Nene Leakes has never seen Empire so my dream of her giving that other queen of shade, Cookie Lyon, an imaginary reading sadly didn't come true. I caught up with Nene while she was preparing to kick off Alanta Gay Pride Week with Barefoot Wine, Lady Bunny, and the Haus of Edwards: Shangela, Laganja Estranja and therir mother, Alyssa. Since announcing she was quitting the Real Housewives of Atlanta, Nene's been keeping busy with a slew of projects, including a revamped To Tell the Truth with Betty White and Anthony Anderson, which comes out the first of the year.
What was it like working with Betty White?
Oh Betty is amazing. Even though she’s an older woman, I’m gonna say this, her schedule was the same as mine. Sometimes we would wrap after midnight and Betty would be right there working alongside me. She’s super funny, she’s quick on her feet, she looks amazing for her age. Working with her was really easy, but I’ve worked with Betty before. I guest spotted on a couple of shows she was on so I knew her before To Tell the Truth.
Were you a Golden Girls fan?
I was a little bit of a Golden Girls fan, but I didn’t watch a lot. That show was a little bit ahead of me and my time—you know, we young gals.
My friends and I text almost exclusively in Real Housewives gifs. Do you have a favorite one of yourself?
Oh my god, there are so many gifs out there of me! I think I have the most.
I think so!
I see them everyday, going up and down social media, going up and down everybody’s timelines. I have to say, all of them I really do like. I don’t know if I have a favorite—there’s one in particular, though, that I see all the time and I chuckle when I see it. I have on a pink dress, my hair is pulled back and they show me with my eyes closed like I’m asleep. I always chuckle when I see that one.
What are your tips for getting a good read going?
I think you have to be quick on your feet to read somebody. You have to be somebody that listens well and responds quickly. That is going to get you a good read. You have to think to yourself, Did I just get read?! Okay, hold on one second. BLOOP!
And then you go right back in for the read. You have to be a good listener. Because if you’re not, you will get read then think about it 30 minutes later: "Did they just say that to me?" Girl, you way too late. They read you an hour and a half ago.
Do you have a group of go-to gays?
Oh yeah, I have lots of gay friends. I always run things past them. I have a guy who does my hair in New York and his mouth is crazy. He gives me the most amazing reads. I have another gay guy friend that lives in New York and his mouth is ridiculous. He knows everything. The moment I start talking to him I have to tell him, "Hold that, I have to write this in my notes."
Do you remember your first experience with the gay community?
Yeah, my first experience was in high school. I was a cheerleader and a couple guys cheered on our squad and I hung out with a couple of gay guys. Back then it wasn’t as acceptable as it is today, but this gay guy—everybody knew he was gay because he had a perm in his hair, honey—he was giving you gay reads and we didn’t know what a read was. But I’ve been around the gays forever—I had a couple gay cousins. I mean, they invented everything, so I’m all about the gays, child.
How’s your relationship with the Atlanta gay community?
My relationship with the gay community is great. They love me, they support me a hundred percent. I think they think I’m transgender. And that’s fine. [Laughs.] Seriously, some of them are like, “Girl, you are really a gay man.” OK, I’ll take that. I find it to be a compliment, honey. I’m a gay man that pushed out two boys. [Laughs.] But the Atlanta gays, to me, are very open and very out. If they want to wear heels, they wear heels. If they want to wear lipstick, they wear lipstick. I mean, they do whatever they want.
What was the most fun part of doing Housewives?
You know, first of all, I know the show can be very negative at times, but all of the girls have a fun side. Some might have, like, a teaspoon full, but they all have a fun side. And when we’re all laughing, or drinking, or doing an event together or traveling, we can have a really good time. I know you guys don’t always get to see that. I don’t have to necessarily like them all, but everybody has a fun side.
Les Fabian Brathwaite—bloop.