While looking for something else, I came across this October 7, 2008 Essence.com interview with Nene Leakes BEFORE the Real Housewives of Atlanta premiered AND an Essence.com interview with Nene AFTER RHOA premiered dated October 28, 2008.
After reading them, I kinda feel bad for Nene…things aren’t going the way she planned…I said ‘kinda’…
October 7, 2008: “Linnethia “NeNe” Leakes is a native of Queens, New York, and mother of 18-year-old Brice and 9-year-old Brentt. She’s married to Gregg, an über-successful real estate investor. If the Georgia real estate board driving you out of business is your definition of successful… A greater Atlanta resident for more than two decades, NeNe is carefree, outgoing and a lover all things fabulous. She’s a former model Huh??? and founder of The Twisted Hearts Foundation, which brings awareness to the issue of domestic violence. Twisted Hearts took money and closed shop: http://twistedheartsfoundation.org/ She’s also planning on opening a boutique hotel. Uh-huh…
ESSENCE.COM: So NeNe, you seem very excited about the show! Tell us about it.
NENE LEAKES: I’m very excited about “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.” We’re going to bring a lot of fun, a lot of drama. We are five fun, fabulous girls. We’re very smart, we’re businesswomen, we’re go-getters, we’re moms, and I think everybody is going to absolutely love the show. We do have our differences here and there. I really wanted to do the show to get my name and business out there.
ESSENCE.COM: What business is that?
LEAKES: I’m the founder of Twisted Hearts Foundation. I thought [“The Real Housewives of Atlanta”] would be a great way to reach people about domestic violence in the community. A lot of people think that domestic violence is something that just happens in an urban city or to people of a [lower] income level. No, it truly happens to very wealthy people—doctors, lawyers, athletes’ wives. Nene does not know truly wealthy people. I know so many athletes’ wives who are abused by their husbands. It’s a subject that is very near and dear to my heart.
ESSENCE.COM: And you’re also getting ready to open a boutique hotel?
LEAKES: Yes, I’d love to have something small, maybe 30-40 rooms. Not a whole lot but very luxe. I have a designer who is helping me with my vision. And then I’m working with a couple of investors who have invested in hotels before. I don’t like to do stuff when I don’t really know what I’m doing, but I’m educating myself. You can’t get your money back if it doesn’t work. This is so scary for me. Obviously that fell through.
ESSENCE.COM: You are the mother of two and your oldest son just went off to college. But you look so young! How do you do it?
LEAKES: Yes. My oldest son, Brice, just started Clark Atlanta University. …and just as quickly dropped out. As far as being young, you know I’m African-American! (Laughs.) Also, you have to use a lot of moisturizer. I’m one of those girls who don’t wear makeup unless I’m in front of the camera. I wear moisturizer and a ponytail, and I’m out the door.
ESSENCE.COM: Now that the taping of the show is over, what have you learned about yourself?
LEAKES: I didn’t realize that I wear my heart on my sleeve. I’m a lot more sensitive than I thought I was. I also learned that I’m very strong. Now that I’ve done this, I know I can truly do anything. I knew this growing up, but I think it went away once I met my husband, Gregg. So it came back to me. Now I know that I would be successful without my husband. I used to think otherwise, because Gregg was the breadwinner. When I had our son Brentt, I was a stay-at-home mom. Gregg took care of all the bills, but that has since changed. Now I know I can stand on my own two feet. We’ve been married for 11 years and my dream is to help my husband retire. He has taken care of me and supported me in all my dreams for so long; I would love to turn the tables and take care of him.” Interesting… so maybe he really did put up the money for you to start out on RHOA.
October 27, 2008: “As if the ATL needed anymore drama, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” – NeNe, Kim, Sheree, DeShawn and Lisa – have agreed to live under a microscope and allow America to share their myopic views about their lives as they see fit. Because we’re hooked and each episode is juicier than the last, we checked in with Linnethia “NeNe” Leakes to find out what she’s been up to since the show premiered and get an inside scoop on what’s going down next. With October being National Domestic Violence Awareness Month, the Queens, New York, native shed some well-deserved light on her organization, The Twisted Hearts Foundation, which helps young women escape the pitfalls of abusive relationships. Essence.com caught up with the boisterous belle to discuss those “exotic dancer” rumors, what she really thinks about cast mate Kim Zolciak, and breaking free from an abusive boyfriend.
ESSENCE.COM: NeNe, the show has become such a hit! Without giving away too much, what can we expect from the rest of this season on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta”?
NENE LEAKES: You will see alliances change among the girls and find out whether or not Curtis is my father. When I found out the results of the DNA test, I [was] surprised, and you will also see my son going off to college at Clark Atlanta University. …and quickly come home to be a baby daddy.
ESSENCE.COM: There has definitely been some conflict between you and a couple of the other ladies on the show. What are your relationships like with Sheree and Kim today?
LEAKES: We are cordial. Sheree and I will probably never be the same. We’ve known each other the longest-seven years. I avoid making the same mistake twice. I don’t think that we’ll ever have the same relationship again, but we are cordial [because] we have to work together. And Kim is something else. She is a piece of work. As an adult, I’ve learned that I like to be around women when the friendship is stress-free. Then why did you get on the bus!? Since the show has ended, I’m closest to Lisa. I do feel as though my relationship with Kim’s daughter Brielle has been strained somewhat as a result [of my relationship with her mother]. I really do love Brielle, she and I really clicked when we first met, so it is kind of hard for me.
ESSENCE.COM: Since we last spoke, rumors have circulated on the Web about you having once been an “exotic dancer.” Is this true?
LEAKES: Well, you know I don’t read the blogs, of course you don’t… but I dance every night at home for Gregg [my husband] and he loves it. (Laughs.) I don’t have a pole, but I dance around this silk plant in the corner. How does she do that without crashing into walls??
ESSENCE.COM: (Laughs.) Alrighty then! Your husband, Gregg, is not a ball player, but a successful businessman, which is refreshing on the show. What exactly does he do and how do you keep the fire going after 11 years of marriage?
LEAKES: You don’t have to date an athlete to be successful. Gregg is a real estate investor. When I first met him he owned several cellular phone businesses, and then he got into flipping houses. Since the market is so bad in Atlanta right now, we are pursuing other ventures together as entrepreneurs. I like smart men. (Laughs.) Yep, that IS funny! I am his second wife and he’s 13 years older than me. He supports me. I think communication is key, so I don’t like to argue with Gregg.
ESSENCE.COM: As you know, October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. What is your organization, The Twisted Hearts Foundation, doing to promote awareness?
LEAKES: Lisa and I are writing a book together and already have a title, “Battered But Not Broken”… another dream gone up in smoke. We’re just going to tell a little bit of both of our stories of [surviving] violent relationships. And then on the show I had my first annual Big Hat Brunch. This year we raised about $45,000, as you will see on a future episode, and next year I hope to raise $150,000. Where IS that money?? We’re going to invite even more women. I also volunteer at a shelter in Atlanta called My Sister’s House. I help serve food to women there who have been displaced and I mentor as well. There are a lot of young girls, as young as 20, at My Sister’s House who have already been victims of domestic violence.
ESSENCE.COM: How were you a victim of domestic violence?
LEAKES: I was in a relationship with an abusive boyfriend. It was really bad and it took me a while to finally break out of the relationship. He had a night job at the time so I was able to sneak out into a new apartment [that he didn't know the address to] while he was at work. I knew that he could not know where I lived. I had to go into hiding for a while. That was how I finally got away. He was very abusive when we were together; he busted my car windows, flattened my tires. I thought I was in love with this fool. I was very young and confused. I would try to break up with him, but he didn’t like to take no for an answer. I really wanted it to work. Huh???
ESSENCE.COM: One last thing before we go. What do you have to say to those readers who think you are “ghetto”?
LEAKES: Oh, yeah, I love that one. I’m okay with it. If keeping it real is ghetto, then I’m ghetto. I am not a fake person and I’m not about to change. I’m the life of the party, chile! That’s not too ghetto…