NeNe Leakes Is Quitting The Real Housewives of Atlanta, Her Friend Wendy Williams Says
“I took a break between commercials, my office is right there behind the set. I had to go to the bathroom and so I looked at my phone between commercials. And NeNe texts, ‘I’m quitting,’ ” Williams, 55, told guest Jerry O’Connell, adding that she got the text at 9:08 a.m. “I’m surprised I got it, because I have no service in my office, but I got it.”
A rep for Leakes told PEOPLE, “It’s been an especially difficult couple of weeks for NeNe, and she was venting to her friend in private correspondence. Nothing has been confirmed or officially decided for next season.”
Leakes appeared to respond herself to the news, posting an Instagram with the caption, “WHO SAID DAT!?!?!” and the hashtag “shaking my head.”
On her show, Williams told O’Connell she begged Leakes to stay on RHOA
“I know something about NeNe that you all will cry, be sad and feel bad for her,” Williams said. “She’s carrying the weight of a huge thing on her shoulders. I’m not going to say it, she’s got to say it. But in my opinion, NeNe, you need this platform to explain the other part of your life.”
“Forget arguing with them broads — you’ve got that secret, and that secret is going to melt their hearts,” Williams added. “Because when she shared it with me, I cried with her.”
Williams didn’t reveal Leakes’ secret, but she did clarify that it had nothing to do with her health, nor that of her husband and children.
“NeNe, you need that platform to explain,” Williams said, getting tearful. “That’s all. I’m telling you. NeNe, don’t quit.”
Leakes, 52, has been on RHOA since the show debuted in 2008.
The show skyrocketed the ever-outspoken Leakes to fame and made her a household name. That popularity led to a series of television roles (Glee, The New Normal, E!’s Fashion Police) and hit projects, including a chain of clothing stores.
She left the series in season 8, stepping back to focus on her acting career. Though Leakes appeared as a guest that year, she skipped season 9 all together before returning in season 10 as a full-time Housewife.
It’s been a bumpy ride for her lately. Last season, she made headlines when she ripped a male cameraman’s T-shirt and allegedly choked a producer during her infamous closet freakout.
This year, in season 12, the O.G. Atlanta Housewife has again been on the attack. She’s already had to be restrained from a fight with longtime rival Kenya Moore. She’ll be pulled back again later this season, in a fight in which she nearly spits on Moore.
Back in November, the mother of three told PEOPLE that she debated returning to RHOA and missed the first three episodes of season 12 due to contract negotiations.
“There were a lot of rumors around the time and I was really skeptical about what I was going to do,” she said. “I really didn’t know what I was going to do, I really didn’t. I had one foot in and one foot out.”
“My pain is often misinterpreted,” Leakes added. “I’m not one of those people who actually express how I feel a lot. I keep that inside, and a lot of [my costars] know that. But I do believe that because somebody is louder or moves more boldly, a lot of time those are the people who always get the finger pointed at them. And honestly, that’s always the case with me.”
Despite the tougher moments, Leakes told PEOPLE that RHOA “has been an amazing platform for myself.”
“It definitely has opened up many doors and opportunities,” Leakes said. “A lot of that is due to fans loving me for who I am and living out loud — all the things that some of my cast members don’t like are the things that fans really love about me. I kept it real and I say it like it is and I’m really blunt. So those fans, they have meant everything to me. They’ve embraced me for who I am and carried me through some of the harder times.”
The Real Housewives of Atlanta airs Sundays (8 p.m. ET) on Bravo