming from. But it was sorted out on season 7 for all of your guys to see. But I must say I feel like I’m a great friend to everybody who’s really been a friend in my life.”

Finally NeNe discusses Phaedra’s current situation. There have been rumors that Phaedra has taken a break from the show after Apollo Nida‘s sentencing and her likely divorce, but she’s been spotted filming. NeNe reveals that Phaedra is probably out – for now! “Bravo has to make that announcement. Y’all don’t put your money on her not being back, how about that?” Hmmm… I still think we’ll see Miss Parks back, at least as a ‘friend’! And then she’ll return for season 8, once things have settled down a bit. Unless she’s over the damage reality TV has done to her life and wants to focus on her kids (which would be appropriate). 

Finally NeNe weighs in on Apollo. “I like Apollo and I really do hate that this happened. I think Apollo is smart. And they have to little young boys…eight years is a long time. That’s a long time to give your life away. I can’t give these people seven days. I hate it happened, I really do. And I also hate that it’s public. They’re already going through something, he’s got to be going through something and she’s going through something and now the public is all in it.”

That’s a very tactful response – very classy. I have to say, given how much NeNe and Phaedra have been at odds, I’m glad to see her handle this question with decorum. Is NeNe Leakes growing up? It would be nice to see a different side of NeNe and for her to return to the fun, boisterous woman who engaged us in the first seasons. 

[Photo Credit: Andres Otero/WENN.com]

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