The screams, the shrieks, the SRO crowd. This is not typical behavior from the audience for a keynote at the LA Ultimate Women’s Expo. You’d think George Clooney or J Lo was in the house.
All this for Real Housewife of Atlanta’s NeNe Leakes, who has become a cult figure with her reality show, plus acting roles in Glee and The New Normal, as well as a stint on Celebrity Apprentice. The Donald has a knack for stirring it up and he knows pop culture when he sees it.
Author Jackie Collins had just spoken in the seminar before. Sadly all the seats were not filled. Is this the norm these days, not much interest in a bestselling author who also produces and writes miniseries based on her popular books? She has written 30.
But here was NeNe, a gal who shot to fame with her Housewives franchise and whose second wedding to her first husband was televised on a Bravo special as a series. Fans can’t get enough of her.
We saw why she’s so popular. Everyone can relate. She is as honest as the day is long, as funny as any standup comic, and who has much wisdom as any talk show host.
She was delayed 10 minutes because of traffic from LAX where she had just flown in. And she mentioned that she was to dance and participate in the Dancing with the Stars finale this week, as she was a contestant during this challenging season.
She took a Q&A after her speech (which she tossed the podium aside, not literally, as some housewives get physical on their shows) and showed much interest with her audience. She told the powers-that-be that she wanted to continue taking questions after her assigned time was up. The audience could not get enough of NeNe and vice versa.
“All the Atlanta ladies were asked back for next season,” the very tall (and even taller in stilettos) personality said. “I’m not sure if I will return. I am not crazy about the fighting.” (The buzz is she is the highest paid Housewife, making a million for each season and this is a ploy for negotiations.)
She brought her husband Greg on stage, as well as her son and their dog. The audience craved it and ate it up. We attend many panels and industry speeches, but have never seen such charisma in this genre. She even posed for some photos until an organizer pulled her away to formally go to her book-signing booth.
When she thought she may have been too tough on an audience member, she apologized and said she needs to learn to tone it down. The crowd shouted, “No way!”
In a heartbeat, we’d hear her speak again. There was not enough time to listen to the NeNe “isms” and to learn from a woman who has been around the block a few times and enjoys every second of her success.