A Jamie Foster Brown interview
(Excerpted from the October 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister)
Wow, it was a job getting to Miss (Bravo TV’s Guiltiest Pleasure) NeNe Leakes’s house when I was in Atlanta recently. But once I found her, she held back nothing and answered questions like: Does Miss tough NeNe get her feelings hurt? In real life, who does she really like and dislike on the show? Under what conditions will she fight you? Why is she changing her boobs? How does she shop for tampons now that she’s a celebrity? Was it painful to hear folks talk about her house being foreclosed and what was the real deal there? How did a younger NeNe wind up with a boyfriend who banged her upside her head and why did she stay with him? What should a woman do when her man wants more sex than she wants? And what should any woman who is being abused do to get out of it? It’s all here.
NeNe is still amazed how she always wanted to be in entertainment, but it took her reality show to make it happen. Now she’s a star, an author and a businesswoman. Check out her book, Never Make the Same Mistake Twice. This interview ended with NeNe, her husband Gregg and I dancing while he was “making it rain” (actually he said he only made it drizzle) while she and I danced. You can see that, and a candid video of her and Gregg’s views on their sex life on S2Smagazine.com. Check it out! Whew! Here goes:
Jamie: I was just saying that’s a lotta milk! Why are you getting your implants taken out?
NeNe: Because my boobs are a little bit bigger. I just woke up and they were this size. I want them to be smaller. My husband’s not a boob man. My husband’s an a## man.
Jamie: When did you get them done?
NeNe: I got my boobs done about three years ago.
Jamie: Okay, so I’m here in NeNe’s house. Say hello, NeNe.
NeNe: Hi you, guys. It’s the realest housewife, NeNe Leakes, here with the fabulous Jamie.
Jamie: And I just met your fabulous husband, Gregg. I’m so happy to be here. This house is absolutely gorgeous.
NeNe: Thank you.
Jamie: So, the last thing I heard about, the house went into foreclosure. What was that about?
NeNe: It wasn’t foreclosure because you can’t get foreclosed on something you don’t own. We didn’t own the home that we were in.
Jamie: So the owners were foreclosed and you were evicted?
NeNe: Well, we weren’t evicted, like, legally, but we had to leave because they had foreclosed.
Jamie: So what did you do?
NeNe: We came here.
Jamie: Okay, so that’s like six, seven, eight months ago?
NeNe: Yes, it’s been a while.
Jamie: How did you feel about that?
NeNe: Everybody that knew me knew what the real deal was. But it was just kind of shocking that the local news here in Atlanta made a big deal of it. They ran a commercial for like a week saying “NeNe Leakes evicted.”
Jamie: A commercial?
NeNe: A commercial, like, “Evicted, coming up Sunday at [5:00 p.m.] and [6:00p.m.] Tune in at [5:00 p.m.] and [6:00p.m.]” And they ran it during a football game. Didn’t they, Gregg? It was Super Bowl!
Jamie: You’re kidding me. Like a ticker tape?
NeNe: I was embarrassed.
Jamie: What about your children. How did they feel about that?
NeNe: My youngest son had come home one day from playing with some of the kids down the street and he said, “One of the kids said that our house is in foreclosure and we’re going to be on the news.” I said, “They don’t know what the hell they’re talking about.”
Jamie: How do you prepare your kids to stand up to this kind of [press]?
NeNe: Well, you know, Jamie, you guys are just now getting to know me these last couple of years. But I’ve actually been dealing with the entertainment industry for a really long time.
Jamie: Tell me more about that.
NeNe: I was trying to get into the acting business a few years ago. [Casting Director] Robi Reed-Humes cast me for Fighting Temptations with Cuba Gooding Jr.
Jamie: Yes, I remember that.
NeNe: I had a great part in there, which was later edited out. But Robi auditioned me a lot. I did a little guest part on “Girlfriends.” They tried to give me a small part on “The Parkers.” So I was just doing little bitty stuff here and there and the casting people came knocking at my door for “The Real Housewives of Atlanta.”
Jamie: So how many square feet is this house?
NeNe: Oh, gosh, I think it’s over 6,000, 7,000 square feet.
Jamie: Who cleans this house?
NeNe: We have a cleaning lady. And my husband cleans.
Jamie: Okay, is Gregg home all day?
NeNe: He works from home, so he’s here most days.
Jamie: What kind of work does Gregg do?
NeNe: Well, Gregg at first was dibbling and dabbling in the real estate industry. So they talked about that too on the news. That was like, “Lord, he cannot play in the real estate game.” He wasn’t a real estate agent. He’s not even a broker. He was just buying real estate on his own.
Jamie: On his own?
NeNe: Yes. And this is another one they would say: “Bravo paid for their house” or “Bravo is renting their home.” Let’s be clear, Bravo doesn’t pay for none of our homes or our cars—anything like that. We signed a contract and that was it.
Jamie: [laughs] That was it?
NeNe: I wish they would pay for some of these bills. They come over here plugging in their cameras and run the light bill up.
Jamie: I never even thought of that. But you said downstairs when we were getting ready that the more controversy there is the more contracts you can sign. What contracts have you signed?
NeNe: I’ve signed a lot. I had a publishing house—Touchstone Fireside—they came to me and asked me to do a memoir about my life. I did and it’s [titled] Never Make the Same Mistake Twice: NeNe Leakes’ Lessons on Love and Life Learned the Hard Way. So I write a memoir and I talk about my relationship with Sheree [Whitfield] and with Kim [Zolciak] and with my mom and my dad—and the man who abused me—because I have a foundation for women against domestic abuse.
Jamie: Give me an example of how you would never make a mistake twice.
NeNe: Well, one of the things that I talk about is being a single mom. I had my first son and I wasn’t married to his dad. And I knew I would never do that again. The next time I had a child, I would have to be married and the man would have to really want the baby along with me. And so my children are 10 years apart because I refused to make that mistake again.
Jamie: Did you have a baby by mistake? Some girls, they won’t plan to have a baby.
NeNe: Well, I don’t like to call it a mistake. I was having a child a lot younger than I wanted to have a child. I was 21, I was in college and I thought I was in love. I was being abused by the guy. And it was just a huge mistake.
Jamie: So when you say you were being abused, was this physical?
NeNe: It was physical.
Jamie: Did you stay a long time?
NeNe: I stayed a long time.
Jamie: And why was that?
NeNe: I don’t really know why I stayed. One of the reasons was I thought I loved him. Second of all, my parents didn’t raise me, and I really wanted my son to have his parents because it was something I missed in my life.
Jamie: So you wanted to stay together?
NeNe: And I wanted my son to be happy with his mom and dad. My aunt raised me. She came on “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” last year and she’ll be on again this year. She’s my mother’s oldest sister and my mom gave me to her.
Jamie: I have been under abuse also, so I understand it. I almost think it was a gift that God gave me, so that I can understand what other women go through and have compassion and try to reach out. So what happens is that there’s also shame. We don’t want to admit that we made a bad choice in the man. And there’s also fear because they’re beating you. And plus, now you have a child. So there’re a lot of reasons that you stay there. It’s not that you just stayed there because you love him. Some people say, “She must like it.”
NeNe: I definitely didn’t like it. I’ve always been a very strong woman. So I have to ask myself sometimes, “What was in it that made me stay?” I know for sure that I wanted him to be there for Brice because it really affected me not having my mom and dad in my life. It affects everybody differently.
Find out how NeNe eventually escaped her abusive relationship when you read the rest of her interview in the October 2009 issue of Sister 2 Sister magazine.