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NeNe Leakes sues Andy Cohen, Bravo and others claiming RHOA was racist and hostile workplace


NeNe Leakes on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in an Atlanta federal court, saying that the companies that produced The Real Housewives of Atlanta oversaw a hostile and racist workplace.

Leakes, 54, named Real Housewives executive producer Andy Cohen, 53, Bravo, NBCUniversal, True Entertainment and Truly Original, as well as executives from the companies, in her suit, according to the Associated Press. 

Leakes, who is Black, said in court docs that she had reported hearing racist remarks from white RHOA co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, 43, to higher-ups with the companies, and faced professional repercussions as a result.

The latest: NeNe Leakes, 54, on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in an Atlanta federal court, saying that the companies that produced The Real Housewives of Atlanta oversaw a hostile and racist workplace. She was snapped in NYC in 2019

The latest: NeNe Leakes, 54, on Wednesday filed a lawsuit in an Atlanta federal court, saying that the companies that produced The Real Housewives of Atlanta oversaw a hostile and racist workplace. She was snapped in NYC in 2019

‘NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated – if not, encouraged,’ Leakes’ legal team said in court docs in the suit.

The reality star, whose full name is Linnethia Monique Leakes, appeared on 214 total episodes on the Georgia-based reality series from 2008 and 2020, according to iMDb. 

She was a regular on the show through the seventh season, was a part-time cast member in the show’s seventh season, and returned as a regular from seasons 10 through 12. She was also seen on the spinoff I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding in 2013, which documented her nuptials to late husband Gregg Leakes.

Leakes said that Zolciak-Biermann – who was not named in the lawsuit – first made a racist remark during the show’s initial season in 2008 when the cast was slated to attend a barbecue.

Leakes named Real Housewives executive producer Andy Cohen, 53, among the defendants in her lawsuit

Leakes named Real Housewives executive producer Andy Cohen, 53, among the defendants in her lawsuit

Leakes said the companies she named in the suit - including Bravo and NBCUniversal - were in violation of federal employment and anti-discrimination laws, requesting that damages be determined in a trial

Leakes said the companies she named in the suit – including Bravo and NBCUniversal – were in violation of federal employment and anti-discrimination laws, requesting that damages be determined in a trial 

Leakes said in court docs that Zolciak-Biermann said ‘words to the effect of: “I don’t want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken,”‘ which ‘perpetuated an offensive stereotype about African-Americans.’

Zolciak-Biermann made more ‘racially offensive and stereotypical’ remarks during the show’s fifth season in 2012, according to Leakes, who said Zolciak-Biermann used the N-word in reference to her and other cast members amid a fight.

In one instance, after cast member Kandi Burruss, 45, purchased a new home, Leakes told the court, Zolciak-Biermann dubbed the neighborhood Burruss lived in a ‘ghetto’ and questioned if she needed a swimming pool.

Leakes said in court docs that Zolciak-Biermann referred to her home as a ‘roach nest’ and lied in implying that Leakes was a drug user.

Leakes said in her suit that she reported the slew of racial remarks to the show’s executives, who ‘did not terminate their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to put an end to her racially-offensive behavior.’

Leakes said she had reported hearing racist remarks from RHOA co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, 43, (pictured) to higher-ups with the companies, and faced professional repercussions as a result

Leakes said she had reported hearing racist remarks from RHOA co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, 43, (pictured) to higher-ups with the companies, and faced professional repercussions as a result

In one instance, after cast member Kandi Burruss, 45, (pictured last month) purchased a new home, Leakes told the court, Zolciak-Biermann dubbed the neighborhood Burruss lived in a 'ghetto' and questioned if she needed a swimming pool

In one instance, after cast member Kandi Burruss, 45, (pictured last month) purchased a new home, Leakes told the court, Zolciak-Biermann dubbed the neighborhood Burruss lived in a ‘ghetto’ and questioned if she needed a swimming pool 

Zolciak-Biermann received more lucrative opportunities from Bravo with the 2012 spinoff Don’t Be Tardy for the Wedding, which was later shortened to Don’t Be Tardy. The show ran for eight seasons prior to wrapping up in 2020.

Leakes’ lawyer David deRubertis said in a statement that ‘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.’

Another attorney for Leakes, Joe Habachy, told the AP in an email that ‘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.’

In the suit, Leakes said that speaking out about the racist behavior factored in her being forced off the series in 2020 prior to season 13, at a time when the organization Black Lives Matter was making headlines amid social change following the police killing of George Floyd, and the demonstrations against racism and police brutality that ensued thereafter.

Leakes, a vocal supporter of BLM, said in the suit that execs deliberately kept her off episodes that were filmed at the time in which the topic was discussed by the cast.

Leakes and Cohen were pictured in 2019 after an episode of Watch What Happens Live

Leakes and Cohen were pictured in 2019 after an episode of Watch What Happens Live 

Leakes was seen with Cohen and Zolciak-Biermann in a shot Cohen posted on social media in 2020

Leakes was seen with Cohen and Zolciak-Biermann in a shot Cohen posted on social media in 2020

‘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,’ Leakes’ legal team said in the suit. ‘Instead, NBC, Bravo, and True forced her out of the “house she built,” denying her a regular role.’

Leakes said the companies she named in the suit were in violation of federal employment and anti-discrimination laws, requesting that damages be determined in a trial.

A production source told People on Wednesday that Zolciak-Biermann ‘isn’t sure where all this is coming from,’ as she and Leakes ‘have been fine for a while now.’

Leakes is one of the most prominent personalities to emerge from the Real Housewives universe, as she’s been featured on other shows including Fashion Police, Dancing with the Stars and The Celebrity Apprentice. She has also been featured as an actress on shows including Glee, The New Normal and Dynasty.

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