Within a day of the Real Housewives of Atlanta and Celebrity Apprentice cast member, Nene Leakes talking with rolling out magazine, she changed her mind about her Celebrity Apprentice co-star, Star Jones and (as mentioned earlier) is now in the process of extendng the olive branch to Star… well, a girl can change her mind, can’t she? And, Nene is known for doing that a lot…
On a sunny afternoon in Atlanta, the statuesque NeNe Leakes arrives at her photo shoot at the Buckhead Bottle Bar, and when she enters, the room feels smaller. Moments later, Leakes is clad in a fierce black catsuit complemented with obscenely sexy Christian Louboutin stilettos.
Photographer Mr. Jeno directs her as she sprawls atop the fluorescent bar and seduces the camera. Next, Leakes has a pose of her own in mind. “How about this?” she coos, as she sits upright on the bar and stretches one leg toward California and the other toward New York. The pose is impressive; perhaps a throwback move from her former life as an exotic dancer when she danced “for the sake of my son and to restore my confidence in myself,” as explained in her book, Never Make the Same Mistake Twice.
You’ve never seen Leakes this way. She’s spirited and joking around as she playfully showcases her curves and recent weight loss in fantasy costumes. This is NeNe Leakes — the stereotypical angry black woman component of the super-hit reality series, “The Real Housewives of Atlanta?” “NeNe Leakes is fabulous, confident and she knows who the hell she is,” she says matter-of-factly. “NeNe Leakes is not an angry woman.”
Skeptics may point to the “Real Housewives of Atlanta” series and beg to differ. “Some days I’m angry, and everybody is, I just happen to be on television and the camera captures me when I’m angry,” she explains. “Just imagine doing a reality show. What would they capture about you? They’d capture you on your period, pissed off, angry with your man, happy, going shopping … but they’re only going to put in the things that are most interesting. I’m not an angry black woman; I’m actually a cool ass black woman.”
And therein lies the paradox.
There are two sides to NeNe Leakes: The girl you’d love to hate and the one you’d love to have your back. A mesmerizing train wreck and a shrewd businesswoman; a bully destined for a scathing comeuppance and a former domestic abuse survivor in search of happiness.
No matter how you look at Leakes, you can’t stop looking. She’s a star, not just a reality star, but a real star, as evidenced by her upcoming appearance on “Celebrity Apprentice” as Donald Trump’s new “it” girl. That gig led to Leakes’ very public spat with that other Star, as in Jones. Donald Trump implied that things got so ugly between the two women that certain scenes won’t be aired. Jones reportedly hired security because she didn’t feel safe around Leakes.
Leakes confides in rolling out that she believes Star Jones has a problem with women, in general.
“I had an experience with Star,” Leakes huffs. “I had never met her before. I believe that any woman who gets around Star will find that Star’s not cool. And when you watch ‘Celebrity Apprentice,’ you will see some sides of her that are just not cool.”
Leakes’ much-anticipated appearance on “Celebrity Apprentice” will be nothing like what you’ve seen of her on “Real Housewives of Atlanta,” she says.
“ ‘Celebrity Apprentice’ wasn’t a great experience for me. It was a very hard show to do. We shot the show in literally, 45 days. It’s a big show with 16 celebrities [eight men and eight women], as opposed to working with five. The hours are bananas. You work six days a week, and you rise at 4 a.m. and you get in at midnight. The earliest was 10 p.m., but sometimes it was 1 a.m.”
Working with Donald Trump was golden, however. “Donald is great. He’s very real in his own type of way. He’s not the easiest person to get to know right away,” Leakes recalls. “It takes some time to get to know him. I found him very cool, and I must say he really likes me. You know he likes women who are really tall, and he’s had some brown sugar.” NeNe continues, “Yeah, I would date Donald Trump … let’s hook it up. I met some really important people through Mr. Trump, he has that swagger.”
Overall, Leakes states that the reality show path to show business has been a mixed blessing and returning for another season of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” isn’t a done deal. “I can’t say today that I want to be a housewife next season. I don’t know that. Maybe a month from now, I will feel different. I want to have the opportunity to talk to the producers to see where we can go as far as the editing, and as you know, we don’t have any control over that. We just shoot the show, and they show what they want to show.”
If Leakes does return, frenemy Kim Zolciak’s assistant, Sweetie Hughes, will be yet one more dynamic for her to deal with. Last season on “Housewives,” Leakes called Sweetie a slave. Afterwards, radio host Rickey Smiley launched a “Free Sweetie” campaign on his show. Recently, Sweetie publicly charged that, “NeNe’s traumatizing my life. She’s bringing hell to it.”
Once Sweetie is mentioned, the other Leakes makes an appearance. “Sweetie is not even a housewife, nor is she a celebrity. I said on the show that Kim was treating her like a slave, and that was my opinion. As a black woman, [if you] allow any woman of any ethnicity to say to you, ‘You black b—-, go and get my cigarettes,’ either you are a slave or you have a problem. And the Free Sweetie campaign had nothing to do with me. Rickey Smiley is a comedian and he did that [as] a complete joke, and people are just laughing about it, and Sweetie is taking it seriously.” Finally, Leakes delivers a verbal backhand: “I’m not ruining her life. What kind of life does she have anyway?”
Sweetie isn’t the only “Housewives” element that leaves a bad taste in Leakes’ mouth. In truth, she must experience everything that happens on the show while taping it, and then again a year later when the show airs. Leakes was forced to experience the breakdown of her marriage twice, her biggest regret. “I probably would have never talked about my divorce publicly,” she explains. “[When] going through a divorce, you need to be around people who love you and care for you, and there were times that I really didn’t want to talk to people, just because I was failing in that area. I don’t think it’s anything that I did. It’s just after 14 years, we just grew apart.”
Leakes isn’t sulking over the breakup now. She’s back on the market, looking for Mr. Right, a man who is “confident in who he is, and stays in his lane and not over here in mine,” she says. “He has to be spiritual, he has to have swagger, and it doesn’t matter if he’s black or white.” And Leakes’ Mr. Right must have his own money. “I’m not in it for the money, but, if I date a man he has to have his own money. I think it’s only fair,” she states. “If I’m out here making money, what in the hell am I going to do with a guy who’s not making money? Like, that’s not even cool. I don’t want to take care of a guy. If he’s out here doing his thing, I can be very supportive of him. And I’m over here doing my thing, and he’s very supportive of me. That would be great, but I cannot date a broke dude.”
As for that pregnancy rumor, Leakes’ stomach is washboard tight, and she’s not looking to expand her waistline. “What in the hell am I going to do pregnant?” she snaps. “I don’t want to birth anything. I want to travel the world and work on my career.”
Leakes’ is not looking to find her real dad either. She’s refused to take a DNA test with her possible biological father, and she’s rebuffed an invitation from his children. “I started thinking about a DNA test and being on a reality show, and their asses asking me for money,” she laughs. “No, we ain’t related. I know you, but I don’t know you, and let’s just keep it like that.”
They say that 15 minutes of fame is all you get in the limelight, and in the realm of reality TV, suddenly famous everyday folk may get even less than that. But there are always exceptions to the rule, and NeNe says it’s never been about the 15 minutes for her anyway. “I work with a lot of people in the business who would much rather have fame over the money, and I’m a little bit different,” she states. “Famous isn’t anything that I’m trying to be. I’m just trying to work and have money.”