NeNe Leakes sues Real Housewives of Atlanta producers over racism accusations

·3-min read
Photo credit: Gary Gershoff - Getty Images
Photo credit: Gary Gershoff - Getty Images

Note: This article contains discussion of racism, which some readers may find upsetting.

Former Real Housewives of Atlanta star NeNe Leakes has sued the show's producers and host Andy Cohen for fostering and tolerating a hostile and racist work environment.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Atlanta on Wednesday (April 20), says Leakes complained to executives about years of racist remarks from fellow housewife Kim Zolciak-Biermann.

"NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behaviour is tolerated – if not, encouraged," the suit says (via The Hollywood Reporter).

Photo credit: Gary Gershoff - Getty Images
Photo credit: Gary Gershoff - Getty Images

Related: Real Housewives of Atlanta's Kenya Moore apologises over offensive costume

Digital Spy has reached out to NBC, Andy Cohen and Kim Zolciak-Biermann for comment.

Leakes alleges that the cast were due to attend a BBQ while filming for the first season of the hit series, which aired in 2008, but Zolciak-Biermann reportedly responded to the plans with "words to the effect of: 'I don't want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken'".

The suit says that the comments "perpetuated an offensive stereotype about African-Americans".

The suit also alleges that Zolciak-Biermann made "racially offensive and stereotypical" comments about fellow housewife Kandi Burruss' new home in 2012, describing her neighbourhood as a "ghetto", and questioned whether she needed a swimming pool, which "perpetuated a negative stereotype".

Photo credit: Robin L Marshall - Getty Images
Photo credit: Robin L Marshall - Getty Images

The suit alleges that racist comments were frequently made by Zolciak-Biermann, claiming that she used the N-word after a dispute with Leakes and some of the other housewives, as well as falsely implying that Leakes used drugs and called her home a "roach nest".

It has been claimed that Leakes complained to executives but they "did not terminate their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to put an end to her racially-offensive behaviour".

Speaking in a statement, Leakes' lawyer David deRubertis said: "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."

Photo credit: Paras Griffin - Getty Images
Photo credit: Paras Griffin - Getty Images

Another attorney for the reality star, Joe Habachy, added: "Not a day goes by that NeNe doesn't wake up with an onslaught of overwhelming emotions as a direct result of these unfortunate and avoidable occurrences."

It has also been alleged that Leakes' complaints led to her being forced off the show before its 13th season in 2020.

The lawsuit states that negotiations came as the Black Lives Matter movement was gaining major momentum – something Leakes was a vocal supporter of – but that executives sidelined her from talking about the cause and kept her off early episodes of the show in which it was discussed.

If you've been affected by racism and racist hate crime, then organisations including the Equality and Advisory Support Service (EASS), the Monitoring Group, Stand Against Racism and Inequality (SARI) and Stop Hate UK are among those which can offer help and support.

For more information on how you can support Black Lives Matter, please visit its official website or donate here. Readers can also donate to the UK anti-discrimination group Stand Up To Racism, and the Unite Families & Friends Campaign, which supports those affected by deaths in police, prison and psychiatric custody.

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