The Queen Mother of Bravo's Housewives franchise is exiting the building.
NeNe Leakes told People magazine Monday that she will not be returning to next season's Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Arguably the most recognizable character in all the franchise—and reportedly the highest paid—Leakes described how she and her husband, Gregg Leakes, wrestled with the decision for weeks, but ultimately decided that it was in her best interest to move forward.
"This was definitely a hard decision for me," NeNe Leakes said. "Me and my husband have been going back and forth on it for weeks now. But my contract is up and I just think this is the right time."
"This is my opportunity to spread my wings and do different things," the reality TV star-turned-actress explained.
Leakes has lent her likeness to Kim Kardashian's mobile game, and teased news about a prime-time television show that she'll appear in alongside a "big legend."
Apparently, the gig will allow Leakes to bring some of herself to the project.
"All of my fans will get to see me be really happy, witty and funny and tell all of those one-liners that I always have said on Housewives," she said.
Last season, viewers watched how Leakes seemed to unravel after feeling like a lot of RHOA castmates were teaming up against her. She described how this departure is a huge stress reliever.
"I feel a weight has been lifted off of my shoulders," Leakes told People. "There were times when I was a target […] I won't miss the negativity."
Leakes is, however, leaving the door open for her to return to her throne at RHOA.
"I'm not saying I'm gone forever," Leakes said. "I'll probably pop up and play with those girls every now and then."
Hmm; it feels like she might have asked for more money and was told "No," and now she wants to see just how low ratings drop without her—so that if and when she does come back, she'll have a strong argument to make when asking for more money. I'm not mad at the hustle, Ms. Leakes.
Andy Cohen, an executive producer of the Housewives franchise, warmly bid Leakes a farewell.
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Diana Ozemebhoya Eromosele is a staff writer at The Root and the founder and executive producer of Lectures to Beats, a Web series that features video interviews with scarily insightful people. Follow Lectures to Beats on Facebook and Twitter.