No turning back now. Whether you love her or hate her, you can’t argue that NeNe Leakes is a housewives icon. Her larger-than-life persona and hilarious reads put Real Housewives of Atlanta on the map. But eventually, NeNe’s relationship with her castmates, executive Andy Cohen and Bravo itself began to sour. Between 2008 through 2020, NeNe appeared as a main cast member on the show. She participated in seasons 1 through 7, only to leave for a brief stint in Hollywood. She then returned for seasons 10 through 12.
Now The Hollywood Reporter revealed that NeNe is alleging she was subjected to racism on multiple seasons of RHOA . NeNe filed a lawsuit in federal court in Atlanta, claiming that the companies behind the show fostered and allowed a hostile and racist work environment. NeNe complained to executives about years worth of racist remarks from her costar, Kim Zolciak-Biermann. Kim appeared on the show as a main cast member for five seasons. She also briefly left the show, only to return in a guest role for two more seasons. NeNe claimed that after her complaints about Kim, she was the only one who suffered consequences.
The suit names NBCUniversal, Bravo, production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original as defendants. Additional defendants include executives from the companies and Housewives executive producer Andy. The suit does not name Kim. The suit reads, “NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated — if not, encouraged.”
Details from the lawsuit allege that during the first season of RHOA, the cast was scheduled to attend a BBQ. Kim said of the idea with “words to the effect of: ‘I don’t want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken.’” The suit suggests that this statement “perpetuated an offensive stereotype about African-Americans.”
During the fifth season of the show, the suit claims that Kim made “racially offensive and stereotypical” comments about the new home of housewife Kandi Burruss. On camera, Kim called Kandi’s new neighborhood “ghetto.” In addition, Kim made an offensive comment about whether or not Kandi needed a swimming pool at the home.
The same year, Kim allegedly used the N-word when referring to NeNe and other housewives during a fight. The suit also accuses Kim of falsely implying that NeNe used drugs and called her house a “roach nest.” After NeNe made multiple complaints to executives who oversaw the show, the suit claims that they “did not terminate their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to put an end to her racially-offensive behavior.” In addition, they gave Kim her own spin-off, Don’t Be Tardy. The show was recently cancelled after eight seasons on Bravo.
NeNe’s lawyer, David deRubertis 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.” Another attorney for NeNe, Joe Habachy, stated via email that “not a day goes by that NeNe doesn’t wake up with an onslaught of overwhelming emotions as a direct result of these unfortunate and avoidable occurrences.”
The lawsuit claims that NeNe’s complaints of racism was part of what led to NeNe being forced off the show for good in 2020. It also alleges that NeNe’s negotiations for season 13 happened around the time the Black Lives Matter movement was dominating the national stage. NeNe was a vocal supporter of the movement. Allegedly, executives sidelined NeNe from talking about the cause. They also kept her off early episodes that discussed BLM, the suit continued. The suit read, in part, “As the Black Lives Matter movement swept our nation, Mrs. Leakes — Bravo’s historically most successful Black female talent — should have been embraced by NBC, Bravo, and True. Instead, NBC, Bravo, and True forced her out of the ‘house she built,’ denying her a regular role.”
Finally, the suit claims that the actions of the defendants violate federal employment and anti-discrimination law. NeNe is seeking monetary damages, which will be determined at trial. Reps for the defendants and Kim have yet to comment on the lawsuit.
TELL US – WHAT DO YOU THINK ABOUT NENE’S LAWSUIT? DO YOU BELIEVE THAT RHOA WAS A RACIST WORK ENVIRONMENT? WAS NENE FORCED OFF THE SHOW BECAUSE OF HER COMPLAINTS?
[Photo Credit: Bravo]