The world has had to adjust to the new normal of social distancing, quarantining, and endless Zoom calls; The Real Housewives of Atlanta, which recently wrapped up its 12th season, is no exception to this. Rather than rob us of the best part of a Real Housewives season, NeNe Leakes, Kandi Burruss, Porsha Williams, Eva Marcilles, Cynthia Bailey, Kenya Moore, and host Andy Cohen held the three-part RHOA reunion on Zoom, and the result … was fantastic.
There’s an argument to be made that a virtual reunion is actually better than a normal reunion. No more ladies in ballgowns cramped together on couches. No more awkwardly drawn out and pre-staged walk-offs. In a Zoom reunion — or Zoomunion, as Cohen dubbed it — every lady is forced to become her own producer, glam squad, sound engineer, light operator, you name it. Each Housewife is on her home turf and in total control. Plus, they get to drink the whole time.
The Real Housewives of Atlanta are the perfect cast to test out the Zoomunion format. As any scholar of the Real Housewives Institute of Technology knows, the Atlanta cast has provided some of the most explosive, unforgettable moments in Housewives reunion history. If any cast could pull off this new challenge, it would be Atlanta. Thankfully, the ladies and their peaches, both physical and metaphorical, did not disappoint. Here are the highlights of the first-ever, three-part Real Housewives of Atlanta Zoomunion:
Kenya vs. Ken
If you were worried that a Zoomunion would be less eventful or interesting, this early exchange confirmed that would not be the case. Perhaps the most confounding and fascinating new character introduced to us in Season 12 was Ken, Kenya Moore’s quiet, subservient alter ego that emerges whenever she’s dealing with her estranged husband Marc Daly. Ken is so unlike Kenya — so meek while Kenya is so strong — so it’s no surprise that her sworn enemy, NeNe, kicked off the reunion with a dig at this new, vulnerable part of Kenya’s personality. When Andy asked who she prefers, NeNe said Ken, “because Ken shuts the fuck up.” Fair point. Never one to be left out, NeNe referenced her own alternate personality “NayNay,” who is more like Kenya in that she will gladly drag someone for filth. “NayNay coming to get in that ass.” Roger that.
Unfortunately for NeNe, Kenya left Ken at home and hit back by telling NeNe to “pick one of [her] many multiple personalities.” NeNe, expecting Ken, and not Kenya, to show up to the Zoomunion, didn’t have a response ready, so she pulled out one of her old tricks and simply repeated what Kenya said while making a NeNe-thinks-you’re-stupid face. “Multiple personalities and multiple talents,” Kenya retorted, prompting NeNe to call her a bitch approximately one minute into the beginning of the reunion. From the very top, the energy is unbridled and chaotic, and that’s what we love to see at a reunion.
Andy Mutes the Housewives
Every reunion, virtual or not, should have a mute button. It’s comforting to know that at any time, King Andy Cohen can rob the women of their power of speech. It’s especially useful for Housewives who enjoy being loud as a means to distract the audience from the real issues at hand (cough, NeNe). The first time Cohen used the mute button was during a fight between NeNe and Eva when NeNe claimed that Kenya did not use one of her own eggs for Brooklyn, which she heard … from who knows where.
“It doesn’t matter where I heard it at,” said NeNe. Sure. Eva jumped into the fight to defend Kenya because screen time. Pretty quickly the whole thing became unintelligible, devolving into screaming match between NeNe and Eva about who had been on more magazine covers. And then out of nowhere, with a sweeping hand gesture, Andy gloriously muted NeNe. “Ooh, they went on mute. No y’all did not!” Porsha exclaims, laughing. Look, if we get tired of hearing them shout sometimes, imagine how tired Andy is.
Throughout the reunion, Andy used the mute button sparingly, judiciously, and mostly on Miss Leakes. Watching NeNe scream into the void without sound was unsettling, dystopian even. It was theater. It was a horror movie. It was Brechtian in nature. It looked camp straight in the eye. I would gladly pay $200 to watch Andy mute and unmute various Housewives for 90 minutes at BAM.
“You Look Like a White Woman in Drag”
As we all know per the official rules of The Real Housewives Sports League, kids are off limits. During the Zoomunion, however, the Atlanta Housewives tore that page out of the rulebook and fully came for each other and their children in a way that I’m not sure we’ve seen before. Kenya, of course, had the most diabolical and nuanced use of weaponizing someone’s kid against them, mentioning NeNe’s children to make a shady-as-hell comment about NeNe’s looks: “We know one thing, that her kids are her kids because they look exactly like her.” If it feels rude reading it here, Kenya’s delivery made it 1,000 times worse.
Knowing she hit a nerve, Kenya followed up the insult by taking a long sip from her water in a way that can only be described as “sociopathic.” NeNe, now visibly flustered, began shouting back at at Kenya about how she and her children are beautiful, prompting Kenya to say NeNe looked like “a white woman in drag.” A what now???
This insult was so powerful because its meaning is so elusive. A white man in drag, sure, but a white woman? That complicates things. NeNe is many things, but a drag king she is not, so it’s a strange way to put her down. Kenya then mentions the film White Chicks, but technically that involved black men (the Wayans brothers, bless their souls) dressing in drag as white women, so it still doesn’t totally scan. Even so, it’s a palpable hit. NeNe screams back about Kenya’s “botched booty,” but the damage is done. That’s Kenya’s evil genius — even when she doesn’t make sense, she still knows how to strike a nerve.
Porsha “Lucille Ball” Williams
And the Emmy for Best Comedic Actress in a Zoomunion goes to [drumroll] Porsha Williams. She is the Housewife who best understood the new format and recalibrated her reunion performance for it. She knew her angles and worked the camera to incredible effect. Whoever says prop comedy is dead has certainly not seen Porsha whip out her “receipts” or cosplay as “Porsha from Atlanta” while asking Tanya a question during part two of the Zoomunion. It wasn’t just her physical comedy, either; her jokes were on point as well. “Them titties is aged hens. They social distancing,” Porsha said of Eva’s chest in an incredible moment of topical, off-the-cuff humor. After Eva said Porsha’s baby looks like “Dennis with a bow on,” Porsha responded by saying that Eva looks like “a thumb with lips on it and black lipstick.” A thumb with lips on it. Ummm can we get her in the writing room for SNL 46?
NeNe “Walks Off-Set”
We’ve all seen Housewives walk off-set. It’s almost contractually obligated at one point. But to shut you computer in a fit of rage? That’s brand new! During part one of the reunion, NeNe got a lot of heat about how she implied that Cynthia’s engagement to Mike Hill (#CHill) is fake. All the ladies began to pile on in defense of Cynthia, and NeNe felt the heat. When it became too much, NeNe shouted, “I can easily do this, bitch” and slammed her computer shut. “Welcome to the Windows family” her computer screen said, so now the Housewives and the world know that NeNe is a PC user.
“NayNay, come back,” pleaded Porsha to an empty screen. “You know you need to come back because you weren’t in the episode, you need those checks, girl” Kenya said, reveling in the moment. It was more satisfying than simply walking off because it happened so abruptly and quickly — she was there one moment and then with a flick of her wrist she was gone. It really added some punch to the episode. Nene returned a few minutes later claiming “she had to go pee and change her tampon,” which is an incredible way of saying, “I didn’t want to answer the questions that were being asked of me.”
Why was her audio worse than the other Housewives? Could they not send her a mic? It was distracting but ultimately realistic because there’s always one person on every Zoom call who sounds like they are talking through gravel.
Tanya Tries too Hard
You gotta hand it to Tanya. She really wants to be there. But at the end of the day, she’s out of her league with these ladies. You can see her sweating. You can see all the drafts of different reads that she had to go through to get to the B+ one she settled on. It’s all so forced. The person who exposes this extra energy on the reunion was, of course, Kenya Moore, because it is Kenya’s God-given gift to sniff out a person’s insecurity and exploit that for all its worth. When fighting with Kenya about the Cookie Lady (who does not make a physical appearance during the reunion, thank God) Tanya quipped, “Mark has a whole desert bar and restaurant in New York. You were in the Sunken Place,” which might have landed better if she hadn’t referenced a movie from three years ago. “Nice read, Tanya. You’re doing a great job,” said Kenya. “You’re so corny,” she added, just to throw a dash of salt in the wound.
Tanya got another chance at landing an insult on Kenya when she told Cynthia, “If you roll around with pigs, you’re gonna get dirty” referring to Miss USA 1993. However, once again, it didn’t quite work. “These cookies are stale right here. I’m so bored,” Kenya replied effortlessly. What Tanya needs is the support of the other ladies, and she’s simply not gonna find it with this group of seasoned professionals. “We don’t know you and I can’t rescue you,” said Kandi, unbothered. Props to Tanya, though, for giving Eva her funniest line of the night: “You ate those cookies ten different times,” said Tanya. “And those cookies were good as shit” Eva replied. Touché.
Eva Opens Up About Her Past
In a rare serious moment, Eva opened up to Andy about where she is in the process of adopting her daughter, Marley. After the season, Eva was sued by Marley’s father, whom she only refers to as the donor. According to Eva, he came to Georgia and acted a fool in the courtroom and ended up getting arrested. She then opened up about her physically abusive relationship with the donor. “It was one of those things where I had definitely saw signs before … I don’t know why I was naïve enough to think that it wouldn’t be me. Like, I told no one until he beat me so bad I couldn’t help it,” Eva recounted to Andy. The moment was so emotional for Eva that she had to step away for a moment. “He was put in my life so he could put the biggest sunshine in my life, my daughter Marley … And I wouldn’t take it back … I hate talking about him,” she said as she walked off-camera. Eventually, she came back and told the women, “Those are just very, very, very hard things to talk about in terms of the donor.” In a show filled with petty fights and theatrics, it was a powerful and raw moment amidst the drama.
NeNe Walks Off Again
After a season spent trying to get back on everyone’s good side, NeNe wound up becoming the villain again. After returning to the Zoom, NeNe was on the defense for the rest of the reunion until she decided she had enough and walked off for good. She made a few unforced errors along the way. When arguing with Kandi about whether she made a negative comment in the press about her (news flash: Of course she did), NeNe called Kandi “Ms. Unforgettable” when she was trying to call Kandi forgettable. What a rookie mistake. Kandi leapt on that like a bat out of hell, shouting, “Yeah, I’m unforgettable. I’m embedded in your brain. I’m embedded in your motherfucking brain, bitch,” which is 100 percent accurate. NeNe started yelling again (it’s her only defense mechanism at this point), but Kandi, getting wise to the format, asked Andy to mute her so she could respond: “Bitch, you can’t stop seeing me, bitch. I’m everywhere, bitch. You’ve been knowing me. You’ve been singing my songs. You’re gonna keep knowing me.” That was Kandi’s “Scrubs” money talking, and honestly? We love to see it.
Eventually, NeNe walked off the set again, this time for good. She missed the entire third part of the reunion, which was mostly spent speculating why she walked off. Was it because of her former friend Yovanna’s Instagram post, where she threatened to “reveal the truth” at the Zoomunion? Perhaps. “She doesn’t want to address what we came here to talk about today,” said Yovanna as she joined the ladies in the third episode. She revealed that NeNe sent her a cease and desist saying that Yovanna needed to destroy any alleged audio that would portray her in a negative light. “She’s afraid of the truth coming out today.” The truth? That NeNe asked Yovanna to record conversations of the other ladies. NeNe, not there to defend herself, looks hella guilty, and her allegedly telling a producer “You need to put some respect on her name” definitely doesn’t help matters. Porsha eventually got NeNe on the phone, but nobody wanted to hear from her, because she wouldn’t talk on-camera, which is sitting on her bedroom floor in front of her unmade bed. Sigh, it’s a tough exit for someone who typically excels in a reunion setting.
Andy Debuts Ben Cohen
A baby makes everything better. Andy trotted out his absolutely adorable child, Ben, at the perfect time during the third and final installment. Right when the women were in the middle of an argument about honestly who knows what, Andy’s little boy jumped in his father’s lap. All the ladies, each baby-crazy in their own, unique way, were immediately transfixed. “Don’t come for me, little Ben unless I send for you,” said Kenya, vaguely threatening Andy’s child, but in a fun way. Andy using the cuteness of his kid to end a pointless argument … incredible parenting.
In a season with so many babies, Ben was the perfect tool to get the women to come together for a brief moment in time and the cherry on top of an exciting experiment and what very well may be the first of many Bravo Zoomunions. Vanderpump Rules cast, you’ve got your work cut out for you.