Nene

V Exclusive: Nene Leakes Talks 'Housewives,' Says Reality TV Has ‘Gone Way Too Far’

Everyone knows Nene. After five seasons, the Real Housewives Of Atlanta star is a television OG, but unlike many reality focal points the HBIC hasn’t been held back by the stigma. Instead, she’s slowly taking over Hollywood, landing roles on Glee and the upcoming NBC comedy The New Normal, which premieres this fall. VIBE recently chatted with Nene about that role for an upcoming issue, during which we also asked about her future on Housewives and the growing concerns over reality television’s violence (see: our June/July cover story).

VIBE: Are you still shooting the next Real Housewives of Atlanta?
Nene Leakes: I am currently shooting. We’ve been shooting for about three weeks. We have a long way to go. Everybody wasn’t expecting me to come back for this season. It was really a hard decision for me to even think of coming back because I was so tired of the whole reality thing. And not just being tired of it—I had other things in the works. But I think it’s a good idea that I’ve come back for season 5. I would love to just walk away, but when I sit down and talk with my team, it’s not… If you can do it all, then just do it all. Why leave the show when you can still do the show and you can still do The New Normal? So we’re going to see how doing everything works. We’ll see what happens. We’re taking a little bit of a chance.

You seemed a little calmer in the most recent season of Housewives. Was that just personal growth?
I really think it is. We’re looking at our fifth season—and I shot the pilot so I feel like I’m in my sixth season. When you have done it over and over and over again in the same negativity, it just wears you down. And I just feel like after a while, I just can’t do this job no more. Like, seriously? That’s how I felt sitting there at the reunion. Like, this is just too petty. Yes, I love reality TV, and I believe that you can do reality shows and have drama. You gotta have drama and entertainment, but some of the stuff has driven me insane. I do really think that it’s personal growth. It’s almost like being in a relationship and you’re like, I done taken all I can take and I can’t take no more. I sort of felt the same way with the show—I’ve taken everything I can take, I’m just tired. But I don’t know how interesting I’ll be this season. ’Cause I feel like I got boring. I gotta get some pep in my step [laughs]. We’re all sitting there and it’s all this silly, petty, who said what and I’m just sitting there and people are expecting me to really say something and I’m just thinking, what do you say. I think you almost look better when you sit there and look at ’em like they’re crazy.

Your expressions are definitely classic.
My faces are just a mess, chile. I go back and look at my face and I’m just like, Nene can you not do that. I can’t help it. People always told me for years, "Whenever you’re thinking something or you’re not in a good mood, everything about you we read it in your face. If I’m unhappy, I can tell or you’re sick." And I really can’t change my face. I actually try. They say, "put a smile on your face and you go in there and you get ‘em!" And I’m thinking, now that just ain’t gon’ work for me [laughs]. I can’t keep a smile on my face and just go in there. So my face always reads. I look at the show and I bust out laughing. I can’t believe the stuff that we do, and I really don’t know I’m doing this stuff.

I don’t know if you’ve been keeping track of Basketball Wives. Our current cover features some reality stars. What's your take on whether it’s gotten out of hand? You mentioned that we always need drama. But the physical fighting, some people have said it’s gone too far.

I don’t know if you’ve been keeping track of Basketball Wives. Our current cover features some reality stars. What's your take on whether it’s gotten out of hand? You mentioned that we always need drama. But the physical fighting, some people have said it’s gone too far.
It’s gone way too far. The truth is the truth. It has just gone too far. Too many fights, my God! I can see if there was one here or there. And I always say to people when they say something about reality, you can say whatever y’all want about reality TV, Atlanta Housewives, we don’t do that. We definitely have had our verbal fights, but never physical fights. I can’t believe the fighting and the bullying. It looks bad. It really looks bad. I don’t like when people say it affects Black women or the Black community. I think it affects all communities. I think it looks bad on women; it looks bad on everybody. It’s just so sad; it’s so crazy to me. When I look at it, I just can’t believe it. And, you know, I’m friends with Jennifer [Williams] and she’s on Basketball Wives. I can’t believe it. I almost, you know when I watch, I’m like, “How much do they paid?” [Laughs] My goodness. And then I think about—they can’t want to do too much in their careers. A good ole argument, everybody likes that every now and then to tune into, but you couldn’t be trying to have too much in your career because that stuff, it don’t work. You can’t represent a product and be that way. That just doesn’t work. That’s one of the reasons when I’m sitting on my show, I’m thinking I’m just tired. Because at some point this can’t even help my future. You know, you would want to think that it would help your future.

Evelyn Lozada did apologize for some of her actions on the show. So it seems like there's some growth happening.
I don’t know if apologizing is going to work. Now, apologizing is always a great thing to do. You need to say I’m sorry or whatever the case, but I don’t know how good that’s gon’ work because in this case, it’s sort of like the damage is already done. It’s great to go back and say, "I’m sorry and I learned from the mistake." But the damage is done and people saw it. They saw it. It’s a matter of if the viewers will forgive you. TV is tricky. You can do some stuff and people will tune out and never tune back in. It’s sort of like putting a bad taste in somebody’s mouth. Some people may not ever tune in again. And then there’s some people that will tune in just to tune in and see what’s gon’ happen. But still, you could’ve damaged your career. The person that was looking at you to do something, they may not want to use you now. I can’t take it.

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