Just ask NeNe Leakes, who launched a career off the reality show, first landing on Celebrity Apprentice, where she crapped out under the withering coif of Donald Trump, and then moving onto a recurring role on Glee.
“If Mr. Trump had given me two days of sleep, I could have come back and won,” she tells reporters on Tuesday.
How is NeNe winning now?
Glee showrunner Ryan Murphy liked her so much that he cast Leakes in his new show, The New Normal, premiering September 11 on NBC.
“It’s about two gay guys who are partners for life and are looking for a surrogate,” she summarized. “I play Rocky, who is outspoken, sassy, holds her own.”
Leakes and the show have come under fire from conservative activist group, One Million Moms, which believes The New Normal is anti-marriage. But don’t tell Leakes about homophobia.
“Listen, I’m around gays every day,” she said. “I believe that the new normal is something that is not traditional. And if living means you are with another man holding hands, that’s fine with me. Who am I to say you can’t hold hands with the person that you say you love?”
Starting out, Leakes aspired to be a news anchor but soon discovered that she didn’t like reading. Next stop was Hollywood where she studied acting, a skill she had no need for on Real Housewives.
“Listen, us six girls, we didn’t like each other,” she confessed. “So, everything you saw was pretty much real. The producers didn’t have to say anything, and that made for great television.”
Leakes emerged better off from the experience and counts herself a survivor having endured years in an abusive relationship when she was younger.
“For a very long time, I thought that it was love when it really wasn’t love,” she recalled. “So I plotted my exit, which wasn’t easy to do because I was afraid of him.”
Leakes has since founded My Sister’s House, a shelter for abused women. “I made it to the other side,” she said. “I’m so much more stronger for that.”
— Jordan Riefe
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