NeNe Leakes doesn’t really need any introduction around these parts does she? At least once a week something she’s said, done or something that involves her, in one way or another, is featured here on MN. We’re always talking about NeNe and have been since she joined the cast of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” with her one of kind brand of “keepin’ it real.” In honor of her launching her new clothing line with HSN, we got a chance to speak to Ms. Leakes about everything from her new business venture with HSN, the end of her friendships with Marlo and Cynthia, the issues she has with Wendy Williams, why she can’t leave RHOA even if she wanted to and whether or not we’ll see her on Broadway. Just like the NeNe we see on television, Ms. Leakes in real life had plenty to say when we spoke to her on the phone and I ended the conversation remembering just how she became the one-to-watch reality star that she is today. See what she had to say.
What inspired the clothing line?
I wanted women of all ages, all shapes, all sizes to feel comfortable and confident in the clothes that they’re wearing. My motto was, for every woman to walk into her closet, walk out of her closet and own it. I just want them to own it. I would go out like that. I would have women that would approach me and say things like, ‘Hey NeNe where do you buy your clothes?’ First thing they would say, ‘You’ve lost so much weight.’ And I would say ‘No I haven’t.’ You watch me on television and I know television sometimes makes people look much larger but I’m not plus size. But people thought I was plus size from watching me on television and I would say, you know I need to come out with a line of clothing that makes women feel good, affordable luxury. I’m able to walk through the store and obviously buy things that are very expensive but there was a time in my life when I couldn’t afford things either. So we came out with a line with good fabrics, things that really felt good, things that wash good, things that dry cleaned well, things that didn’t tear. And then clothes for larger, curvier girls. We can tap into a market that nobody is really tapping into right now and that’s what I did.
What made you chose to partner with HSN?
We took meetings with a lot of different people. And HSN actually felt right. When they walked into the room we totally clicked. And you need to really work with people who really understand and get you. They even took a little bit of a chance too. There’s a reason why people aren’t going into market for the curvier girls. They felt like it was a little scary to kind of go up to sizes that were so large but I felt very adamant about us clothing the curvier girl. And I felt like the curvier woman or girl would want to come out and purchase this line if we made things that weren’t frumpy, if we only made things that were stylish. I felt like a lot of their issues were they couldn’t find things that were stylish in the market.
I’m a beginner in the fashion industry so I wanted to be able to learn my craft. One thing I hate is doing things that I don’t have the full knowledge of. I feel like I can turn it all the way out if I have full knowledge of how the game works.
Did you get into reality TV to use it as a platform?
You know when I first started I didn’t really know what the whole reality tv world was about. I had watched “Flavor of Love” and the two brothers [from “I Love New York.”] The Osbournes and “The Real World” but I really didn’t know that much about reality shows. I was acting at the time. I was going back and forth from Atlanta to Los Angeles to be a part of pilot season. And when I got approached by these producers to do the housewives of Atlanta I wasn’t thinking about anything other than maybe this could help my acting career. So I didn’t really go into the show with a plan. Once I got on the show and saw what the show was, I was like ‘Oh ok, I’m about ready to turn this into a business. We really need to start working on our dreams.’ And just from that– I didn’t even know how I was going to work on my dream actually.
I met this man, whose my manager now, Steven Grossman, he would say ‘I see all of these things for you. I watch you and I feel like you can do this, that or the other.’ And I thought, ‘Ok, so he wants some money.’ So I let the meeting go and went a whole other year and he would always try to send me a message like I still want to work with you and I was like ‘Ok…no!’ Until one day, I sat back and thought I just really learned the game after doing the show a couple of seasons.
I really was able to work on the show and saw that there were so many girls on the show who wanted to be popular. It was so weird to me because honestly… honestly I never wanted to be popular. I never thought about that. I always thought, I want to damn eat and I want some damn money. When other girls on the show were thinking about how popular they were, I felt like I was always popular. I was popular in high school. It was never that serous to me. These girls wanted rich boyfriends but they never wanted to do anything. They just wanted to date a popular guy. So I learned real quick. I thought, hey I’m married. All I can do right now is try to figure out how we can eat. It just popped in my mind to start working, you got to do other things outside of this show. So I reached back out to Steven and I said let’s give this a try. And it just worked for us. It just worked in my favor that people wanted to meet with me.