Why NeNe Leakes Just Filed A Lawsuit Over Real Housewives Of Atlanta

screenshot rhoa
(Image credit: Bravo)

In some fan circles, NeNe Leakes is believed to have made the Real Housewives of Atlanta what it is today, and vice versa. Her shady remarks and eye-rolling confessionals from the show long ago found their way into memes and pop culture vernacular, and have remained in frequent use over the years. Leakes headlined the first seven seasons as a main castmate, from 2008 to 2015, returning again for Seasons 10-12. There was speculation that she might’ve been fired after that last season, but she only stated at the time that her exit was the result of pay negotiations falling through. The 54-year-old just put the focus back on her stints, however, as she has filed a lawsuit over the show that brought her notoriety.

According to the Associated Press, per Deadline, NeNe Leakes' lawsuit was filed in federal court on Wednesday, April 20. Several are named as defendants on the suit, including NBCUniversal, Bravo, the True Entertainment company, the Truly Original company and executive producers such as Andy Cohen. In the complaint, NeNe Leakes accuses them of allowing racist activity to continue during the scope of filming. Specifically, the legal documents stated in part:

NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated — if not, encouraged.

The lawsuit lays out a few specific incidents, all of which entail NeNe Leake’s former castmate Kim Zolciak-Biermann. Leakes alleged Zolciak-Biermann made “racially offensive” commentary in Season 1 and Season 5, by using references to eating chicken and referring to Kandi Burruss’ neighborhood at the time as being “ghetto.” She also claimed that the Don’t Be Tardy star used the most heinous racial slur on the Real Housewives of Atlanta while insinuating that Leakes had a drug problem, and further criticized the cleanliness of Leakes’ home (deeming it a “roach fest”). Leakes’ lawyer David deRubertis added 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.

This suit isn’t the first time that the reality star has accused Andy Cohen et al of racism, either. Following her sudden exit from the franchise in 2020, NeNe Leakes claimed that Bravo had only used her for ratings, and specifically called Cohen a “master manipulator” and a “racist.” Shortly thereafter, Leakes threatened that she would take legal action soon. And while it wasn't immediate, she has clearly done so now, with the new lawsuit also alleging that her previous complaints about in-house racism were the real reason she was ousted from the Real Housewives of Atlanta to begin with.

NeNe Leakes isn’t the only one levelling these accusations at Bravo and its other entities. Just recently, a Below Deck star called for the show to be cancelled after Season 9, due to how the network allegedly mishandled another castmate’s use of racial slurs. The Real Housewives of New York has seen some controversy of late, too, in the wake of certain racial conversations between co-stars not going over well with viewers in Season 13.

Bravo/Andy Cohen announced that some structural changes were happening for the Real Housewives of New York’s next season, in order to make it more diverse and inclusive. Nevertheless, NeNe Leakes is seemingly more concerned with how they apparently treated her in the past over on the Atlanta spinoff, and she’s willing to take it all the way to court.

Lauren Vanderveen
Movies and TV News Writer

Freelance writer. Favs: film history, reality TV, astronomy, French fries.