NeNe Leakes is dishing about her time on The Real Housewives of Atlanta — and the toll her career has taken on her personal life.
As we reported on Monday, the 55-year-old TV veteran sat down with producer and podcast host Carlos King for a massive two-part interview about her life and career.
In our Monday evening report, we covered quite a bit of the unfortunate saga involving NeNe’s 33-year-old son Bryson Bryant, who has struggled for years with drug addiction and legal problems. And now, as this week’s full installment of the Reality With The King podcast has been released, we’ve got a look at everything else.
In Tuesday’s podcast episode — the first of two parts, with the second to be released next Tuesday — the Bravo vet got real with her RHOA producer pal about how the so-called reality TV sausage was made.
Here are the highlights from their nearly 90-minute-long chat (below)…
Low Salaries For A LONG Time!
Amazingly, even though RHOA was a hit from the start of its run way back in 2008, NeNe and the rest of the cast didn’t get paid for YEARS.
She told King in Tuesday’s interview that she only made “a total of $10,000” to film the first season of the show. Then, when Bravo realized they had a hit on their hands, they offered NeNe “an extra $5,000” to film the reunion. That’s all?! After a filming schedule that lasted three months! Oof!
NeNe didn’t remember the Season 2 salary numbers off the top of her head, but when King queried about it, she estimated she made “around $50,000” to film that follow-up.
By seasons three and four, the RHOA ladies started to get smart. NeNe recalled how she, Shereé Whitfield, Kim Zolciak-Biermann, and other OG stars “got the same attorney” to play hardball with Bravo. It ended up working — sort of — and the women made low six figures in the third season. Then finally by the fourth season, NeNe and the rest got big-time paydays.
Still, it took a long time (and a LOT of work) before they came to that point! Jeez!!
How Real Was RHOA?
The biggest question on most viewers’ minds is always how real RHOA really is.
For NeNe, she says things were real… at first. She says things began to change during the fifth season. That year, Kenya Moore joined the cast, and along with her addition, Leakes began noticing there were more made-up storylines and phony relationships inserted into the series. She wanted to be very clear about one thing, tho: all the OG Housewives started the run with their “real husbands” and “real boyfriends.”
“Our stories were real. Everything we talked about and did was real. When we had disagreements, they were real. We didn’t pretend like we had a boyfriend when we didn’t have one. Then I think once Kenya came on the show — I’m not saying that Kenya started it or did it — but at that moment, it started to be ‘let’s create our story line.’ Well, we didn’t create a story line [before that]. We just showed up to work and was just filming and being who we are.”
As we noted up top, a big portion of NeNe’s discussion with King centered on addiction issues of her son Bryson. But that wasn’t the only family problem Leakes wanted to clarify with this podcast push.
During Tuesday’s show, she expressed regret over bringing her sons — Bryson, whom she shares with ex Calvin Bryant, along with 24-year-old Brentt Leakes, whom she shared with late husband Gregg Leakes — onto the show at all.
Remembering one pivotal early-season moment in which she disciplined Brentt on camera when he was just a kid, NeNe said:
“I disciplined my son once on camera that everybody goes back and, and say, over and over, ‘you lost your damn mind.’ You know? I felt like that really hurt my son’s feelings. I don’t wanna hurt my children in the process of doing something that I wanna do. So I wished I could take that moment back.”
The Trouble With Gregg
Of course, NeNe and Gregg were married for pretty much the entire time she filmed RHOA. They wed in 1997, had Brentt in 1999, and then eventually called it quits in 2010 before reconciling three years later. From there, the Bravo-lebrity remained by Gregg’s side until he tragically died from cancer in 2021.
NeNe recalled how her marriage to Gregg had been happy… up until the time she began to out-earn him as the show took off:
“Gregg loved me for me, and he knew me for who I was. And also my husband was the breadwinner in my case. I wasn’t working and he made the money. And once I started to make more money than him, he started looking at me, like, sideways … Because I no longer had to ask him for money. I no longer had to ask him for anything. … And so I think that I pulled some of his strength or his power or something.”
Then, regarding their divorce in 2010, NeNe recalled how she was “devastated” over the split. Still, she knew she needed to move forward with it to “teach him a lesson.”
“The only lesson that Gregg was gonna get was for me to divorce him. And I was gonna have to carry it all the way through. And when I carried it all the way through, I will never forget. Gregg called me on the phone. He said, ‘you bitch, you divorced me.'”
At least he got the message, and they ended up together? Tough love indeed…
Change Comes For All
Now that the show has been a success for so many years, and NeNe was at the center of that success, she has become a reality TV superstar. But along with that comes an ego — or at least what others perceive to be an ego.
Explaining how she hates being criticized for having “changed” over the years, NeNe said:
“People like to say ‘you’ve changed over the years.’ Well, the thing is, you’re supposed to grow. Every year you get older, you know, it’s not like I’m getting younger. And you learn from your mistakes and you become more and more mature.”
And she continued:
“I think people try to say ‘ego’ when the cameras are watching you and all these people are pulling you apart every single day.”
Not wrong about that!
You can watch the full first part of her interview on Reality With The King (below):
Damn. Definitely a wide-ranging interview.
Reactions, Perezcious readers??
[Image via Carlos King/Bravo/YouTube]