NeNe Leakes, former star of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, has sued the companies behind the Bravo show, citing that they allowed a racist and hostile work environment.
In the suit filed on Wednesday (April 20) in federal court in Atlanta, Leakes who is a Black woman, says that she made complaints to executives about the racist remarks made from her then co-star Kim Zolciak-Biermann, who is a white woman, and that Leakes was the only one to suffer any consequences.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the lawsuit names NBCUniversal, Bravo, production companies True Entertainment and Truly Original, executives from the companies and RHOA executive producer Andy Cohen as defendants in the case.
“NBC, Bravo and True foster a corporate and workplace culture in which racially-insensitive and inappropriate behavior is tolerated – if not, encouraged,” the suit states.
It then alleges that during Season 1 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which aired in 2008, as the cast was planning to attend a barbecue, Zolciak-Biermann chimed in to respond with: “words to the effect of: ‘I don’t want to sit around with NeNe and eat chicken,’” the lawsuit explains. The suit says that the statement made by Zolciak-Biermann “perpetuated an offensive stereotype about African-Americans.”
Elsewhere in the lawsuit, recalls a time back in 2012 during Season 5 of the reality show that Zolciak-Biermann made “racially offensive and stereotypical” remarks about then newcomer on the show Kandi Burruss, after calling the neighborhood that she lived in the “ghetto.”
In that same year, the lawsuit says, Zolciak-Biermann also used the N-word to refer to Leakes and other RHOA cast members after a dispute involving the women. The suit also alleges Zolciak-Biermann called Leakes’ house a “roach nest” and falsely shared that she used drugs.
While Zolciak-Biermann is not listed as a defendant in the lawsuit, the filing says that after Leakes complained to the executives that were overseeing the show they chose not to “terminate their relationship with Zolciak-Biermann, nor take any other meaningful action to put an end to her racially-offensive behavior.”
“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’ lawyer David deRubertis said in a statement.
The lawsuit also alleges that Leakes’ complaints about racism on the show was one of the reasons she was forced off the show in 2020 before Season 13.
“As the Black Lives Matter movement swept our nation, Mrs. Leakes — Bravo’s historically most successful Black female talent — should have been embraced 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.”
The suit is seeking monetary damages and alleges that the defendants’ actions violate federal employment and anti-discrimination laws.
Leakes spent seven seasons on the show between 2008 and 2020, Deadline notes.