You could call NeNe Leakes the queen of The Real Housewives of Atlanta. Aside from being the only one from the first season of RHOA in 2008 still standing (well, except that one season she denied coming back for), she's also been associated with bringing in other housewives in the latter seasons, despite not having a good relationship with most of them. Yeah, Kandi Burruss [net worth: $32 million] and Eva Marcille [net worth: $4.5 million] are there.
Born Linnethia Monique Johnson on December 13, 1967 (age 52), in Queens, New York, she and one of her five siblings (a brother) were sent to live with her aunt in Athens, Georgia, as it seemed her mother wouldn't be able to take care of all of her kids. And she's one of those rare people to remarry the same person after a divorce. Yes, she and husband Gregg Leakes divorced in 2010 before getting a wedding spin-off from RHOA in 2013.
NeNe and husband Gregg have been married for two decades, except that break.
Photo Source: Bravo TV
Unlike many from the cast of RHOA who were already something before appearing on RHOA, everything NeNe has become is actually courtesy of the show. That one uncredited role in a 2003 movie didn't give much to up her net worth anyway. So yeah, she's been a reality star, even a scripted role actor, an author, a host/presenter and a fashion designer ever since she joined the Bravo TV franchise.
Of Course, Every Penny of NeNe Leakes' Net Worth Is All Thanks to 'RHOA'
As of April 2020, NeNe Leakes, a TV personality, author, actress, host and fashion designer, starring on RHOA since Season 1, controls a net worth of $14 million. As mentioned, each and every one of those professions contributed as her sources of income. While she did act for the early 2000s comedy series, The Parkers, and Beyoncé-starring The Fighting Temptations in 2003 before RHOA, but neither of those acts made it on TV.
NeNe Leakes is the only one standing from the first season of RHOA.
Photo Credit: Tommy Garcia, Bravo TV
Aside from & since RHOA, she's guest-hosted Fashion Police & The Talk (among others), participated in The Apprentice & Dancing with the Stars, featured in Glee, debuted on Broadway, launched a comedy tour, founded a TV production company, co-wrote a book, launched a fashion line and even married a second time to the same guy. It's quite a handful, but she isn't too laidback on creating drama where she needs to either.
People Were Not Happy for Her Bathing in a Tub of Diamonds for the Cover of 'Ebony'
NeNe Leakes was moved to her aunt at age 4, but it wasn't easy for her there either. During her two-year formal education at Morris Brown College, she worked the moonlight hours as a stripper and it's no secret she would try to hide. And "it was a great hustle," she mentioned during the cover story interview for Ebony Magazine’s December 2012 issue.
"I used the name Holly and then Silk. I thought I made pretty good money. It was a great hustle. If I needed to make $1,000, I got dressed and went to the club. If me and my roommate needed $5,000 by the weekend, I would work all week. What you mentally wanted to make, you could make."
The stripper days do not contribute to today's net worth for Leakes.
Photo Credit: Alex Martinez, Bravo
But she didn't do this just for fun. She did it because she had to. She was a 23-year-old single mom, & she needed extra cash and did that specifically because it helped her earn money rather fast. She did it for three years before retiring for good.
Leakes' cover feature for Ebony was for the Power & Respect issue, and she did try to resonate with the title, appearing in a tub of diamonds. But not everyone liked the message it sent when the photo was released on Young, Back & Fabulous, as "definitely all of the negative feedback definitely came from my own". She did try to defend her feature as well as the publication. But it seems the publication doesn't exist in recent years.
"I absolutely deserve to be on the cover," she told The Daily Beast. "This cover is about money, power, and respect. And it’s about a come-up story and I’m the one that had that story this year."
'RHOA' Salary & Remarrying Gregg
As mentioned, everything she earns as part of her net worth has been a contribution of the opportunities her feature on RHOA. Unless she has earnings before 2008 someplace as a reminder... Anyway, she starred on the show since its inception in the Atlanta department, in 2008. She appeared in every season of the show except on Season 9 in 2016/17 as she reportedly denied a $2.5 million contract to come back. There was a lot of drama back in the day, but her last appearance before leaving was actually as a guest rather than a full-time housewife in Season 8.
Why she left Season 9 is beyond anyone's guess.
Photo Credit: Mark Hill, Bravo
Speaking of contract, she reportedly makes a seasonal salary of $1 million from RHOA for years before she took a break from the show. As for the current reports, she is said to earn $2.85 million per season, up from $2.75 million, making her the highest earner across the entire Real Housewives franchise. This value was released by an online gossip portal, so we cannot vouch for its authenticity. Still, she obviously might be the richest housewife.
And her appearance has not been without a big drama. Meaning really unique and big. Her older son, Bryson Rashard Bryant, aka Bryce, is from a previous relationship, born in December 1989. He's made NeNe a grandma with a daughter of his own (and/or an alleged son from a drama of his own; unverified though). Considering her rough childhood and early adulthood, her son's doesn't seem to have been good either.
If you didn't know, NeNe Leakes has two sons.
Photo Source: Bravo TV
Either way, she met Gregg in 1996 and married him in 1997 in her hometown, Athens. They were a happy couple with a son, Brentt Leakes, born on February 22, 1999, until their RHOA days. They separated in 2010, NeNe filing for divorce on April 29, 2010, and finalizing it on September 29, 2011.
However, on New Year's Eve 2013, everyone went up and about regarding a reunion and even a possible engagement between the two. And why not? She had tweeted photos of the two with a string of others during a romantic get together. Plus, she tweeted "My answer was," and "Yes," within two minutes.
It was only after Jimmy Fallon pressed her during an appearance on his show a few days later that she confirmed there was indeed going to be a wedding between the same two people again. She was hesitant, but she gave the details away. When Fallon asked, "So I'm going, are you engaged? Can you say anything?!", Nene answered, "Well…a little after midnight. I was asked this beautiful question: Will you marry me—again?"
It was all but confirmed that they were together again.
Photo Source: NeNe Leakes, Twitter
Thus, after the engagement on January 1, 2013, they remarried on June 22, 2013, at the InterContinental Buckhead Hotel in Atlanta. Of course, the wedding planning & ceremony was turned into a spin-off of the show, I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding, for which she has producer credits as well.
Acting Opportunities & 'Dancing with the Stars’
Apart from RHOA, Leakes participated in several other reality TV competitions, including Donald Trump's The Celebrity Apprentice, which she walked out of after 10 episodes reportedly because of the tension with Star Jones. She was playing for her charity, The Twisted Hearts Foundation, on the show. She and her husband also participated in the second MasterChef Celebrity Showdown in early 2017 and lost against Trai Byers and Grace Gealey from Empire.
Besides, she also participated in Dancing with the Stars S18 with her pro partner, Tony Dovolani, for eight weeks, finishing in seventh, in April 2014. Since every celebrity reportedly makes $125,000 during the rehearsal period and $295,000 is the maximum earnings one can make, she probably added somewhere in between to her net worth. Along with that, she also portrayed the Mistress of Sensuality for the resident show Cirque du Soleil: Zumanity in Las Vegas.
She finished seventh with partner Tony Dovolani.
Photo Source: Adam Taylor, Getty Images
The 52-year-old's Broadway debut came on November 24, 2014, as Madame in Rodgers & Hammerstein’s Cinderella until January 3, 2015. Her next appearance occurred on the musical Chicago as Matron “Mama” Morton for four weeks in November 2015.
Her guest co-host credits include The Talk, The Real, once in The Doctors, biggest involvement in Fashion Police, once in FabLife, The View, and The Chew. Meanwhile, she's served as a panelist on Hip Hop Squares, Match Game, To Tell the Truth & The Meredith Vieira Show and even judged once on Miss USA. One more appearance that people like to point out is her participation in the baking show, Cupcake Wars in 2016.
It's not reality shows she's limited herself to. She's branched out to scripted roles as well, granted it's not as much as it is on reality TV. But really, it's not outside her comfort zone. The recurring appearances on Glee [as Roz Washington] and The New Normal [Rocky Rhoades (Mr. & Mrs.!!!)] are really her career-defining acting roles. She's appeared in one episode of The First Wives Club and the TV movie Ride or Die.
Coach Roz Washington in 'Glee'.
Photo Source: Glee, FOX
During her off time of from her major TV show in 2016, she went on a comedy tour of her own. So Nasty, So Rude toured the US from April 2016, continued till the end of the year. Almost all of her shows were sold out. Meanwhile, she also hosted another Ladies Night Out Comedy Tour in early 2019.
Which House Does NeNe Leakes Live In?
Main Article: NeNe Leakes House & Real Estate Details
Branching Out to a Clothing Line and Even Writing a Book
After joining The Real Housewives of Atlanta, the first thing she probably branched her career path towards was being an author. After the first season concluded, she teamed up with Denene Millner to write the book Never Make the Same Mistake Twice: Lessons on Love and Life Learned the Hard Way in 2009.
As is obvious, the book takes you through some uncharted territories of her life. It's a memoir after all. She details her difficult childhood, abusive former relationship, working her way from attempts of trying to be a model during her teenage years, single motherhood and all that.
The book sales were too modest to add to her net worth.
Photo Credit: Michael Tullberg, Getty Images
And remember her production credit for her Bravo/RHOA spin-off? Yeah, first established a TV production company NeNe Leakes Entertainment in 2013 before being credited with the executive producer title for the show, I Dream of NeNe: The Wedding, that premiered on September 17, 2013. That's the only project there is for the company.
The mother-of-two also went on to expand her business, literally into the business world. She announced that she would release a self-titled fashion line in February 2014. Then in late July 2014, the Nene Leakes Collection was launched for Home Shopping Network (HSN), including reasonably prices pieces from $39.90 to $139.90. The products included knit tank tops, faux-leather jackets, and dressed-up sweatpants, all sold out within several days of the launch.
And That Teensy Million-Dollar Tax Issue in 2016
It was weird enough she declined the multi-million dollar contract from RHOA, but it was also shocking to know she had a cool $1 million (at least) to pay the government in back taxes and tax liens in 2016. She was hit with a tax lien for failing to pay the IRS $824,366.01 in back taxes from 2014, according to the court documents filed on July 2016. The lien and back taxes supposedly amounted to over a million dollars, a lot for someone with even her kind of net worth.
Meanwhile, NeNe Leakes was handling her tax issues when quitting 'RHOA' for a season.
Photo Source: Getty Images
On June 2, she was hit with a tax lien of $86,624 from the State of California, which rose to $95,232.92 by September 22, added up by interests. The lien value was actually reported to be $58,458, but almost $37,000 was added up in interest [$9,715.71], fees [$15,317.61] and penalties [$11,691.60] (making up that final ~$95,000).
In response, she shared a series of tweets on August 21, 2016, joking about how she was "broke", "unemployed" and "dumb" and that people should start a Go Fund Me page. First thought in her fans' mind — someone hacked her account. But she also joked about it over on Instagram, asking for a $20 loan for hotel bills.
She started off 2017 by paying up those tax debts. Reportedly, her debt was officially settled on January 4; the $824, 366 federal tax lien paid off with an additional $95,232.92 already paid back to the State of California on October 27, 2016. But she still had around $100,000 to pay back to the State of Georgia. And after paying off the federal debt, the Gwinnett County tax department hit her with a minor $437.56 for not paying up on the property taxes on her Duluth penthouse.
There've still been various tax debts popping up here and there against Leakes. Also, her BFF, Marlo Hampton, was hit with a federal tax lien by the IRS in September 2019 as well. Of course, other drama will also never stop. Just, keep on being entertained.
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