Like it or worship it, The Real Housewives of Atlanta is a pop culture phenomenon. The ladies of ATL are back with a third season that is everything reality television should be: drama, over-the-top characters and a diva, Nene Leakes. This season, Nene is dealing with the pressures of fame, marital issues, tested friendships and the ongoing catfight with Kim Zolciak.
Sheree Whitfield will not to be upstaged by the Athens Diva. Always self-assured, she holds her own working on an acting career and facing accusations of not replaying a $30,000 loan she borrowed from Dwight Eubanks for a fashion show.
In this interview, Nene and Sheree talk about the new season, plastic surgery, and, why Kim Zolciak may not be as Black-friendly as we think.
When you're in the media spotlight, and you’re having personal issues – do you ever regret being on the show? Do you regret how your life has changed?
Nene: I don’t regret being on the show at all. I tell people all the time, had I not been on the show some of the things that have happened to me or my blessings, those doors would’ve never opened up. Now, I do miss having my privacy. I didn’t know it was going to be to this extent. I’m a private person, I really like to have my privacy but at the same time I understand that’s what happens when you’re on television.
Do you feel the same way, Sheree?
Sheree: This show has allotted all of us a lot of different opportunities and opened several doors for all of us. I don’t regret doing the show at all, but, again, you do lose your privacy and it’s not a good thing. Especially when you have kids, you’re trying to have dinner with your family and people want to take pictures.
Sheree, today Wendy Williams said she thought you had butt implants or butt pads.
Sheree: [Laughs] Anybody that knows Sheree knows that I work out, baby!
Nene: [Laughs] I’ve been knowing Sheree for a long time, and her butt been the same!
Sheree: I’m trying to get it down! [Laughs] No, no implants! [Laughs] It’s called working out. Wendy is hilarious!
Nene, I got questions via Facebook and Twitter. The main question was about your nose job. You look beautiful either way. But why did you decide to get a nose job?
Nene: I’ve never said I had a nose job. I’ve never, anywhere, come out and said I’ve had a nose job. I’ve just been told that I’ve had one. [Laughs] I’m doing some things and everybody should just tune in to the show to see what I’ve had done. I know there’s been a lot of rumors saying I’ve done this and that – a lot of rumors are very false. What I have to say about plastic surgery is there’s nothing that has ever happened to me in my life that would make me do anything to myself because I love Nene. Whatever I do would just be for me, it wouldn’t be for anybody else. Nothing happened in my childhood. Anybody that wants to have plastic surgery -— and they can afford it — they should go out and get it.
Sometimes Black folks get critical when someone gets work done.
Nene: I know. It’s kind of funny in the African-American community, but there are a lot of African-American women that have had things done. We want to be like anybody else. If you care about yourself and you want to tune up something here or there, pick it up!
Sheree, Lisa Wu said she left the show because they were trying to script her story. What’s your reaction to that?
Sheree: I know for a fact that’s absolutely not true. The show is totally not scripted. Personally, I think maybe she didn’t want to be the person she really is. Maybe that was the problem or she pretended to be perfect. Nobody’s perfect.
Nene, in the first reunion episode you questioned why Kim assumed that you and your family were eating fried chicken. Then, on this season’s preview you make a comment to her, "You better watch your tone and how you speak to people, especially when you talking to a sista’!" Although Kim says she has a lot of Black friends, do you think there is any kind of prejudice with her or issues with Black folks in any kind of way?
Nene: I don’t think Kim has a lot of Black friends. I’ve been knowing Kim a long time and I don’t know one Black friend she’s had other than me. Then, once we started doing this show, she has a lot of Black fans. But, Kim is very White. Let’s be very clear, she’s not a White girl that dates Black men or that even chooses to hang out at Black places like that. I’ve been around her a long time. There is some form of prejudice in Kim, I get that. I’ve had that around her. Some form of prejudice.
Do you feel that way too Sheree?
Sheree: I don’t know Kim. Nene knew Kim better than me. I don’t know of her to have a lot of Black friends like Kim’s saying.
Nene: She has a lot of Black fans. Because she is on a show with Black people they just assume she must be a White-Black girl. You know, like the White girl who dates Black guys, but that’s not it. I know that’s how it looks on the show, but that ain’t it, child.
I couldn’t let this interview go by without asking about the gay men on Real House Wives of Atlanta. Have you guys always been around gay men?
Sheree: [Laughs] My best friend in high school was actually gay. I’ve known Lawrence, my hair stylist, way before the show started.
What about you Nene?
Nene: I love the gays - I’ve been called a man myself, honey! I’m alright with it.
Is there a chance of you and Dwight reconciling?
I have nothing against Dwight, I’ll speak to Dwight if see him anywhere. As far as a friendship? No ma’am! There is no chance at all. I just need to do me right now and he’s not going to be a part of me doing me.
You both are in Atlanta. What’s your take on Bishop Eddie Long?
Nene: My first church and the only church I attended in Atlanta was New Birth. I can’t speak on his personal life because I truly don’t know that. I know that he is a great preacher and I love his preaching. If he did anything like that, it’s very sad that he used his power to do that to some children. If he did that – he’s got hell to pay. That’s terrible. It’s terrible, child!
Sheree: I’m with Nene; I don’t want to pre-judge this man. He’ll have his day in court if it goes that far. If he is guilty, like she said, he’ll have hell to pay.
Nene: For preachers to use their power to do such a thing, it’s unreal. A lot of those preachers in the church, people look up to them – they really do. They do whatever they say. Hopefully, he didn’t do that!
Do you have an idea of how long you can see yourself part of this franchise – is there a limit in mind for each of you?
Sheree: Not much longer. You take it day-by-day. We’ll see at the end of the season! [Laughs]
Nene: I can definitely see an expiration date for me! [Laughs] It’s very tiring, draining, all the bitterness, the fights, and the nastiness. I don’t even feel like being around a bunch of women all the time. I want to be around women who are trying to really go somewhere. I’m not trying to be on the “Housewives” reality show for the next 10 years. I don’t know when that time will come.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs on Mondays at 9/8C on Bravo. For more information visit the show’s website.
Clay Cane is the Entertainment Editor at BET.com. You can read more of his work at claycane.net.