BlackVoices.com: Congratulations on being cast on the new season of 'Celebrity Apprentice.' How were you approached to do the show?
It gets no realer than 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' star Nene Leakes.
The in-your-face Queens, New York native is ready to let the world know that along with the sass and attitude comes a whole lot of smarts. Last night, the mother of two made her debut on the hit NBC series 'Celebrity Apprentice.' She wouldn't let the cat out of the bag concerning how long she lasts, but after hearing her take on former 'The View' co-host Star Jones, surviving a failed marriage and her aspirations to be a Hollywood actress, we're putting our money on Nene to go the distance.
BlackVoices.com sits down with Nene Leakes for 20 Questions.
Nene Leakes: I was actually asked to do 'Celebrity Apprentice' last season and I didn't do it. So, when they came back this season and they said, "We'd love to have you on 'Celebrity Apprentice," my manager and publicists brainstormed and we thought it would be a good thing for me.
BV: Are you really cool with Donald Trump?
NL: He is very real. I can really appreciate that about somebody. I love when people don't put on airs. I have a lot of respect for him. I told him I respected him and his children are really great and he told me that he has been successful because he has surrounded himself with some really smart people - really great people. I hope that I can do the same. I got to tell you that's his hair, honey. He does not have on a toupee. That is his hair. He has the different swoop thing going on, but that is his hair.
BV: Is there one thing people who know you from 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta' will be surprised to see watching you this season on 'Celebrity Apprentice'?
NL: One thing you will see, and you did see a little bit of this on 'The Real Housewives' this season is my business side. I know from being on the 'Housewives' show, people think, "Oh, she's [about] the drama," they will get to see I am not as crazy as they think I am. I like to say, "I'm crazy like a fox."
BV: Some of the blogs were saying that one of the 'Celebrity Apprentice' contestants, Star Jones, put a restraining order out against you. Is that true?
NL: Not that I know of. I don't have a restraining order. I think that when you get a restraining order they let you know that you have one, don't they? I don't know if that's how it works, but if there is a restraining order out on me, I don't know it.
BV: Who do you think was your strongest competition?
NL: I don't know who my strongest competition was, but Star was definitely a challenge. Lil' Jon. Everybody on the show is very smart, and I would say they all are a challenge in their own way.
BV: Were you worried about how soon you might be voted off?
NL: When I first got there I said, "As long as I'm not the first one fired, I'll be okay." I just didn't want to be first. Other than that, I'm okay. I didn't go in with any strategies. I just went in as myself. You guys have no idea what I have gone through when I was doing this show. I was going through something very personal in my life and I think that I am a very strong woman from doing this show. This is a tough show to do. We filmed this show in 30 days. We worked our asses off six days a week. We get one day off, on Sundays, and the hours are long as hell. You wake up at 4 a.m. and you're back in the bed at midnight.
BV: It seems like that would be really tough for you.
NL: Yes. But, I want to get back to what you said earlier. I heard something that was very interesting. I didn't hear that there was a restraining order, but I heard that the police was called. I was just wondering when and where. I want to make this very clear. While I was on that show, the police was never called that I know of... a lick was never passed between any contestant, like pushing or shoving or touching them in any way. They are trying to hype up a few things, but there are a few things that I just won't accept. If the police were ever called, they called the police well after I left the show. Maybe that was made up after the fact, but if there was a restraining order, that is a big fat lie. I won't stand for something like that. Someone trying to make my character something that it is not. I think that would be really f**ked up of them to do something like that.
BV: Are you speaking of the network or the contestants?
NL: I am speaking of them both - the network and the contestants. I never saw a reason for the police to be called. If there was somebody pretending to file a police report for a restraining order, they have made that s**t up. Right now, you know that me and Star had a big argument, but there was never any physical touching on the show. I got up in her face and she deserved every bit of it.
BV: Kim Zolciak mentioned this in the reunion of 'The Real Housewives of Atlanta'; you have been an advocate against domestic abuse yet there was a situation where you were alleged to have choked Kim and now there's this 'Celebrity Apprentice' debacle. How do you feel about people perceiving you as a violent person?
NL: Because I am a spokesperson for women against domestic abuse, that's the only little thing that they have. People say, "Well, if she's a woman against domestic abuse, then why is she getting up in your face?" I'm not abusing you, I'm getting up in your face and I can do that as long as I don't touch you. You need to understand what abuse is. When I touch you, I am abusing you. I never choked Kim. Kim likes to say that because people like to feed into that. If I choked you, sweetheart, you would have a police report on my ass right now. You would have me in court. I think if anyone abuses you, they would be taking your ass to court and not sitting up on some TV show saying, "She choked me." Well, you should do something about it, honey. Not sit up and drink wine with me, baby, and then afterwards say you were choked, honey. That goes for Star Jones too.
BV: You have a lot to say about Star Jones. Why have you two butted heads so much?
NL: When I first walked in, there were people intimidated that I walked in. Star tried to sabotage my very first day on set. She sabotaged me getting hair and makeup. They were Star's regular hair and makeup people, and Star told them not to do my hair and makeup. I had to go to one of the producers on the show and the producers had to drive me to a hair salon and get a makeup person to the shoot. But, still a few days later I tried to be friends with Star. We went out to drink and eat almost every single night. We double dated and my husband flew up; we went out with her boyfriend, Herb. I am very loyal. Star and I had a pact that we were going to be loyal to each other until it came down to she and I. Star showed her true colors to me long before. She is backstabbing. You know her reputation because it's out there. My reputation is I'm loud and I get in your face and I tell you like it is. And, I'm telling you like it is, she is not a loyal person.
BV: Getting back to what you were going through while filming. Are you and Gregg still getting a divorce?
NL: I filed for divorce. I have been very public about that. During the time of 'Housewives' Gregg was living downstairs and I was living upstairs, but we no longer live together. I stay in the house and he moved out and got a place of his own. We are legally separated. We are trying to see if we can do some counseling or something, and if we can't work it out from there, we will finalize the divorce. I couldn't control my marriage falling apart, and it put me in a very low point in my life. It really hurts me and made me become someone I never thought I could become. You need people around you who love and care about you when you're going through a divorce and being on the 'Housewives' show, they didn't love and care about me. They could care less. All they wanted to do was gossip. Being on 'Celebrity Apprentice,' they could care less about my marriage failing.
BV: Having had that type of experience on 'Housewives' this season, would you consider going back for a fourth season?
NL: This season, I just wasn't happy. It was destroying me. Now, will I come back for a fourth season? This is what I can tell you. Obviously, I'm in a contract, yes, but contracts can be broken just like anything else. Today, I do not feel like being a part of the fourth season, and it's not to say that I won't be a part of it. That's not to say next month I won't feel like being a part of it. Right now, I just don't feel like it. If I can talk to the producers and we come up with a way to change the editing format. I have all sides to me. I have good sides and bad sides.
BV: Have you talked to Andy Cohen or Bravo executives about your issues with this season?
NL: No. I don't express it to them. I express it to my lawyer. That's the proper protocol. I don't want to go around my attorney. Andy and I are friends, and I try to separate business and our friendship, so I don't want to talk to him about business. It's a funny thing. I don't want to mess our friendship up.
BV: What are your issues with the editing this past season and what bothered you the most?
NL: The trip to Miami. I thought there was a lot of fussing and arguing between all of us. I feel like they focused on me a lot. I understand why they focused on me. I probably have the loudest voice, and I am probably more entertaining than some of the other girls. I want to tell the full story and they have to tell the story as best they can in one hour.
BV: Did you see that Sweetie, Kim Zolciak's assistant, thinks that you are trying to ruin her?
NL: Ummm, Sweetie is delusional, and this is why I can tell you that. I said on the show that Kim was treating her like a slave. One of the DJs in Atlanta, Rickey Smiley, a comedian, heard me say that on the show and he made a joke called 'Free Sweetie' and it went all over and people ran with it. But, I'm not ruining her life. She needs to call the comedians because after I said it that day, but I haven't thought about it anymore.
BV: This season, we also saw you go under the knife and have a lot of cosmetic surgery. Did you always want to do this?
NL: I had my boobs done before I did the show. I got smaller implants and I always wanted to have my nose done for years. It was something that somewhat bothered me, and I wanted to have it done. I didn't feel pressure from the show. I always felt beautiful, but wanted to take it to a whole new level. I really like the work I've had done.
BV: Would you consider doing a spinoff 'Housewives' show like 'Bethany's Getting Married'?
NL: I would consider it, but it's very hard. You get used to having the rest of your cast-mates, but when it's just you, you have to be entertaining. So I would consider it, but I would definitely have to think about it.
BV: What do you think about critics being hard on the way you all represent black women in Atlanta?
NL: I can't represent all the black women in the world. I can only represent for Nene Leakes. That's all I can say. When I wake up in the morning, I don't think about you or Wylissa or Shawn or who I need to represent for. I have to represent for the Leakes family, and that is the end of that.
BV: You're still pursuing a career as an actress, but how would you do it differently from Sheree Whitfield?
NL: I love acting. I think I am more entertaining than Sheree. I'm not saying that she is not talented, I'm just saying that I believe that I am and I believe that I am more entertaining.
BV: Were you really an intern at 11 Alive?
NL: You can call it whatever you want to call it - interning or whatever. If that's what they call it, then that's what it is. They educated me on a lot of things at 11 Alive. I don't know if that's called interning. If it is, then it's fine with me. Whatever it is at the end of the day, instead of focusing on whether I was an intern or not, they should focus on the fact that I'm trying to get money and be an independent woman and take care of my family. That's where the focus needs to be not whether I am an intern or not because that's bulls**t.
BV: What kind of talk show would you have if you had your own show?
NL: I would love to do a cross between 'Chelsea Lately' and maybe 'The Oprah Winfrey Show.' I love to talk and maybe gossip. I don't know. I love 'Chelsea Lately''s show. I love the format with how they are talking and then they move over to the couch and do the interviews.
BV: If you could clear the air and let your fans know who the real Nene Leakes is, what would you tell them?
NL: I would want them to know I'm a real person just like they are. I have highs and lows just like they do. I am a very loyal person and I'm very genuine. What you see is what you get. I'm very spiritual at the end of the day, and for my friends, who are true friends to me, I am a true friend to them. I am a very good judge of character and I do have a lot of dignity and respect for myself. If I have to sum it up in one sentence: I am a real person.