All eyes are on Nene Leakes amid speculation she may be making a triumphant return to Real Housewives of Atlanta, despite her being very vocal about her dislike for how Bravo and Andy Cohen run their business.
Recently, she deleted all traces of her September appearance on Bethenny Frankel’s podcast, and just days ago, she was in Dubai with fellow housewives Lesa Milan and Cynthia Bailey. According to Page Six, Nene’s removal of the posts should not be taken as an indication that she has issues with Bethenny, and the deletion was brushed off as a social media “cleanup”.
“NeNe was promoting the podcast episodes AS they were airing,” a source told the outlet. “There is no reason for her to promote old episodes, and Bethenny has had new episodes since then.”
Sure, that makes total sense. But what’s with the get together in Dubai? Last fans heard, Nene and Cynthia were on very rocky ground after Nene called her out for what she felt was a lack of support after the death of her husband, Gregg, in 2021.
At the time, Nene appeared on a radio show and slammed Cynthia for not coming to the repast, instead deciding to show up one week later after all the events surrounding his funeral were over. Prior to being dragged by Nene, Cynthia told Page Six she was “glad” to have missed it because it gave them some valuable one on one time.
The cooling of this feud would be a huge storyline for the show’s latest season, considering it’s been quite…dull since OGs Nene and Porsha Williams left the show. In May 2022, the season 14 premiere reported the lowest ratings in the show’s history, with just 933,000 viewers, compared to 1.418 million viewers for the season 13 premiere.
Despite the promise of lots of drama and fiery exchanges, not even Drew Sidora’s marital problems could save the show’s latest season. It lacked excitement and felt like a homework assignment to watch for me and many fans alike. So needless to say, we have been hungry for Nene’s return since her departure, because she truly made the show and she added a certain flavour that none of the newbies have quite been able to mimic.
The speculations do make me wonder, though, about what can be said about her participation in the campaign to take down Bravo, led by none other than Bethenny Frankel. Nene made significant contributions to the movement, filing a lawsuit back in 2022, and after that, she continued to be vocal about what the show needs to do to improve.
At this year’s BravoCon, Andy was asked by a fan whether it was possible for Nene to make a return to the franchise and regain her peach:
Fans had mixed reactions to his response, with some urging him to bring her back onto the show, and others suggesting Nene did a disservice to herself by leaving in the first place. In my (expert) opinion, bringing Nene back could actually be Andy’s saving grace.
In recent months, Bravo has found itself in a lot of trouble over sexual assault allegations, in-depth exposes from outlets like Vanity Fair, and the fallout over how Rachel Leviss was treated after Scandoval. Bringing Nene back would negate a lot of the claims she herself made and earn him a gold star with a lot of his fanbase – the Black cohort of it specifically.
In addition to that, though, Nene would make a killing. We’ve seen stars walk away from shows and only come back if they’re offered top dollar. I can’t imagine the kind of deal Sammi Sweetheart snagged when she agreed to come back to Jersey Shore Family Vacation. And according to Nielsen data, whatever they paid her was worth it.
When the second half of season 6 of JSFV premiered this August, MTV’s Thursday primetime rating surged 306% over the 0.1 average rating for the month prior. The episode where she made her return drove MTV’s highest Thursday primetime share in more than two years as well as the best season premiere for JSFV in more than four years. The premiere episode’s share was up 21% vs. the last season premiere, according to Paramount Global. You can’t deny numbers like that.
I have no doubt that a Nene Leakes return would garner a fan reaction like this. Real Housewives of Atlanta is just one of two all-Black casts in the franchise and so viewership and fandom runs a bit deeper for these shows than the others in the world of Real Housewives. Fans of these shows have a certain affinity for the castmates, particularly when they brought as much drama and spice to the show as Nene did.
Though it would certainly undermine her efforts over the last year and a half, I think it could be a step in the right direction for Bravo to finally put it’s money where it’s mouth is and start paying the women what they say they’re worth – and what we’ve always known they have been.