Linnethia “NeNe” Leakes is the OG of The Real Housewives of Atlanta and the Queen Bee of Bravo. Fans were shocked when she took her final exit from the network in 2020 after Season 12.
Since leaving the show, she has been involved in a heated social media exchange with both Bravo and their chief, Andy Cohen.
Now she has taken her feud to the next level, filing a lawsuit against Bravo and Andy, alleging that they fostered and tolerated a hostile and racist work environment. The lawsuit filed Wednesday in federal court in Atlanta claims NeNe complained to executives about years of racist remarks from fellow housewife Kim Zolciak-Biermann, but that only NeNe suffered consequences.
What are the details of NeNe’s lawsuit?
The lawsuit names NBCUniversal, Bravo, production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original, executives from the companies, and “Housewives” executive producer Andy Cohen as defendants, but not Kim. The suit claims, “NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated – if not, encouraged.”
An example named for this behavior happened in the first season of RHOA, which aired in 2008. The cast planned to attend a barbecue, and Kim responded to the idea with “words to the effect of: ‘I don’t want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken.’” The suit says the statement “perpetuated an offensive stereotype about African-Americans.”
The suit also claims that in 2012, during Season Five, Kim made “racially offensive and stereotypical” comments about the new home of housewife Kandi Burruss, calling her neighborhood a “ghetto” and perpetuating a racial stereotype in an offensive comment about whether Kandi needed a swimming pool. That same year, the suit says, Kim used the N-word to refer to NeNe and other of the housewives after a dispute with them, and also alleges Kim falsely implied that NeNe used drugs and called her home a “roach nest.”
Two of NeNe’s attorneys have commented directly. 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.” Joe Habachy, another of NeNe’s attorneys, said 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 led to her being forced off of the series and that she did not voluntarily quit.
NeNe also claims the Black Lives Matter movement played a part
NeNe’s lawsuit alleged that Bravo execs decreased her airtime in an effort to keep her from promoting the BLM movement. “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.”
NeNe did say in an interview with the talk show The Real in 2021 that she intended to return to RHOA in the future. She also previously admitted to having issues with Andy and expressed how much she loved him and his son, Ben. She said she would love to have a sit down with her former boss and return to her rightful place as the Queen of RHOA.
None of the parties in the suit have commented, including Andy. Kim, who was not named in the suit, has also not spoken on the issue.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta is currently on hiatus.