NeNe Leakes isn’t shy about claiming what’s hers. And she reveals in an exclusive interview with managing editor Brody Brown in the new issue of Us Weekly that The Real Housewives of Atlanta is her show! “I feel like I’m the girl who started this whole thing!” says the beauty. “I was the girl who they came to and interviewed and asked, ‘Who are your friends? We want to build this show. Who are your friends? We love you.’”
So after taking a season and a half off, the star, 50, decided to reclaim her throne for season 10. “The show to me is like my baby and it’s really weird when I watch the show and I see all these new people sitting there and I’m not sitting there,” she explains. But despite the FOMO, she says the hiatus did her good: “You get burned out. Taking that break helped me feel refreshed.”
And she wanted to bring back what fans were missing without her! “Last season, it was very heavy and dark,” she says. (Phaedra Parks was not asked to return to the cast after admitting on season 9’s reunion that she passed on a rumor that Kandi Burruss and her husband drugged another couple to take advantage of them. Burruss’s name has since been cleared.) “When I was there, obviously we had drama, but I felt like we laughed,” Leakes continues. What else did she think was missing? “A good facial expression,” she says. “I always give you guys a good meme to roll up and down in your social media!”
Though she was instantly thrilled to return, her husband Greg took a little more convincing, she admits. “Greg is very supportive, first of all, of anything I want to do. His only concern was that I keep him up all night with, ‘Oh my gosh, can you believe that just happened?’ Greg was like, ‘If you go back, I’m not going to be able to sleep!’”
Making it all the way to season 10 has given the human catchphrase-generator occasion to reflect. “When we started shooting, I really didn’t know what I was walking into. I hadn’t even entered my 40s! My youngest son was in the third grade — he’ll be 19 this month. My oldest son was in high school. He’s 28! I didn’t even have a grandbaby. And Greg’s hair wasn’t gray, it’s gray now!”
As for those catchphrases, Leakes tells Us she’s pretty proud of them too: “I love a lot of them! I love when people call me a trash box, like ‘Listen, trash box.’ I just die laughing because I said that so many years ago! ‘Close your legs to married men’ — like that has stuck with us forever! People tell me ‘bloop’ all the time or ‘wig.’ ‘Girl, bye’ — I mean I’ve said everything you could think of.”
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs on Bravo Sundays at 8 p.m.
For more of Leakes’s exclusive interview — including what she thinks of every one of her castmates — pick up the new issue of Us Weekly on stands now.
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