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September 17, 2014

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NeNe Leakes is ready for ‘Zumanity’ debut: ‘I’m erotic, I’m sexy, and I’m sensual’

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NeNe Leakes in Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” at New York-New York.

NeNe Leakes in ‘Zumanity’

NeNe Leakes in Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity” at New York-New York. Launch slideshow »

NeNe Leakes in Zumanity

NeNe Leakes in Zumanity

To celebrate the 10th anniversary of Cirque du Soleil’s “Zumanity,” reality-TV personality NeNe Leakes has signed on for 10 shows as the Mistress of Sensuality starting Friday.

There are topless attractions in the show, which closes with a semi-orgy sequence. NeNe is very comfortable about starring in the risque, adult-themed show, although she admits that her husband Gregg Leakes had second thoughts.

NeNe ran through a rehearsal at Zumanity Theater in New York-New York on Monday, and I talked with the star of “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” afterward:

Had you seen “Zumanity” before you decided to take on the guest-host role of the Mistress of Sensuality?

Yes — it’s amazing. I think it’s risque, but I think it’s absolutely amazing.

It’s also erotic, it’s sexy, it’s sensual. Why did you want to do this?

Because I’m erotic, I’m sexy, and I’m sensual with lots of big personality. You’re going to see a lot of leg and a lot of arm. That’s about it; that’s all I can give you this time.

It’s going to be sexy, it’s going to be fun. We give you big hair, really big hair, and big lashes. I’m blocked for about two hours of makeup every night before show time.

And if this is a joy for you and the cast and the audience, do you return? Are we seeing the start of a new side to NeNe?

Well, I’ve got calls from Broadway and other things, but if “Zumanity” wanted me back, they’ve been amazing to me, they’ve been very good to me, I would be back in a flash. They’ve been great.

You had no reservations about accepting this walk on the wild side?

None. In the beginning, when they first called me, I hadn’t seen the show, but I flew in during the New Year to see it.

You said this will fit me like a glove?

Nooo, I didn’t! I was just like, “OK, what do they want me to do because it’s a little risque.” I’d love to do it, but what am I going to be doing? They were like, “Well, do whatever you want to do! If you want to dance, if you want to MC, whatever you want to do, we want you to do it.”

Did you ask your husband if you could do this, or did you just tell him you were going to do this?

No, my husband came out to see the show with me, and he was like, “Um, I don’t know about this show.” He was afraid for me to do the show.

He had more reservations than you did?

Yeah, he did. I was like, “Yes, let’s do it.” Any qualms or reservations immediately vanished.

Do we see you dancing in the show?

Yes, you do as a matter of fact.

Back to the days of Tony Dovolani and “Dancing With the Stars.”

Yeah, but a little bit different. This is a little bit more sensual, maybe more like a rumba. The rumba is very sexy and sensual, so I’m going to use some of those moves that Tony taught me there out here on the stage. I just want to make sure that as the Mistress of Sensuality, I bring you in. Look at you coming to me, honey.

‘Zumanity’ Ninth Anniversary

Launch slideshow »

December 2010: ‘Zumanity’

Cirque du Soleil's Zumanity at New York-New York. Launch slideshow »

You’re completely different than when you were on “Celebrity Apprentice” raging against Star Jones.

Oh, “Celebrity Apprentice.” I was very good on “Celebrity Apprentice,” to be honest with you. I was very good, but I wasn’t working with the best people.

That was a pretty good catfight.

Yeah, people want to stab you in the back on a show like that. They do.

So do you think of yourself as a feisty, sassy girl?

I can be feisty and sassy. If you take me there, then I can go there, but I like to be fun, sassy NeNe.

What are you going to bring to “Zumanity”? Feisty and sassy to lure us in?

Listen, you have to lure in the audience. I want to bring them to me, but I’m going to be fun, I’m definitely over the top. I won’t be NeNe when I step on the stage, so let’s be very clear. There is NeNe, and then there’s NayNay. So I will be NayNay, and I will be the Mistress of Sensuality.

What’s your definition of sensuality?

Sensuality is something that’s very sexy, very smooth, very loving. Someone who can bring you in — I am the sexy MC, that’s what the Mistress of Sensuality does here in this show. I carry the show. I’m here to do just that; bring the audience in and be sexy at the same time.

And your definition of sexy?

NeNe Leakes. You don’t see it? I’ve got it! I’m having personal meet-and-greets. I’m here to do 10 shows for the 10th anniversary of “Zumanity.” Cirque is amazing, and it’s an honor for them to choose me because Cirque doesn’t normally have celebrities come in and do a show.

I’m the first in 30 years. Isn’t that amazing?! Isn’t that an honor?! It’s an honor, it’s amazing. My costumes are designed specially for this by designer couturier Gilbert Chagoury, and my shoes are by Christian Louboutin.

Are you putting some time aside for fun in Las Vegas?

I love Las Vegas. Since I’ve been here working, I haven’t done a whole lot. This is a very demanding schedule, so I’ve worked a lot here, and I haven’t played very much. I will once the show wraps. I’m going to stick around for a few days. Sin City, baby! It sure is a little sensual.

You have all these TV cameras following you in Las Vegas. Is “The Real Housewives of Atlanta” back in business?

I don’t know if we’re in business or not. We’ll see. I’m just finishing up the tail end of my contract; Season 6. Now Season 7 we’re still working on.

What’s the one thing you might get nervous about in doing “Zumanity”?

The only thing I’m concerned about is whenever I’m doing a show, I get a little nerves. It’s all good. It makes me want to go out there and really give everything to them. Nothing has really taking me over the edge.

And if the little person invites you to take a swing on the rope across the audience?

I would probably swing with him! I think he’s amazing — and sexy, by the way. So just come and see what unexpected surprises might happen.

* * *

NeNe starts her run in “Zumanity,” two shows nightly at New York-New York, on Friday through Wednesday. We’ll be there this weekend and have a report of her sensual success on Monday.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

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