"We don't have a friendship," Kenya tells ET of her relationship with Real Housewives of Atlanta co-star NeNe Leakes. "I don't think we ever did have a friendship, I think I was just convenient, and a convenient ally… so yeah, I don't really see the value in being or attempting to be fake friends with her."
"You know, I wasn't in our last season, but last season, she certainly was not friends with anyone," she goes on to say. "She was a man on an island."
In the midseason trailer for season 12, NeNe is seen, seemingly, making amends with her castmates, notably a tearful Porsha Williams, as well as Kenya and her husband, Marc Daly. But Kenya says it wasn’t genuine.
"You're just making up with people because you have to, because you have no one else to film with or nothing else to do, you know?" Kenya notes. "So, that's what that is."
Kenya walked away from the show after season 10 on relatively good terms with NeNe. But, when she made a cameo appearance at a party Cynthia Bailey threw near the end of season 11 -- at nearly nine months pregnant -- NeNe had nothing but negative things to say about the mom-to-be, comparing her to a buffalo. Kenya's appearance also turned out to be the straw that broke the camel’s back when it came to NeNe's friendship with Cynthia; NeNe, for some reason, felt betrayed that Cynthia did not give her a heads up that Kenya would be at a guest at the event.
"So, no one understood, what is this all about?" Kenya says. "I understand what it was about, because I’ve been in this really love, hateful relationship with her -- and all the hate is coming from her. It's so much."
"She tried to get me fired before I was even hired on the show," she alleges. "I just think that she's always been very intimidated by my presence on the show. And, when I was not on the show, I was still being talked about … I was still relevant, so that bothered her. And so, then it becomes, 'Why did you invite Kenya to your launch party to celebrate you? And at eight months pregnant?' Like why, is that an issue for you? So again, if you watch who she really is, you will see that she is extremely intimidated, jealous, envious -- whatever you want to call it -- of my presence on the show."
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NeNe was noticeably absent from the first episodes of season 12, as she was taking time to decide whether she wanted to come back to the show or not, even though the other ladies were already filming. When ET asked NeNe if Kenya's return to the series was part of her hesitation to sign back up for it, too, she said, "I wouldn’t give her that much credit." But Kenya might see things a little differently.
"She tries so hard to tell people she's the HBIC," Kenya says. "She's the this, she’s the that. She's the originator. 'Oh, the real premiere just starts…' And in fact, her presence now is not impactful at all. She's missed out on at least four to five episodes this season, so that clearly means the network is sending you a message. You're not as important as you think you are."
"The message is very clear: either the network feels that you are still a valuable asset on the show or they don't, and you're replaced and phased out, and you just have to move on," she cautions. "NeNe has been on the show for a very long time, and I just think the cast is not gelling with her. She always puts herself on an island. She makes these fights with people that don't actually have to occur and she's really the cause of her own demise."
Wendy Williams recently claimed on her talk show that NeNe texted her, saying she's quitting the show. NeNe's team was quick to shut down the claim, and Kenya says it's all nonsense, because "NeNe will not walk away from a check" as long as she has "tons of bills to pay."
"I just think she's using Wendy, honestly," Kenya remarks. "Because before [they were friends], Wendy would go in if she sees the type of behavior that anyone on our show was exhibiting before, and Wendy has been going, like, so soft on her. So, I just think that NeNe is really just using Wendy."
Wendy will actually be making an appearance later this season, via phone call. In the midseason tease, NeNe calls the talk show host for advice. Wendy tells her, "Give these girls friendship and love."
"[It's] NeNe reaching for something to make her feel like she's more important than everyone else," Kenya professes. "Like, 'Oh, I have Wendy Williams on speed dial. I'm friends with Wendy Williams...' and I just think it's an attempt to be more relevant than anyone else on the show, and it's just like a failed attempt to me."
Wendy actually created a little extra drama between NeNe and Kenya back in November, when Kenya was a guest on her show and claimed that NeNe spit on her during the season. NeNe denied Kenya's claim, but when the midseason trailer dropped in January, it did include footage of NeNe appearing to spit at her co-star.
"She said I was lying, she used the word I was actually lying, she said lying," Kenya fumes. "And it proves I said exactly what I said, it was the truth. You can't lie if it's on video."
"How do we get to that point?" Kenya emphatically asks. "That is my question. You're 50-something years old and we're on a television show and you get to the point where you're spitting food at someone? She spat food at me, she attempted to actually hock up spit on me. and it's just like, what? Who does that? You have children, you have grandchildren -- you are a grandmother -- and this is the example that you're setting?"
"She's fighting to stay on the show," she goes on to declare.
Should NeNe ever hand in her peach, though, there are some women waiting in the wings to take a spin and say a tagline in the opening credits. Namely, "friends of" the show Marlo Hampton and Tanya Sam.
"Marlo will never get a peach in my opinion," Kenya declares. "Listen, she has a horrible criminal past … so, that's just not Bravo's brand. And if she's been on the show for all of these years, doing the same thing, why would you want to make her a Housewife? I mean, you've gotten her as a friend of the show for 10 years, why make her a Housewife now? It just, to me, it's just not good business."
"I do think that Tanya deserves a peach," she goes on to say. "I think that she's interesting, she's a little quirky and I think that she has a dark side."
Kenya suggests the way Tanya contributed to "wiggate" on the show is a taste of that "dark side." When the women were on a cast trip to Canada, Marlo clocked that Kenya -- who is very proud of her long, natural locks -- was wearing a wig to dinner. Kenya ignored Marlo's poking about it, even though she was in, fact, sporting fake hair.
"I never lied about it, I just didn't answer Marlo," Kenya makes clear. "[I didn’t want] to have a whole moment with Marlo."
But, when the women were departing Canada to return to Atlanta, Kenya realized she had left her wig behind and asked Tanya to pick it up before she left and bring it home with her. Tanya did, but before she returned it to Kenya, she showed it off to Marlo, Porsha and Kandi Burruss, like it was some "tea" to be spilled.
"I think she knew exactly what she was doing because she found out that I was, at some point, speaking about Paul [Judge], her fiance of eight years and their relationship, and so that was her passive-aggressive way to try to hurt me, to try to discredit me and to try to make me look bad," Kenya says in response, adding that she regularly wears wigs and other protective styles to keep her natural hair healthy.
There will be more to come this season on the Kenya vs. Tanya front, as Tanya has to face those cheating allegations Kenya alluded to head-on when the woman who claims Paul got flirty with her appears in the flesh.
Something that may never get cleared up, though, is "snakegate," aka the drama surrounding an alleged recording of Cynthia speaking ill of NeNe, made by someone in the group. The women attempted to get to the bottom of it in Canada, confronting NeNe and the two prime suspects -- Marlo and Yovanna Momplaisir -- about it, but it led to nowhere. A near-physical fight broke out after NeNe flip-flopped on whether a recording actually exists. She confusingly declared that there’s a difference between "recording" and "audio."
"Maybe the second time I heard about it, I said, 'There's no audio. This is a lie,'" Kenya recalls. "NeNe made it all up, this is a lie. There's no audio."
Kenya promises fans will get a definitive answer on whether that audio/recording exists in the coming weeks, though, as far as she knows, Yovanna won't be popping up again.
"She's a scary one," she declares, admitting that there's never been a person "thirstier" to be a part of this group.
"Beyond!" Kenya exclaims. "It's just grossly thirsty. I mean, everyone is thirsty to a degree -- it's a great platform. It's launched a lot of careers, it's keeping women of color employed over the age of 40, you know, some checks are seven-figure checks, possibly, so it's just like, OK, that is a great platform to be on. So, I don't mind someone being thirsty. I just mind them being, like, thirsty."
However, Yovanna may make an appearance at the still-to-film reunion, where Kenya hopes to clear the air with all the women.
"Listen, I think reunion is going to be a little tough for me because I definitely have had problems with several of the ladies this season, from Eva [Marcille] early on to, you know, Marlo to Tanya to NeNe and to Cynthia, so it's going to be a tough reunion for me," she admits.
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She says she's been able to work through some issues already -- she apologized to Cynthia for nearly spoiling her surprise engagement, and continues to bond with the unlikeliest of friends, Porsha. The women have had a contentious relationship over the years, to say the least. Porsha infamously told Kenya, “Bye, ashy!” and physically attacked her at one reunion.
“It’s just funny how your journey is your own and, when you have someone that crosses paths, you were so divided before, it's just interesting how God can make you laugh, 'I'll show you,' you know?" Kenya shares.
Kenya and Porsha really bonded when they were pregnant at the same time, each with her first child. Motherhood, Kenya says, put everything in perspective for both of them.
"I think that just brought us closer, and I would love for our stories to end up in a happy place and that we can navigate ourselves into a better place and be happy," she says. "We just have a really honest relationship, because it's primarily off-camera. So, when we are talking about our relationship, or our children, it’s not on camera. And so, to me that's more precious, that means it's genuine and that it's real, and so we just share a lot of intimate things with each other."
As far as working through things with NeNe at the reunion, Kenya just hopes she actually shows up -- both physically and mentally. The OG Atlanta Housewife appeared pretty checked out at the season 11 reunion taping, leaving the show’s executive producer/reunion host Andy Cohen exasperated by her non-answers to questions.
Speaking of Andy, Kenya has a question that he and the ladies might be able to answer on the big day.
"Why do they never give me a pass?" she asks. "They give it to everyone else, but they never give me a pass, and they always look to make me look bad, or make me look like a villain, and my heart is always in the right place. It might be misguided sometimes, or might get caught up in a situation, like the proposal, but come on! That is my friend, you know? And even though I might be going through tough times in my own life, it has nothing to do with my friendships. So, yeah, I would want to know that."
Those "tough times" will play out in the second half of season 12, as Kenya reveals her marriage to Marc Daly has fallen apart. She admits it will be tough to watch that back but, in the end, she’s happy with her decision to return to RHOA.
"I survived, and I'm stronger for it," she shares. "At the end of the day, this is my legacy for my daughter, and I just want her to be able to be proud of her mom. I'm a CEO mom. I have a very successful … hair care company and, one day, she might have to take over that business. So, I want her to see, my mom was a real boss."