Andy Cohen Reacts to Nene Leakes' RHOA Departure: She Is 'An Icon of the Genre'
NeNe Leakes was among the Bravo show's original cast when it first premiered back in 2008
On Thursday, the 52-year-old Watch What Happens Live host shared a series of photos of himself with the reality star, also 52, from over the years, as he praised her contribution to the hit Bravo franchise.
"Nene Leakes is an icon of the genre," Cohen began the caption to his heartfelt Instagram post. "She is a gif and catchphrase machine."
Cohen went on to note that Leakes has been the "most frequent guest" on WWHL over the past 11 years and added that she "is always A BLAST," before he revealed the nickname that Leakes gave him when they first met — "Buttercup" — which she still uses to this day.
"Through her whole run, she has always had a serious concern and drive to maintain the success and well-being of #RHOA," he added. "I am going to miss Nene on the show, but I’m hoping we work together again soon and will remain in each other’s orbits forever."
Cohen then closed out his caption with a slew of Leakes' infamous catchphrases in hashtags, including "#ISaidWhatISaid," "#WeSeeEachOthah" and "#SoNastyAndSoRude."
Leakes announced that she will not be returning to the Atlanta-based iteration of the popular Bravo series for its upcoming 13th season through a video posted Thursday on her YouTube channel.
"Thank you to all of you guys that have been showing me a lot of love and support as of late. I feel you, I hear you. I have been on an extremely, extremely long, exhausting, tiring, emotional negotiation. There has been a lot of emotion flying on both sides," she said in the video. "It has been hard, and I have made the very hard and difficult decision to not be a part of Real Housewives of Atlanta season 13."
"It wasn't an easy decision for me," she continued. "It was hard. I started on The Real Housewives of Atlanta in 2008. We took off like a rocket. I mean, we took off. You could have never told me that I would start on this little show and it still be going strong 13, 14 years later. And it is. I'm just so happy that I can say that I was a part of a genre that opened up doors for Black ensemble reality shows to step up and be a part of what we all now love so much, reality TV."
She ended her message by promising, "I will see you again. Real soon."
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Following news of her exit, a rep for Bravo said in a statement to PEOPLE: "We wish Nene all the best in her future endeavors and thank her for sharing her journey for over a decade with the fans of The Real Housewives of Atlanta."
The network also hinted that the door may be open to her returning in the future.
"She's been instrumental since the start and will truly be missed, and maybe one day she'll hold the peach again," the statement concluded.
Leakes previously left the longtime Bravo series after season 7 to focus on her television roles (Glee, The New Normal, E!’s Fashion Police). While she later appeared as a guest for season 8, she skipped season 9 all together before returning full-time in season 10.