NeNe Leakes Sues Racism Is Accepted On ‘Real Housewives’

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Former star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” NeNe Leakes has sued the companies behind the show…

LOS ANGELES (AP) – Former star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” NeNe Leakes on Wednesday sued the companies behind the show, alleging they fostered and tolerated a hostile and racist work environment.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Atlanta says Leakes, who is black, has complained to executives about years of racist remarks by fellow housewife Kim Zolciak-Biermann, who is white, but only Leakes has suffered repercussions.

It names NBCUniversal, Bravo, production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original, executives of the companies and executive producer “Housewives” Andy Cohen, but not Zolciak-Biermann as defendants.

“NBC, Bravo and True promote a corporate and workplace culture where racially insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated — if not, encouraged,” the suit says.

Representatives from NBCUniversal declined to comment. Emails sent to representatives of the other defendants and Zolciak-Biermann requesting comment were not immediately returned.

Leakes, 54, a television personality and actor whose official name is Linnethia Monique Leakes, spent seven seasons between 2008 and 2020 as one of the central stars of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”

It claims that during the first season, which aired in 2008, the cast planned to attend a barbecue, and housewife Kim Zolciak-Biermann responded to the idea with “words along the lines of, ‘I don’t want to. hanging out with NeNe and eating chicken.” The suit says the statement “perpetuated an offensive stereotype about African Americans.”

The suit says Zolciak-Biermann made “racially abusive and stereotypical” comments about housewife Kandi Burruss’ new home in season five, calling her neighborhood a “ghetto,” and perpetuating a racial stereotype in an abusive comment about whether Burruss needed a pool.

That same year, the lawsuit says, Zolciak-Biermann used the N-word to refer to Leakes and other housewives after a dispute with them, the lawsuit alleges. It also alleges that Zolciak-Biermann falsely suggested that Leakes was taking drugs and calling her a “roach nest” at home.

The lawsuit says that after Leakes made complaints to the executives overseeing the show, they “did not end their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to end her racially-offensive behavior”, and if something rewarded her by giving her her own spin-off show.

“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,” Leakes’ attorney David deRubertis said in a statement. .

Joe Habachy, another Leakes attorney, said via email that “not a day goes by that NeNe doesn’t wake up to a wave of overwhelming emotion as a direct result of these unfortunate and avoidable events.”

The lawsuit alleges that her complaints of racism partially led to Leakes being forced out in 2020 ahead of the show’s 13th season.

The suit says Leakes’ negotiations for the season came as the Black Lives Matter movement gained major momentum, with Leakes a vocal supporter.

Executives tried to keep Leakes out of talking about the cause, keeping her out of the early episodes where the housewives would appeal to BLM, the suit claims.

“As the Black Lives Matter movement swept across our nation, Ms. Leakes – Bravo’s most historically 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.”

The lawsuit alleges that the defendants’ actions violate the federal labor and anti-discrimination law, and it seeks monetary damages to be determined at trial.

Follow AP Entertainment writer Andrew Dalton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton

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