NeNe Leakes on the difference between exotic dancing and "Dancing with the Stars"

NeNe Leakes Says Stripper Past Doesn't Help Her on
NeNe Leakes Says Stripper Past Doesn't Help Her on

NeNe Leakes, is clearly no longer just a reality star anymore. The woman known for her big personality has gone from one of the co-stars on Bravo's "Real Housewives of Atlanta" to a full-blown actress on shows like "Glee" and "The New Normal." But far be it for her to rest on her laurels. Leakes is not only featured on one reality show this season, but two, now as a contestant on "Dancing with the Stars".

When she and pro-partner Tony Dovolani sat down with's Brian Balthazar, Leakes admitted she may seem full of work ambition now, but says she wasn't always busy in business. "No, actually," said Leakes, "Growing up I did a lot of things and then once I got married, I married in '97, I stayed home and raised our child and my husband went out to work. I've always been a dreamer and I always wanted to have my own career. My husband was helping me and supporting me in to having my career. Once I got my career going, I just kind of became a little bit obsessed with it. I just wanted to work-work-work. I work all night long. I'm always in trouble with Gregg in the middle of the night. I pull out my phone and answer emails and everything. I like to work, actually."

But before NeNe was NeNe, Inc. she gave exotic dancing a try back in the '90s when she was a struggling single mom fresh out of an abusive relationship. In our interview, NeNe showed off some of those moves but was quick to dispel any notion that exotic dancing has given her an edge on "Dancing With The Stars". "I've never danced before," said Leakes. "I have no dance experience. When I was in my 20s I worked in a night club, but stripping... is nothing compared to...this is nothing. I have no dance experience. As an exotic dancer all you're doing is being pretty, honey. You're just being fabulous like 'don't you like my shoulders? How about my neckline?' You just twist from side to side. That doesn't work for 'Dancing with the Stars'."

Well, whatever Dovolani has taught her about dancing is clearly working. Not surprising given he's been with the show since season 1. The man who finally won a mirrorball trophy with partner Melissa Rycroft on season 15 of the show was coy to talk about partners past (cough, cough, Kate Gosselin). But he sort of admits there have been some partners he may not have gotten along with quite as well as he has with Leakes. "Listen, everybody has the opportunity to show who they are when they come to 'Dancing with the Stars'. When they show up and they show whoever they are then that's the perception that people are going to have of you." As for Leakes? He says that's why the show is perfect to show off her other side. "People have gotten to see that NeNe is a lot of fun not just drama driven. She has a good heart, she has good intentions and all that stuff. She has a little drama but it keeps it interesting!"

She wouldn't be NeNe Leakes if there weren't just a teensy bit of drama, now would she? Be sure to catch both Leakes and Dovolani, drama-free, Monday nights on "Dancing with the Stars" at 8pm on ABC.