Iconic Real Housewives of Atlanta star Nene Leakes is suing the companies who produce the show for allegedly fostering a “racially-insensitive” working environment.
The lawsuit alleges that Leakes, who is Black, issued numerous complaints to executives during her duration on the show of racist remarks from fellow Housewife Kim Zolciak-Biermann, who is white, during her time on the show.
Despite this, Leakes claims she suffered consequences to her career while Zolciak-Biermann was rewarded with a spinoff.
Leakes is one of the OG and most iconic Housewives. She starred on the first-ever season of RHOA and arguably put the entire franchise on the map during her run on the show from 2008 to 2020.
After taking a three-year break from the show in Season 7, she later returned in Season 10 for a total of three seasons but opted out of the show after she was demoted to a minor role.
Meanwhile Zolciak-Biermann scored her own spinoff titled Don’t Be Tardy.
The lawsuit names the defendants as NBCUniversal, Bravo, production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original, executives from the companies and executive producer Andy Cohen, but not Zolciak-Biermann.
Zolciak-Biermann (left), Cohen (middle) and Leakes (right) at a Real Housewives reunion. (Credit: Bravo)
“NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behaviour is tolerated — if not, encouraged,” the suit says.
The lawsuit lists numerous occasions where Leakes copped racism from her co-star, all of which are documented on the show.
In one scene during the show’s first season back in 2008, the cast was planning to attend a barbecue, and Zolciak-Biermann famously said: “I don’t want to sit around with Nene and eat chicken.”
The lawsuit says this statement “perpetuated an offensive stereotype about African-Americans.”
The suit also points out a scene from the show’s fifth season in 2012 when Zolciak-Biermann made “racially offensive and stereotypical” comments about the new home of Black Housewife Kandi Burruss, calling her neighbourhood a “ghetto.”
She also perpetuated a racial stereotype by making a comment about Burruss not needing a swimming pool for her home.
That same season, Zolciak-Biermann allegedly used the N-word to refer to Leakes and other Black Housewives.
It also alleges that Zolciak-Biermann falsely implied Leakes used drugs and called her home a “roach nest.”
Leakes claims executives also attempted to hush her support of the Black Lives Matter 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.”
Leakes insists she made multiple complaints to executives but they “did not terminate their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to put an end to her racially-offensive behaviour.”
The lawsuit alleges that these complaints led in part to Leakes’ Housewives role being reduced.
Leakes’ lawyer David deRubertis said in a statement to Page Six: “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.”
“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,” Leakes’ other lawyer Joe Habachy told the publication.
Leakes is seeking monetary damages to be determined at trial as the defendants’ alleged actions violate federal employment and anti-discrimination law.