What’s Next For NeNe Leakes?

May 14, 2013  |  

Looks like America’s (or at least Bravo’s) favorite housewife just lost a storyline. NeNe Leakes’ much talked about role on The New Normal has come to an end. NBC recently dropped the show due to low ratings. So what’s next for reality television’s biggest success story?

Leakes’ IMDb profile gives no hints of future work outside of her current gigs on Bravo and The New Normal creator Ryan Murphy’s hit show Glee. That’s not to say the outlook on NeNe’s career is bleak. Far from it.

According to OK! Magazine, Leakes is the highest paid housewife in Bravo’s history, grabbing a $1 million paycheck (plus bonuses) to appear on season 6 of Real Housewives of Atlanta. It’s unclear whether this figure includes her salary for her upcoming spinoff, I Dream of NeNe, chronicling her wedding with ex-husband Gregg Leakes. And Glee is set for two more seasons, though the scope of NeNe’s role in the series is unclear.

NeNe joined Housewives to advance her acting career. She’s succeeding in using the show as a launching pad. She is seen as the queen bee of the show’s revolving cast of women and a template for other reality stars to follow. But can she make her success last, or is she destined to be a pop culture footnote?

Ryan Murphy, whom she calls her fairy godmother, has been her sole co-sign in Hollywood. Her work with him is the only time we see NeNe not playing herself. And let’s be honest, even when she’s reciting a script, she’s still being sassy, neck-rolling NeNe.

NeNe’s one-note performances aren’t necessarily a weakness. You don’t have to be Viola Davis to have a successful acting career. Character actresses, performers who specialize in playing eccentric or unusual people rather than leading roles, are paying their rent every month. Shout out to Rosie Perez, Jenifer Lewis, and Loretta DeVine.

Love her or hate her, NeNe Leakes is an entertainer. Now is the time for her to prove she can hold her own without famous fans giving her gigs. Leakes is at a crossroads and there are a few roads she can take:

  1. Tyler Perry Avenue. Outside Madea’s Christmas slated for the end of this year, Mr. Perry has been hanging up the dress in favor of giving other actresses a chance to bring boisterous characters to the screen. Atlanta is small. I’m sure NeNe can bring up her open schedule over cocktails. Or ask best buddy Kim Kardashian for his number.
  2. Black Rom-Com Way. From Baggage Claim to The Best Man reboot, black romantic comedies are making a comeback. Ms. Leakes would fit right in as the mother-in-law, aunty, or sassy coworker. These things write themselves.
  3. BET Boulevard. The cable network is surely feeling confident from successes in scripted television like Real House Husbands of Hollywood and The Game. NeNe might even be able to land her own show.
  4. Token Drive. It’s 2013 and every network show needs a Black character, the sassier the better. NeNe’s proven more than once she can hold her own in an ensemble cast.

NeNe has a large fan base, sufficient talent, and enough star quality to keep pushing her acting career forward if she chooses. What do you think Ms. Leakes next move should be? Should she keep her house in Hollywood or stick to reality?


C. Cleveland covers professional development topics and entrepreneurial rebels who blaze their own career paths. She explores these stories and more on The Red Read, Twitter (@CleveInTheCity) and Facebook (/MyReadIsRed).


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