Sheree Whitfield on Her Return to 'Real Housewives of Atlanta' & NeNe Leakes' Racism Allegations (Exclusive)

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The third time's the charm! Sheree Whitfield is making her grand return to The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and she's doing it holding that precious Georgia peach. 

"I feel super blessed to have come back for the third time," she told ET. "To even consider me or [have] the fans who continuously have supported me throughout the years and asked for my return and for them to listen. Housewives is a very smart brand and they go with what worked, and I guess I worked."

Whitfield explained that she was approached by Bravo heads to return to the cast, and it wasn't the first time. "I felt like I was in a better place, I wasn’t dealing with the past [and] I felt like I dealt with so much drama going on in my life," she said when asked why she decided to come back. "I felt like I was in a happy place mentally and physically, and it was just a good time for me."

When she agreed to rejoin the cast, Whitfield said she told production that the show needed to "go back to what it was" when they started this incarnation of the popular reality TV franchise. 

"We were classy girls. You're not gonna get class all the time, but it wasn't all about drama," she added. "It was a sisterhood and we were able to, you know, have fun times. But, of course, it's not always gonna be peaches and cream. So they listened, they heard, and they were in agreeance, so here I am."

Whitfield promised that fans will get a different side of her this time around, revealing that she opened herself to love and growth in a new way. 

"I feel like I’m mentally just in a different place. I’ve always been completely transparent, the good, the bad, the ugly," she added. "You guys have watched me go through a divorce, fight for child support, take 15 years to build a home, saw the struggles I’ve gone through with 'She by Sheree' -- and that's another thing that I really get into, some of the reasons why I feel like it took me so long. So you guys will see that process, you'll see the process of me moving forward but you'll also get to hear a lot of the problems and issues that I had with, you know, 'She by Sheree' in the past."

Whitfield also discussed her long-time romance with beau Tyrone Gilliams, stating that "it wasn't on my bucket list to fall in love with a man that was in prison."

"People are like, 'Why would you date a man in prison?' It's nothing that I set out to do," she added. "It was me being there to support a friend, someone that I knew in my past, when he reached out. It started as you know just conversations and... we established a great emotional connection. No one can talk you out of your panties better than a man in prison."

But the duo has faced complications since Gilliams has been released, including his inability to travel outside of his home in Philadelphia. "It was me, you know, really taking time to get to know him outside of prison because in prison you can be one person and then when you come out, you could be someone different," she went on, saying that fans will have to watch the new season for more on their romance.

But one thing, Whitfield said, is for sure: "Sheree will be getting married again."

Although Whitfield boasted that she's still friends with several former RHOA castmates, including previous fan-favorite Phaedra Parks, she shared that she hasn't seen former friend NeNe Leakes.

Leakes is currently suing Bravo and its parent company, Housewives executive producer Andy Cohen and the production company behind RHOA, claiming they fostered a racist work environment.

The lawsuit claims that Leakes had complained for years about alleged racist remarks made by fellow former cast member Kim Zolciak-Biermann, who, according to the suit, allegedly made “racially insensitive and stereotypical” comments about fellow cast member Kandi Burruss' home and that Zolciak-Biermann allegedly used the N-word to refer to Leakes and other members of the cast. Leakes did not name Zolciak-Biermann in the lawsuit.

The lawsuit also claims that Leakes' complaints of alleged racism had her forced off the series before the 13th season in 2020. Leakes was a cast member on The Real Housewives of Atlanta from 2008-2020. 

"As the Black Lives Matter movement swept our nation, Mrs. Leakes – Bravo’s historically most successful Black female talent – should have been embraced by NBC, Bravo, and True," the documents read.

"Instead, NBC, Bravo, and True forced her out of the 'house she built' denying her a regular role and excluding her from the early season filming that would address the BLM movement. Then, as she pushes back against the discrimination, harassment and retaliation again, they retaliatorily renege on a development deal that was previously on the table as well as any other potential ventures cutting her out entirely."

Whitfield declared that she is "staying far away from that," and when asked if she had a similar experience to the one described by her former co-star, she denied it. 

"I have a great relationship with Bravo and I have not experienced what she's experienced, but I wish her the best in all her endeavors," she added.

But there is another former Housewife that Whitfield wouldn't mind seeing again, especially in the next season's lineup: Lisa Wu.

"Lisa and I have maintained a great friendship throughout the years [and] I don't think you guys got to see who Lisa really, really is," she said, declaring the actress her pick for another "OG" Housewife to return in the future. 

Wu was cast in the inaugural season of RHOA and appeared in the main cast for the first two seasons. She was a guest for the third season and made guest appearances in the ninth, 10th and 14th seasons, respectively.

"She's a lot of fun, she's actually funny as sh*t but she's also a girl's girl," Whitfield added. "She supports her friends and, you know, that's me as well, and we have a good time. So [if] we're talking season 15 or 16, definitely Lisa Wu. She has a lot going on right now and she's in a different place than she was before."

The Real Housewives of Atlanta returns with a supersized premiere episode on Sunday, May 1, at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Bravo.

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