NeNe Leakes — the Housewife who has launched a thousand GIFs — announced on her YouTube channel Thursday that she will not be returning to “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” next season. The show has been filming for months already without Leakes, one of the biggest stars who has come out of Bravo’s “Housewives” industrial complex.
Addressing the camera, an emotional Leakes said: “I have been on an extremely, extremely long, exhausting, tiring, emotional negotiation. There has been a lot of emotion flying from both sides. It has been hard. And I have made the very hard and difficult decision to not be a part of ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta,’ Season 13. It wasn’t an easy decision for me. It was hard.”
A Bravo spokesperson confirmed to Variety that the network and Leakes couldn’t come to mutually agreeable terms. In a statement, Bravo said: “We wish Nene all the best in her future endeavors and thank her for sharing her journey for over a decade with the fans of ‘The Real Housewives of Atlanta.’ She’s been instrumental since the start and will truly be missed, and maybe one day she’ll hold the peach again.”
“Real Housewives” executive producer Andy Cohen also paid tribute to Leakes on his Instagram account, calling her an “icon of the genre.”
Leakes was an original cast member of “RHOA,” which premiered on Bravo in 2008, and has always been the highest rated show of the franchise (and on the network). She was the show’s breakout star, and achieved success that extended outside of the “Housewives” universe, appearing as a series regular on Ryan Murphy’s NBC sitcom “The New Normal,” as well as guest starring on Murphy’s “Glee” on Fox. She was on “The Celebrity Apprentice” with Donald Trump in 2011, and “Dancing With the Stars” in 2014. She has been on Broadway twice, in “Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella” (2014) and “Chicago” (2015).
Leakes — a combustible presence with a lightning-fast wit — has been a quote-machine for the show. Among her most famous (and GIF’d moments) are, “I said what I said”; “Close your legs to married men” (directed at fellow cast member, Kim Zolziak); “Bye, wig!” (also to Zolziak); “I am very rich, bitch”; and her succinct catchphrase “Bloop!”
She has left “RHOA” one other time, when she appeared only occasionally during the show’s eighth season, and not at all in its ninth. (She returned full-time in Season 10.) Leakes and her family have been through a lot on camera, including her divorce and later reconciliation with her husband, Gregg Leakes, as well as Gregg’s cancer treatment, and the strain his illness again put on their marriage.
Leakes has always been one of the highest paid “Housewives,” according to — as the Atlanta “Housewives” would put it — the blogs. When the new season of “RHOA” began filming this summer, much later than it normally would have because of coronavirus, she was noticeably absent from reports about the new season. In an interview last month with Bravo’s Shari Levine, the vice president of production would not comment on Leakes’ status, other than to say that the negotiations were ongoing. Considering that Leakes walked off camera twice during “RHOA’s” virtual reunions in May — leaving her camera to look at nothing for a considerable part of what aired — her departure is not entirely a surprise.
Leakes’ goodbye video on Thursday was highly produced, and clearly planned: “I’m just so happy that I can say that I was part of a genre that opened up doors for Black ensemble reality shows to step up and be a part of what we all now love so much, reality TV. I want to thank everybody that has looked up to me over the years — thank you so much for your love and your support.”
She then went through a list of people she wanted to thank, including Bravo, the show’s production company and the rest of the cast, and concluded by saying: “I love you guys. You guys mean so much to me. And I will see you again real soon. Love you guys! I’m going to miss you!”
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