ATLANTA (AP) — Former star of The Real Housewives of Atlanta NeNe Leakes sued the companies behind the show on Wednesday, alleging that they fostered and tolerated a hostile and racist work environment.
According to the Atlanta federal court lawsuit, Leakes, who was Black, complained about years of racist remarks made by Kim Zolciak–Biermann (white housewife), but that only Leakes incurred the consequences.
It names as defendants Bravo and NBCUniversal, Bravo Production Companies, Truly Original, Housewives executives producer Andy Cohen, but it does not name ZolciakBiermann.
Bravo, NBC, and True promote a culture at work and in the workplace where inappropriate and racially insensitive behavior is tolerated, if it is not encouraged, the suit states.
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Representatives for NBCUniversal declined comment. Representatives for Zolciak and Biermann were not immediately available to comment on emails they sent.
54-year-old Leakes was a TV personality and actor, whose legal name Linnethia Monique Leakes. She was one of the main stars of The Real Housewives of Atlanta for seven seasons between 2008 and 2020.
It claims that during the 2008 season, the cast was planning on attending a barbecue. Kim Zolciak–Biermann, the housewife, responded to the idea saying, “I don’t want NeNe to sit around and eat chicken.” According to the suit, the statement perpetuated an offensive stereotype of African-Americans.
The suit claims that Zolciak Biermann made stereotypical comments about Kandi Burruss’s new home in 2012, during the fifth season. She called her neighborhood “ghetto” while perpetuating a racist stereotype in an offensive comment about Burruss having a swimming pool.
According to the suit, Zolciak–Biermann used N-word after a dispute with Leakes in the same year. It also claims Zolciak Biermann falsely implied Leakes used drugs, and called her home “a roach nest.”
According to the suit, Leakes complained about the show’s executives, but they did not end their relationship with Zolciak–Biermann or take any other meaningful actions to end her racist behavior. In fact, they gave her her own show to reward her.
NeNe was subject to systemic racism from Kim Zolciak -Biermann since the beginning of filming. Bravo executive producer Andy Cohen and other executives were tolerant, David deRubertis, Leakes lawyer, said in a statement.
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Joe Habachy, another Leakes attorney said via email that NeNe wakes up every morning with overwhelming emotions due to these unfortunate and avoidable events.
Leakes claims that her racism complaints led to Leakes being removed from the show in 2020, before its 13th season.
The suit says Leakes negotiations to secure the season came at a time when the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum. Leakes was a vocal advocate.
Executives tried to keep Leakes silent about the cause, keeping her away from early episodes in which she would address BLM, the suit alleges.
According to the suit: Mrs. Leakes Bravos most successful Black female talent should’ve been embraced by Bravo, NBC, and True. Instead, NBC, Bravo and True made her leave the house she built, denying that she would be able to return to it.
The suit claims that the defendants violate federal anti-discrimination and employment law. It seeks monetary damage to be determined at trial.
Follow Andrew Dalton, AP Entertainment Writer, on Twitter: https://twitter.com/andyjamesdalton
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