NeNe Leakes is the only original cast member remaining on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which means she’s shared a lot of her personal life with fans since its 2008 premiere. Of course, some of those moments include her iconic spats with her frenemies (and straight-up enemies) within the cast. Longtime viewers saw her go from being a stay-at-home mother to a career woman with gigs on scripted television and Broadway, while also witnessing the many ups and downs in NeNe’s marriage with Gregg Leakes.
On the show, it seems like NeNe and Gregg epitomize the “yin and yang” dynamic. Gregg has come across as a sweet angel with perfectly-phrased words of wisdom. Meanwhile, NeNe can be a hothead from time to time, reading anyone to filth if they dare to wrong her. However, when it comes to their marriage, neither of them is innocent — and NeNe has had no issues opening up about the good, the bad, and the ugly. Sure, it might seem like a logical assumption to blame NeNe for their relationship woes, but that hasn’t always been applicable.
While some of their drama has played out on RHOA, NeNe’s spilled her own tea during interviews and sometimes just can’t help giving a live relationship update on social media. Let’s dig into just some of the strange things in NeNe and Gregg Leakes’ marriage.
NeNe and Gregg Leakes did NOT meet at a strip club
There’s a common misconception among RHOA lore that NeNe and Gregg Leakes met when she was working at a strip club. While Gregg clarified that their meet-cute wasn’t actually at said strip club, he shared during a 2014 appearance on Bethenny Frankel’s Bethenny, “She invited me to her job, and I graciously accepted.”
Four years later, NeNe dished on their early conversations during a RHOA episode, saying, “You and me exchanged numbers and he left me a voicemail and he was like, ‘Give Big Daddy a call.’ And I was like, ‘Oh, hell, no!'” However, they clearly got in touch. “He said, ‘I’ma marry you one day.’ I said, ‘Uh uh uh!'” When Gregg didn’t ask her to sleep with him, NeNe thought to herself, “Now, what’s going on?’ And from that point on, I was just in the bed with no clothes on.”
After hearing NeNe’s drawn-out story, co-star Kandi Burruss claimed that they “met at the strip club” in a confessional, which did not sit well with NeNe. In her post-episode Bravo blog post, NeNe wrote, “P.S. Oh Kandi, Gregg and I met in 1996! We didn’t know anyone sitting at that table, and that includes YOU! We married in 1997, and we didn’t know anyone sitting at that table, and that includes YOU! When I was a stripper, I didn’t know anyone sitting at that table, and that includes YOU!” She said what she said!
Gregg Leakes' trash-talk about wife NeNe went viral
In 2010, audio of Gregg Leakes venting about wife NeNe Leakes leaked. Here’s what went down: Gregg thought he was having a private conversation with a so-called pal named Corey King, who happened to be a radio host. King secretly recorded Gregg’s comments, released the audio, and fans saw it all play out during Season 3 of RHOA.
According to People, Gregg claimed that he gave NeNe “$300,000 to help launch her career as a reality star,” ranting that “the fame got to her head” and he was “asking for every dime of it back.” NeNe heard about the leak while working at a local news station in a Bravo moment that involved breaking down that fourth wall. During the episode, she said, “Sometimes I feel like I have slept with the enemy.” With a lover like that, who needs enemies, right?
When the scandal broke, Gregg apologized and issued a statement to AllHipHop.com. Saying that the “recording was obtained by fraud and deception” without Gregg’s consent, his team stated, “Throughout the duration of the call with Mr. King, Mr. Leakes was under the impression that he was simply confiding in a friend after an argument with his wife. However, Mr. King has demonstrated through this blatant disregard of Mr. Leakes’ privacy that he does not even comprehend the word ‘friend.'”
Now that’s a read. However, Gregg didn’t successfully use his wordsmith abilities on NeNe, since they split shortly after.
NeNe and Gregg Leakes divorced and remarried
Season 3 of The Real Housewives of Atlanta centered around the demise of NeNe and Gregg Leakes’ marriage. During a November 2010 episode, NeNe met with a divorce attorney and said (via People), “I just really need time to decide if I really want to go through with [a divorce] or if I want to try and work it out.” Ironically, she actually got both of those things: NeNe did go through with filing for divorce and their relationship ultimately worked out when they eventually got back together. Even in 2010, it didn’t seem like NeNe was really “done” with her man, admitting, “I want it to be a wake-up call for Gregg. I want Gregg to wake up and say, ‘Oh my god. This fool really went and did that and I really need to make a change.'”
She shared similar sentiments during a 2018 episode of Uncensored. Reflecting on their 2011 split, NeNe said, “I filed for divorce because I always felt like you have to teach people how to treat you, and I felt like at that time that Gregg wasn’t treating me the way I felt I should be treated … It was me teaching Gregg a lesson, and I think he got it.”
He sure did. NeNe confirmed that they got re-engaged during a January 2013 interview with Jimmy Fallon. That June, the on-and-off couple remarried while filming a spin-off special, I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding.
NeNe Leakes has had issues with her husband's kids
Before NeNe Leakes met Gregg Leakes, he already had five kids — but they didn’t immediately share a happily blended family. When the on-and-off couple were headed toward divorce in 2011, Gregg’s son, Damian Leakes, told R Online, “We are the forgotten side of the family. There’s so much talent with the kids he left behind … We knew [NeNe] didn’t like us … We didn’t know what her actual ordeal was.” Damian also took issue with his dad and stepmom’s reality TV fame and the fact that he and his siblings weren’t a part of RHOA, adding, “A TV show could be building process for Gregg and his kids because no one ever knew he had kids.”
Well, Damian got his wish. The family drama was front and center on the 2013 spin-off show, I Dream of NeNe, and one episode featured Damian and NeNe going head-to-head in a very heated televised argument. Both were unhappy with the other’s communication, and Damian asked NeNe to “show a little respect to the bloodline” after saying she was “marrying into” the Leakes family (which she had already previously married into). During her confessional, NeNe quipped, “So, if anything, when NeNe took the last name of ‘Leakes,’ she helped it.”
Yes, she referred to herself in the third person, but she is the most famous Leakes.
NeNe Leaks slammed Gregg for being a 'grouch' when he had cancer
Instead of talking to Gregg Leakes directly, NeNe Leakes took to Twitter to discuss his behavior — months after his colon cancer diagnosis — in late November 2018, writing, “I would just think if i have or had cancer, i would see life so differently! Not being mean, grouchy and evil for no real reason! But that’s me. Pray for me.” A fan replied, “Unfortunately the closet person receives the undeserved lashing out, stay strong Sis….just breathe.” However, NeNe wasn’t feeling that advice, tweeting back, “Naw don’t think i can do it.” That same day, the RHOA star tweeted, “I’m ALWAYS the bad guy so I’ll take that. if you only knew.”
It’s worth noting, however, that Gregg publicly praised his wife on Instagram just a couple days later for “[giving] so much of herself” amid his cancer battle. He shared, “This woman right here has put a mountain on her back and carried it with grace … You Nene, steps up to the plate, bats and knock it out the park every time. Something a lot of women can’t do or wouldn’t. So what she hit a wall and her cup run over! Pray for her, encourage her, lift her up.”
Gregg also posted a photo of a mug that same day, which featured the couple and read in all caps, “NEVER STOP FIGHTING,” in reference to battling cancer. He was selling the mugs to raise money for a cancer research foundation, but the timing was apropos.
Does NeNe Leakes believe her husband's cancer battle was 'karma'?
In May 2019, Gregg Leakes happily announced that he was cancer-free, taking the time to thank his wife for all of her support on Instagram amid his year-long battle with colon cancer. That should have been a joyous time for the couple and the rest of their friends and family. However, just a few months prior, NeNe Leakes uploaded a video to her YouTube channel, where she shared her theory about why Gregg got cancer.
Priming her audience, NeNe confessed, “There’s a lot of things that go through your head [as a caretaker], and people don’t know that.” She also warned fans “don’t put this against me,” insisting she’s “just saying this for real” and giving them the “raw raw raw.” Finally, NeNe admitted, “People love to say ‘karma is a b**ch’ and ‘karma this’ and ‘karma that’ … You look at the person and say, ‘You did so many different things to me. Is this the payback?’ You hope not.”
There’s no doubt that battling cancer is an ordeal for everyone involved, not just the patient, but the loved ones who act as caretakers, as well. Even so, NeNe’s remarks — which she tied into Gregg’s alleged cheating — didn’t sit well with one fan, who tweeted, “She has become out of control. For her to claim that Gregg’s cancer is his ‘karma’ because he cheated on her is disgraceful.” In response, another person asked, “Did she really say it was karma?!” Well, she implied the thought, at least.
Gregg and NeNe Leakes slept in separate beds for a year (twice)
While speaking with People in November 2018, NeNe Leakes compared the dynamic of her marriage while Gregg Leakes was battling cancer to 2010, when she decided to file for divorce. “Back then, I would go upstairs at night and he would go to downstairs to the basement,” she revealed of their sleeping situation. “Now, he goes to the guest room on the main floor — we don’t sleep in the same bed. We’ll try to lay in bed together for a couple of hours but he freaks out if we sleep in the same bed. He’s like, ‘I don’t want to give you anything!'”
“It’s been very tough and very lonely,” the OG RHOA star confessed, before admitting, “You know how many nights I’ve been up there crying? … We’ve been together over 21 years. And when we first got married, we were so in love that we got a queen-sized bed and said we never wanted to sleep in anything bigger because we always wanted to be close to one another … And now he’s on an entirely differently floor.”
Gregg moved back into the their bedroom during an April 2020 RHOA episode, just in time to celebrate their 23rd wedding anniversary. During the After Show, NeNe said of that milestone, “We literally weren’t together for a year [while Gregg had cancer].” Thankfully, it seems like they’ve been on the page (and in the same bed) ever since.
NeNe Leakes claimed they 'both got side pieces' in this marriage
In May 2020, Page Six published an extensive report documenting the ongoing rumors that NeNe Leakes has a secret boyfriend named Rodney White. A source claimed the two were “all over each other” in Miami while Gregg Leakes battled colon cancer in the ATL back in January 2019. Over the next year, White would post since-deleted Instagram snapshots of himself attending NeNe’s televised appearances, such as Good Morning America in February and Watch What Happens Live in November. By March 2020, an insider told Page Six that the Glee alum “flaunts her relationship with [White] around openly like they’re together.”
NeNe’s RHOA nemesis, Kenya Moore, later claimed that this secret boyfriend speculation was “absolutely the truth” when she spoke to Hollywood Life in May 2020. “[Page Six] had overwhelming evidence of [NeNe & Rodney] hanging out and being all over each other in public,” Moore remarked, while categorizing NeNe and Gregg’s marriage as “just a handshake and an agreement.” Yikes. At the time, NeNe’s rep slammed the reports and Moore’s commentary.
Meanwhile, NeNe herself (sort of) addressed the hearsay in a June 2020 Instagram post, captioning a snapshot of herself and Gregg with, “The bond is unbreakable! Everything else might break tho but not the bond!” Adding that “we both got side pieces,” NeNe concluded, “Let us cheat in peace and mind your business please.” This may or may not have been a joke.
NeNe Leakes publicly dished on the possibility of an open marriage
It is unclear if NeNe and Gregg Leakes ever officially had an open marriage, but she has discussed the possibility of this arrangement many times very publicly. While sharing an update with The Daily Dish in October 2019, this real housewife of Atlanta said, “We’re talking about a whole new relationship kind of a situation. You might want to tune in to hear about. It’s going to be quite interesting. You know like open marriage? Now, I’m not sure if we’re gonna have an open marriage, but we’re definitely having a lot of open conversations.”
Flash forward to March 2020, when NeNe dished on Angela Yee’s Lip Service, “I like to talk open relationship … I’ve said to [Gregg], ‘If you’re going to cheat, your relationship is open anyway, right? So why not call it an open marriage?’ And Gregg said, ‘Hell no, because I don’t nobody eatin’ out of my garden.'” NeNe went on to say, “They don’t mind stepping out, but they don’t want you to do the same thing,” before explaining, “If Gregg wanted to go be with somebody right now … why am I going to try and keep him from doing something that he wants to do?”
But despite all this talk, just a month later, NeNe denied having an open marriage during an interview with Extra, even sharing that she and Gregg were “doing a lot in the bedroom.”
NeNe Leakes claimed her husband had an inappropriate relationship with one of her employees
NeNe Leakes has never been one to keep her thoughts to herself. In June 2019, she tweeted in part, “U find out ur husband/boyfriend been talkin on the phone regularly to 1 of ur female employees as ‘just a friend’ but u had no knowledge of it, did he cross any lines? Askin 4 a friend since y’all know EVERYTHING.”
There was nothing-at-all-subtle about that social media post. However, NeNe didn’t dish on the details until she appeared on Angela Yee’s Lip Service the following March. Explaining that husband Gregg Leakes helped her find employees for her clothing store in Maryland, NeNe described a hired manager named Juanita as “very much Gregg’s type.” However, Juanita later had a falling out with another employee, who revealed during a staff meeting that she had been FaceTiming Gregg. Long story short: NeNe called Gregg on speaker phone, he emphatically denied the claim, they hung up, Juanita’s phone beeped with a supposed message from Gregg, and NeNe sent Juanita packing. Phew! Meanwhile, Gregg claimed he struck up a friendship with Juanita because NeNe was “never available to talk,” with NeNe recalling him saying, “We never did anything. We just talked on the phone. We never talked about sex.”
Why was this not filmed for The Real Housewives of Atlanta? This would have been such a captivating storyline.
Gregg and NeNe Leakes taught their son about strip clubs
While speaking with Extra in February 2020, NeNe Leakes dished on her son, Brentt Leakes, turning 21: “I am not there. I am giving him a dinner on Sunday. My husband is taking him to the strip club.” She added, “They’re throwing an all-guys thing tonight. They’re going to the strip club. [Gregg] already called and is like, ‘Honey, I’m gonna be at the strip club and I’m gonna leave early.'” A month later, NeNe admitted to The Breakfast Club that the couple previously let Brentt “have a fake ID,” saying, “Gregg and I knew he had a fake ID and Gregg and I took him into clubs. We took him to the strip club together.”
That’s far from a conventional family outing, but NeNe and Gregg managed to turn it into an educational experience for Brentt. “We teach him a lot, because I don’t want him to get with some guys and they showing him something Gregg and I haven’t shown him,” NeNe explained. When was asked if Brent felt “weird” being at the club with his parents, the RHOA star promised, “No, honey. He enjoyed it.”
No one’s marriage is exactly like anyone else’s: What one couple might view as strange, another pair might not think is a big deal … which seems to be the case for NeNe and Gregg Leakes, who are still going strong after divorce, infidelity, cancer, social media shade, and nontraditional family trips.
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