"It's an embarrassing thing to see as a mother and as an adult," Leakes said in an interview Tuesday. "I apologize to my viewers and fans, and to my children and family and friends who love and care about me. ...I apologize to them for them having to see me stoop to such a trashy level. When you fool with trash, it can get all over you."
Leakes and Zolciak seemed to be in an OK place — i.e. alternating between back-biting and sniping about the other wives over wine — all-season long. But in Sunday's volatile bus blow-out, the friendship that survived the war over "Tardy for the Party" and an alleged choking reached an end. At least, that's how Leakes sees it.
"That was totally it for me," she said.
Leakes explained to TVGuide.com what viewers didn't see during that episode — including what Jermaine Dupree really said about Zolciak — and why she's unsure about her future on Real Housewives.
TVGuide.com: What set you off? It seemed sudden when you got really upset over Kim inviting Don Juan and Sweetie to stay in the house during Cynthia's Miami weekend.
NeNe Leakes: That's not what started it for me. You have to understand that there was a lot going on that you guys didn't get to see. That argument lasted probably for two hours. I didn't want to get on the bus, let's be very clear about that. I had been around Kim and [her assistant] Sweetie before, when they call each other "b----" and "dumb b----" and "do this," "do that," it doesn't have anything to do with being black, but I find it offensive to sit around and listen to that all day long. Also, I was going through my own personal stuff.
TVGuide.com: What was going on with you at that time that?
Leakes: It was a very, very bad time. I was not healthy at the time, and [Leakes' husband] Greg and I were in a real bad place in our marriage. I really shouldn't have been on the bus. Everyone that I worked with knew that I shouldn't have been on the bus — so, they probably wanted me to be on the bus for those reasons.
TVGuide.com: Did you feel obligated to stick up for Sweetie?
Leakes: I'm not sticking up for Sweetie, I'm just saying I couldn't take it anymore. When I entered the bus, everybody was complaining. They only show me complaining, but everyone complained... Kandi, Kandi's backup singers, everyone. Yes, Sweetie wants to be talked to that way, fine, but it's offensive when you around a group of people to just sit there and say those words all day long. By the time Kim said Don Juan and Sweetie should stay at the house, I was like, "No! They can't!"
I was saying that, but really I meant, "I really have had it with you." That's really what I was saying to Kim.
TVGuide.com: Prior to the bus, were you and Kim OK with each other?
Leakes: Yeah, we were cool prior to being on the bus. We were on speaking terms. We were cool.
TVGuide.com: Because you visited specifically to watch her and Kandi perform on tour, right?
Leakes: Right. But being friends with Kim, if you knew her, you'd know you have to walk on egg shells. She's always offended. Mind you, she can say anything she wants to say to you or about you — but you can't say nothing about her or who she's dating. She can ask you all the questions she wants, and make all the jokes and comments she wants, but you can't do the same with her. Going into a relationship with her is one-sided.
TVGuide.com: The moment you got out of your seat, what happened there?
Leakes: I got up out of my seat because I feel like Kim is a child. I feel like you need to get up, like you would do for your child, get down to their level, look them dead in the eye, and say, "I'm not playing with you. I am dead serious. You need to shut your mouth now." That's what I feel she needs. It's almost like you need to wake that b---- up. My intentions were to get in her face and let her know, "Listen, don't play with me. I've had it." Then I sat down, and we argued again. We argued until we got to Miami.
TVGuide.com: She was very upset that you brought up her name to Jermaine Dupree. Fair?
Leakes: I asked him about Kim and Kandi. You guys didn't see all of it, but he had very good comments to say about "Tardy for the Party" — and he had bad things to say about Kandi. It's funny how they decided to play Kim, because they knew Kim would take offense. That's how she is, whether it's negative or not you can never bring her name up. Had they played what he said about Kandi, she probably would have said, "Alright, whatever," and let it go.
And it was nothing! All I said was, "Do you think people should get in the business at 20 or is it OK at like 32, which Kim's age?... She sang 'Tardy for the Party.' Have you heard of it before?" And he was like "Yes, I've heard of it. It was a good song. I like the beat." And I was like, "Do you think she can sing?" And he said, "Now I didn't say all that." He was really playful with it. His delivery was really nice. Of course, they didn't play all that. It's [an interviewer's] job to ask the questions that the viewers want to hear the answers to. It was simply my job.
TVGuide.com: Is there something about Kim that's made you angry in general? You seemed to be more angry this season...
Leakes: I don't know what show you're watching, but I think I've had a good season. You've seen for the past several episodes me working at 11 Alive. Early on in this season, there was a clip of me and Dwight going at it, and one of me and Greg, and the time when I talked to my son, but those things happened awhile ago.
Just being friends, well, not friends, but being an associate of Kim is just a stressful thing. I've been married for 14 years, so for me to even hang out with a chick who's sleeping with a married man was already stressful. I had to hear it from my husband and girlfriends who are hanging around me like, "You really need to cut her off." Big Poppa and his wife lived in my neighborhood at the time, so I was getting it from everybody. They were like, "You need to not hang out with her." ... No, I just think that Kim not a genuine person. I lost my temper, for sure, but I feel like anyone would lose their temper if they had been sitting around not being able to get off that bus.
TVGuide.com: You said in October that you and Kim were fine, that you had "a love-hate relationship" and that she was "hilarious." The on Sunday's Watch What Happens: Live, you said you haven't spoken to her in six months.
Leakes: Well, see, I'm on a show, and I guess you know that, and there are only certain things I can say until you guys see the episode. So when you guys are seeing an episode when we're cool, I have to say, "We're cool." I can't be like, "No, we're not cool." Then I would be giving away storyline.
TVGuide.com: Or you could not say anything at all. So to clarify, in October you were not cool with Kim?
Leakes: I haven't spoken to Kim in six months. I will never speak to Kim ever again.
TVGuide.com: Did you ever consider not participating in the show because of what was happening in your personal life?
Leakes: Oh, absolutely! The whole time I was shooting this show, not one person — and I mean from the top of Bravo to the damn bottom — not one person said, "Let me sit down and just talk to you. How are doing? How are you really handling this situation? How is it that you're able to get up and go to work and send Brent off to school every day and really be able to shoot and do all of these things and take criticism?" I would really have appreciated that.
TVGuide.com: Why did you keep going?
Leakes: I had to. I had to continue to work. I have to provide. But I'm not excited about doing a fourth season, I'll tell you that.
TVGuide.com: But are you considering it?
Leakes: Nope. Right now, I'm just not interested in doing a fourth season. I don't know if I would change my mind later. With everything going on in my life, I can't work with a bunch of women who are non-supportive. I can't work with a bunch of women who don't support one another. I just can't work like that anymore. For my own sanity.
TVGuide.com: Let's say this was your last season. What else are you working on right now?
Leakes: I have a lot of irons in the fire. Let's just say that.
See what else NeNe has to say in her TVGuide.com interview below: