Definitely the most famous star on The Real Housewives of Atlanta, and arguably the most popular housewife across all Real Housewives’ franchises, 50-year-old NeNe Leakes has been a reality TV household name for almost a decade now. She’s even made the major crossover from reality TV to network TV when she starred in Ryan Murphy’s Glee and The New Normal. Count her stint on Broadway, Dancing with the Stars and a slew of other appearances on high-profile shows and it’s easy to see how she has become one of Bravo TV’s most sought-after stars. We sat down with one of television’s biggest personalities to find out what makeup and beauty looks help her get camera-ready and which cosmetic procedure she’s dying to try next.
NewBeauty: What inspires your on-screen look?
NeNe Leakes: Well I love fashion first and foremost, I have my own boutique, Swagg Boutique, and I’m always looking in magazines to see what I like. I can’t say what inspires my look, but I have to always find something that’s comfortable for me, something that I can feel good in. I always pick the things that are the most comfortable and fit my body type and my height. As far as my clothes, I don’t have a stylist, I pick my own fashion myself. I always feel like saving the stylists for red carpets or major events.
For my hair, it’s the same with my clothes. I like easy and simple. When I was much younger, I would try all kinds of funky and fun hair dos. I’ve always loved to play with my hair looks. But now, I prefer something that is a little bit simpler, a little bit more elegant. I like having my hair pulled back away from my face. I like to be able to show my full face and right now I’m going through this whole thing where I’m wearing more ponytails or putting my hair up on top of my head in a bun. I think it’s a clean look, I like it a lot.
NB: What are your go-to makeup and skin care essentials?
NL: The one thing I must have with me is Garnier SkinActive makeup remover wipes ($6). I’m obsessed with them, they come in a little green package and you can get them anywhere, Walgreens, Rite-Aid, CVS…they really make your skin feel good after you take off your makeup. I don’t wear makeup daily, but when I do, that’s one of the things I have to use. Other than that, I’m a girl who believes in a great moisturizer with SPF. For many, many years, since college, I’ve always been a fan of Lancôme. I’ve used Lancôme for years up until the last two years when I decided to use something new. I’m trying a product from overseas; it’s a serum I’m liking it a lot. A friend brought it back to the States for me.
NB: What is your approach to anti-aging?
NL: I believe that you have to always put some sort of eye cream underneath your eyes. My Auntie Nina raised me (she’s 90 years old now), and one of the things she told me growing up was to put Vaseline under my eyes. Of course I don’t put Vaseline under my eyes, I use eye cream, but that’s the stuff they used back in the day. Eye cream is essential to keep the bags, crow’s-feet and lines from forming around your eyes. She looks amazing for 90 years old, and I picked up that tip from her.
NB: What anti-aging treatments do you rely on?
NL: I see an aesthetician on a regular basis, and one of the things I’ve gotten over the years is microdermabrasion. About once a month I’ll get a chemical peel, depending on what my schedule looks like because your skin does peel a little bit when you have it done, depending on how strong the peel is. I think it’s important to see an aesthetician if you can. A lot of ladies like to work on their faces but then neglect their necks. Don’t forget your neck because it’s really important and you can easily form lines there, too. Whatever you do for your face you should also do for your neck and hands so they don’t end up looking older than your face. A lot of women forget to do that.
NB: Do you think those treatments have given you better skin as you age?
NL: I do believe they have given me better skin and I also contribute it to not wearing makeup on a daily basis and not sleeping in makeup. If you do have to wear makeup every single day, you absolutely have to take it off with a great makeup remover and you have to wash your face every morning and every night before you go to bed if you want great skin.
NB: What is the most cutting-edge thing in beauty you’ve seen lately that you want to try?
NL: I don’t mind a little nip/tuck here and there. But one thing I want to try is Kybella, the injections that take the fat out of your chin. But, I have a girlfriend who just recently did the noninvasive facelift, and they did it under her chin and pulled up the fat from underneath her chin. She showed me they had five little needles in her chin and I said, “No I can’t, I’m scared.” But I talked to my aesthetician and she said she could a series of Kybella treatments to totally get rid of the fat underneath the chin. So that’s something that I would like to try, but I would have to do it during a time when no one can see it. I think wintertime is the right time to try something like that because you can wear scarves around your neck and no one would know how swollen it is.
NB: How do you stay in shape for the cameras?
NL: For 2018, like everyone else, I said I want to work out more because I’m not working out as much. But I’m a small-portion eater and I do go on diets. When I’m on a diet I may cut back on certain foods for two weeks, but I don’t tell anyone. I always think the key to a successful diet is to not tell anyone. I think you fail the moment you tell someone that you’re on a diet because the minute you tell them you’re eating healthier and they see you eating ranch dressing, they’re going to talk about it. So I never tell anyone I’m on a diet.
NB: If you could only take one member of your glam team with you on a deserted island which would you choose?
NL: I would take my makeup artist Parra Thomas because I can’t do my makeup as good as she can, but I can definitely pull my hair up in a ponytail.
NB: What advice would you give “Atlanta Housewives season 1 NeNe” about her look?
NL: Oh my gosh, I probably would just change everything. I would say, “Girl, take off the hair!” My hair was not right.
NB: When do you feel the most pretty?
NL: I feel pretty all the time, but I feel like the older I’ve gotten, the prettier I’ve gotten. I feel like I’ve gotten better with time and I feel the most pretty right after I’ve gotten all glammed up.
NB: When do you feel the most insecure and what do you do to turn it around?
NL: I don’t usually hear that word, insecure; that’s not a real trait of mine. I’ve been a pretty confident girl at all levels (laughs). But I would have to say, probably when I gain weight. Maybe that’s when I feel the most insecure because I want to wear certain things and you can’t wear them if you gain weight?
NB: What one thing should women do to make themselves feel better when they’re having an off day?
NL: They probably should go get a cocktail!
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