NeNe Leakes was among RHOA's original cast when it premiered in 2008

By Jodi Guglielmi and Michele Corriston
September 17, 2020 04:36 PM
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The reality star, 52, will not be returning to the hit Bravo series for its upcoming 13th season, she announced 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."

Leakes thanked fans, Bravo, the cast and her team for supporting her over the years. She also addressed a false report of someone on her team releasing a statement on her behalf last week. "I had no knowledge of it and I did not approve it," she said.

She ended her message by promising, "I will see you again. Real soon."

In a statement to PEOPLE, a Bravo rep said, "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. She's been instrumental since the start and will truly be missed, and maybe one day she'll hold the peach again."

Rumors of her departure had been flying all summer. However, her manager, Steven Grossman, insisted in a statement to PEOPLE on June 18 that she was still in talks to return for season 13.

"It is absolutely not true that Nene has been fired from RHOA," Grossman said then. "Furthermore, it was made abundantly clear prior that she will always be welcome on the series as long as she wants to be."

Gossman said at the time that they were "having on-going bigger picture conversations with NBC Universal and have not made any decisions regarding next season specifically. Any speculation or sources trying to create controversy by stating otherwise are incredibly inaccurate. Bloop."

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Leakes had fueled speculation she was exiting the Bravo series on social media. On June 17, Leakes wrote in a since-deleted tweet, "You are NOT gonna get away with this! I promise," celebrity site LoveBScott.com captured.

The same day, the Bravo star retweeted a fan's message, "I wouldn't watch RHOA without Mrs. @NeNeLeakes she is what keeps me watching the show, she cracks me up!"

Back in January, Leakes' friend, Wendy Williams, made headlines when she claimed on her talk show that Leakes was quitting RHOA. Leakes later denied that was true, but admitted that she was still debating it.

"I don't know. I just don't know," Leakes told PEOPLE in May. "I got back and forth with it every day. I feel like it's a big conversation I need to have with the network and with production. Because if they value their talent in some sort of way, then we need to talk. We need to come up with some sort of compromise here."

Credit: Manny Carabel/Getty; Gary Gershoff/Getty

The latest season of RHOA was particularly tough on Leakes as she feuded with nearly every full-time cast member, including Cynthia BaileyPorsha WilliamsEva MarcilleKandi Burruss and longtime rival Kenya Moore.

In the three-part reunion, which was filmed virtually, Leakes got into such vicious fights with Marcille and Burruss that she closed her laptop and walked away.

Lakes previously left the longtime Bravo series after season 7 to focus on her television roles (GleeThe 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.

Real Housewives of Atlanta
| Credit: Bravo Media/ Tommy Garcia

Marcille, 35, announced on June 16 that she was exiting the series after three seasons.

"I appreciate the bond of friendship that I’ve made with my castmates and strong personal relationships I have with numerous executives and producers of Bravo," she said in a statement on the Rickey Smiley Morning Show. "I am thankful for the opportunity I was provided, however, after speaking with my family and representatives, I believe that what I hope to accomplish for the culture and community will be better served by focusing on other opportunities."