NeNe Leakes, a former Real Housewives of Atlanta star, sued the companies behind the show, alleging they encouraged and tolerated a hostile and racist work environment.
The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Atlanta on Wednesday (April 20), says Leakes, who is black, complained to executives for years about racist remarks by fellow “housewife” Kim Zolciak-Biermann, who is white, but that only Leakes suffered the consequences.
NBCUniversal, Bravo, production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original, company executives and real housewives executive producer Andy Cohen, are named as defendants in the documents. Zolciak-Biermann is not named in the lawsuit.
“NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and work culture in which racially insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated – if not encouraged,” the lawsuit states.
Emails sent to defendants’ representatives 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 Real Housewives of Atlanta between 2008 and 2020.
He alleges 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 to the effect of , ‘I don’t want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken.
The lawsuit says the statement “perpetuated an offensive stereotype of African Americans.”
The diaries also point to “racially offensive and stereotypical” comments made by Zolciak-Biermann during the fifth season, when visiting co-star Kandi Burruss’ new home, calling his neighborhood a “ghetto” and perpetuating a racial stereotype in an offensive comment. to find out if Burruss needed a swimming pool.
That same year, according to the suit, Zolciak-Biermann used the N-word to refer to Leakes and other housewives after an argument with them. He also claims that Zolciak-Biermann falsely implied that Leakes used drugs and called his house a “cockroach nest.”
The lawsuit says that after Leakes complained to executives overseeing the show, they “did not end their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann or take any other meaningful action to end his racist behavior,” and if something rewarded her with giving it her own spinoff show.
“From the day the show began filming, NeNe has been the target of systemic racism from co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, which was condoned by Bravo executive producer Andy Cohen and other executives,” said Leakes attorney David deRubertis said in a statement.
Joe Habachy, another attorney for Leakes, said via email that “not a day goes by that NeNe doesn’t wake up to a wave of overwhelming emotions as a direct result of these unfortunate and preventable events.”
The lawsuit alleges his complaints of racism led in part to forcing Leakes to leave the show in 2020 ahead of its 13th season.
The suit indicates that Leakes’ negotiations for the season came as the Black Lives Matter movement gained momentum, with Leakes a strong supporter.
Executives sought to block Leakes from speaking about the cause, keeping her out of early episodes in which the Housewives would address BLM, according to the suit.
“As the Black Lives Matter movement swept our country, Ms. Leakes – Bravo’s most successful black female talent – should have been embraced by NBC, Bravo and True,” the suit reads. “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 federal employment and anti-discrimination law, and seeks monetary damages to be determined at trial.