If there’s drama with The Real Housewives, it must be a day that ends in Y. Only this time, the controversy is happening off-screen, as former The Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes is suing the studio, network and producers behind the reality show, alleging they “fostered a racist work environment,” per The Hollywood Reporter.
NBCUniversal, Bravo, True Entertainment and Truly Original production companies, as well as executives from those companies and Andy Cohen, executive producer of The Real Housewives franchise, are all named as defendants in the lawsuit, which has been filed in federal court in Atlanta.
Leakes alleges that she spent years complaining about racist comments from white cast member Kim Zolciak-Biermann, but NeNe was the only one who dealt with any real consequences. It’s a story many Black women know all too well. Stand by for Kim’s tear-filled interview where she emotionally states, “she’s not racist in any way!”
“NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated – if not, encouraged,” the suit says.
Anyone who’s ever watched a single minute of reality TV can tell you producers use all manner of tricks and scenarios to hype up the drama among the cast. In The Real Housewives franchise, there’s always some new scandal for them to fight over, so I wouldn’t be at all surprised to find out they encouraged this behavior.
And by the way, NeNe brought receipts.
The suit alleges that in Season 1, which aired in 2008, as the cast was deciding to go to a barbecue, Zolciak-Biermann said “words to the effect of: ‘I don’t want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken.’” The lawsuit (and any Black person) says the statement plays into “an offensive stereotype about African-Americans.”
Oh, is that not quite racist enough for you? Let’s talk about Season 5 in 2012, where she allegedly used “racially offensive and stereotypical” remarks about Kandi Burrus’ new house, saying her neighborhood was a “ghetto” and wondering whether Kandi needed a swimming pool. It is also alleged that Zolciak-Biermann used the n-word about Leakes and the other Housewives after an argument, and “falsely implied that Leakes used drugs and called her home a ‘roach nest.’” It’s like she was using a racism checklist.
“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,” Leakes’ lawyer David deRubertis said in a statement.
NeNe left Housewives in 2020, with the lawsuit saying she was forced out due in part to her complaints and vocal support for Black Lives Matter.
“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,” the suit says. “Instead, NBC, Bravo, and True forced her out of the ‘house she built,’ denying her a regular role.”
And what happened to Kim after all NeNe’s complaints? She got her own spinoff, because that’s how it always works.