Ex-“Real Housewives” star NeNe Leakes alleges show ignored racist comments from co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann

“The Real Housewives of Atlanta” star NeNe Leakes sued the companies behind the show on Wednesday, claiming they fostered and tolerated a hostile and racist work environment.

The lawsuit filed in federal court in Atlanta says Leakes, who is black, complained to executives about years of racist comments from fellow housewife Kim Zolciak-Biermann, who is white, but that only Leakes suffered the consequences.

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

“NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which inappropriate and racially insensitive behaviour is tolerated, if not encouraged,” the suit says.

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

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

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Leakes appears on the talk show “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen.”Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

The lawsuit says that in 2012, during the fifth season, Zolciak-Biermann made “racially offensive and stereotypical” comments about housewife Kandi Burruss’s new home, calling her neighbourhood a “ghetto” and perpetuating a racial stereotype in a comment. offensive on Burruss if necessary. a pool.

That same year, the suit says, Zolciak-Biermann used the N-word to refer to Leakes and other housewives after a dispute with them, the suit alleges. He also alleges that Zolciak-Biermann falsely implied that Leakes used drugs and called her home a “cockroach nest.”

The suit says that after Leakes complained to executives overseeing the show, they “did not end their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor did they take any other significant steps to end her racially offensive behaviour,” and rewarded her if anything. giving it its derivative program.

“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 said. , David deRubertis, in a statement.

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Zolciak-Biermann appears on the talk show “Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen”Charles Sykes/Bravo/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images

Joe Habachy, another attorney for Leakes, said by email that “not a day goes by that NeNe doesn’t wake up with a rush of overwhelming emotions as a direct result of these unfortunate and preventable events.”

The suit alleges that her complaints of racism led in part to Leakes being forced to leave the show in 2020 before its 13th season.

The lawsuit says Leakes’ negotiations for the season came as the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining momentum, with Leakes a vocal supporter.

Executives tried to sideline Leakes from speaking out about the cause, keeping her away from the first few episodes in which the housewives would tackle BLM, the suit alleges.

“As the Black Lives Matter movement swept our nation, Ms Leakes, Bravo’s historically most successful black female talent, should have been adopted 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.”