The TV personality, 52, announced her departure from the Bravo series in a YouTube video posted on Thursday, September 17.
“There has been a lot of emotion flying from both sides,” Leakes explained. “It has been hard, and I have made the very hard and difficult decision to not be a part of Real Housewives of Atlanta season 13. It wasn’t an easy decision for me. It was hard.”
The New Normal alum also reflected on the impact that Real Housewives of Atlanta had on pop culture and thanked the network for giving her the opportunity to star on the show.
“I’m just so happy that I can say that I was a part of a genre that opened up doors for Black ensemble reality shows,” she said. “I want to thank everybody that has looked up to me over the years. … I want to thank Bravo for all the memories. … Thank you to the cast for all of the memories.”
Leakes was an original Housewife during the show’s debut in 2008. She left the franchise in 2015 ahead of season 8 but returned two years later for season 10 in 2017.
Bravo paid tribute to Leakes’ legacy on the show in a statement to Us Weekly on Thursday.
“We wish NeNe all the best in her future endeavors and thank her for sharing her journey for over a decade with the fans of The Real Housewives of Atlanta,” the network said. “She’s been instrumental since the start and will truly be missed, and maybe one day she’ll hold the peach again.”
Wendy Williams first sparked speculation that her friend Leakes was leaving RHOA in January after she claimed the Glee alum had quit the show. A source told Us at the time that Leakes had not officially left yet and was just “venting to her friend in private correspondence.”
One month later, the New York native admitted on The Talk she was still “very undecided” about returning to the series. In June, rumors swirled that Bravo had fired her from the show, but Leakes denied the speculation with an Instagram photo of herself laughing captioned, “I can’t chileeeeeeee.”
Scroll down to see Bravo stars’ reactions to Leakes’ departure.