NeNe Leakes Says She's Still Undecided About Real Housewives of Atlanta Return: 'It's Too Much'
The ever-outspoken reality star and mother of two — who became a household name thanks to the Bravo franchise she helped make a hit when it debuted in 2008 — tells PEOPLE that she's undecided if she wants to return to the show for its upcoming 13th season.
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 admits that she's still debating it.
"I don't know. I just don't know," Leakes, 52, says. "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."
"This time, being quarantined [amid the coronavirus pandemic] has really made me appreciate a lot of things about my life anyway," Leakes adds. "I keep saying to people, 'I want my life back.' I can't have these girls fighting with me on TV for no reason anymore. I've got to move forward. And if that's all you want from me, I have to move on and I got to go. Me and my wig got to leave, honey."
Her hesitation comes after a particularly tough season for Leakes, which saw her initially on the outs with every full-time cast member including Cynthia Bailey, Porsha Williams, Eva Marcille, Kandi Burruss, and longtime rival Kenya Moore.
Though she made up with some over the course of filming (like Williams), other feuds only got worse. She had to be restrained from a potential physical fight with Moore twice during the season, nearly spitting on her during one brawl. 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.
"I'm still human," Leakes says. "It's not okay, sitting and being attacked over and over by the same people about nothing. It stresses me out. I am sensitive, I am. If that's all these girls have the time to do, then production needs to get some new people on the show. Because why are you guys still focused on me over here? Why do you bother me like this? Leave me alone, child. Let me just be over here by myself. Why do you bother me like this? It doesn't make sense. Why do they argue with me every time they see me?"
"You want to see if you can break me or not? You want the throne? It's not going to happen. They ain't going to be able to have it. It's not going to be able to work. It's impossible, honey," Leakes says. "So I would just say we cut it out. It's too much work."
RELATED: NeNe Leakes Says Her RHOA Costars Should Be Prepared for Explosive Reunion: 'I'm Coming for You'
Leakes has left the show before, stepping away in season 8 to focus on her television roles (Glee, The New Normal, E!’s Fashion Police). While she later appeared as a guest that year, she skipped season 9 all together before returning in season 10 as a full-time Housewife.
This also isn't the first time as of late Leakes has been in a place of limbo when it comes to her time on RHOA. She told PEOPLE back in November 2019 that she missed the first three episodes of season 12 because she was still in contract negotiations, discussing whether or not she wanted to return at all.
"I was really skeptical about what I was going to do," Leakes said at the time. "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 explained. "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."
As for the finger-pointing this season, Leakes tells PEOPLE that she feels Moore, Bailey, Burruss and Marcille were all in an alliance to take her down.
'You can see it if you watch the reunion," she says. "Whenever I get asked a question about Kenya, you'll see Eva and Kandi and Cynthia all jumping in — not in my defense, in defense of her. That's her alliance. And they can do whatever they want to do, I just want viewers to see and get it."
Is that not the same as the support Leakes gets from Williams, Marlo Hampton, and Tanya Sam? "It's very different!" Leakes says. "I don't have anyone jumping in and defending to me. Me and Porsha weren't even talking for half the season. Marlow and Tanya haven't protected me in that way at all. There was a time in the season where Porsha was saying all these negative things about me and Marlow and Tanya were not saying, 'Oh, that's not true. Or she's not that way.' You know?"
"I feel like I'm always over here on this little island by myself," Leakes laments. "But at the same time, they say, 'I'm not as fabulous as they are. I don't make as much money as they do. I'm not in as many episodes as they're in. I'm not as pretty as they are.' Yeah, but I am the one that they all seek to talk about it. So all of those things that they say that I'm not, I am!"
Ultimately, Leakes says she's just looking to get to a place where she can move on with everyone in peace — even Moore.
"I don't have a problem with filming with her. I just don't have anything to say to her," Leakes says. "There's nothing that I need to say to her because I have said all that I need to say, I have made apologies. I've extended olive branches. And she don't deserve it, but I did it anyway. Somebody has got to be the bigger person. So I'm not engaging. She wants to keep the arguing going on for as long as she can. But what are we going to keep up? We look stupid now. We don't have a reason! So I have another thing coming for that, sister. The door is closed, sweetie."
The Real Housewives of Atlanta reunion airs Sundays (8 p.m. ET) on Bravo
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