There are the ladies of The Real Housewives of Atlanta and then there is their spellbinding, over-the-top hair. The show, which will turn ten years old in October, has featured an incredible range of wigs over its decade-long run. You could argue, in fact, that those wigs are characters of their own — which raises some questions. What type of Bravo tagline would Sheree Whitfield’s ambitious blonde bob have? What kind of beef would Cynthia Bailey’s glamorous ’70s curls get into with their castmates? Below, the Cut explores.
NeNe “I am rich, bitch” Leakes is an original Atlanta housewife. Apart from a few years when she was living off of “Trump checks” (she was cast in one season of Celebrity Apprentice), NeNe is RHOA’s longest-serving peach. She’s delivered some of the franchise’s most valuable zingers, including one particularly relevant to this article: “Bye, wig!” (She was talking to Kim Zolciak, who began her RHOA tenure wearing a selection of blonde Halloween wigs.) Kim didn’t appreciate the wig diss and quickly pointed out that even NeNe wore “a piece” in her hair.
Speaking of hair pieces, these are NeNe’s most noteworthy.
Seen during season: seven, shortly before she sent castmate Kenya Moore a cease-and-desist letter because she was “mean.”
If it had a name, it would be called: the Lego Piece
Real Housewives tagline: “I may be ageless, but my hair is for people 6 and up.”
Major beefs: her hairstylist.
Seen during season: eight, when NeNe was engaged in a serious conversation.
If it had a name, it would be called: Gone With the Wind, Fabulous
Real Housewives tagline: “Most people say I’m uptight, but they’re wrong — I’m an updo!”
Major beefs: gravity.
Seen during season: ten, during a dinner-date with castmate Cynthia Bailey.
If it had a name, it would be called: Coachella Beyoncé
Real Housewives tagline: “I am … Sasha Flower Child.”
Major beefs: anything that threatens peace, love, and flower crowns.
We were initially introduced to Shereé Whitfield in season one when the aspiring designer presented her first clothing collection on pieces of paper, even though the event was promoted as a couture fashion show. But if ten years of Atlanta housewives has taught us anything, it’s that you can always bet on Shereé to land on her feet. That Shereé didn’t end up destitute after she hired Phaedra Parks as her divorce attorney is a testament to her resilience. (Phaedra used to represent singer Bobby Brown, who once said, “I won’t cast aspersions on her lawyering skills, but I will say that when she was my lawyer, I usually wound up going to jail.”)
Shereé is known for two things. The first is the phrase “Who’s gon’ check me, boo,” which she breathlessly delivered to a party planner who didn’t meet her standards (and then they progressed into a shouting match). Shereé is also known for her home, Chateau Shereé. After nearly a decade of construction work, Shereé finally moved into this much-talked-about chateau, which, in all sincerity, does look like a royal enclave. She also traded in her deadbeat ex-husband for a man named Tyrone, whom she speaks to frequently on the phone while he serves time for some unknown white-collar crime (#prisonbae).
Seen during season: ten, while Shereé suggested that Kenya Moore’s husband was a figment of her imagination.
If it had a name, it would be called: X-Lady Storm
Real Housewives tagline: “I just checked the weather and the forecast calls for shade.”
Major beefs: peroxide.
Seen during season: four, when Shereé faced her ex-husband in court.
If it had a name, it would be called: Beyoncé, circa 2000
Real Housewives tagline: “Who’s gon’ check me, bug a boo?”
Major beefs: straight center parts.
We may never know the true identity of Big Poppa, the mysterious wealthy benefactor who showered Kim Zolciak-Biermann in Rolls-Royces and gaudy jewelry, but Kim is making her own money now. Like NeNe and Shereé, Kim is an original cast member. She grew an ego that rubbed the other housewives the wrong way, so after six seasons, she parted ways with the RHOA and launched her own spinoff show. Still, she occasionally appears on the RHOA when she’s in the mood to critique the other ladies’ homes. But who is Kim to judge? She wore plastic hair for the first few years on RHOA until, presumably, someone pulled her aside and introduced her to virgin lace-front wigs.
Seen during seasons: one to three, often along with a conversation surrounding “Big Poppa.”
If it had a name, it would be called: Oooooh, Shiny
Real Housewives tagline: “Caution! Flammable!”
Major beefs: lighter fluid and heat tools.
Seen during seasons: nine and ten, whenever she felt the urge to appear on camera.
If it had a name, it would be called: Heavy When Wet
Real Housewives tagline: “You want bigwigs? Honey, I am the biggest wig in Atlanta.”
Major beefs: water.
Kandi joined the RHOA ranks during season two. Back then, we knew her as the songwriter behind TLC’s “No Scrubs,” but it’s clear that Kandi is much more than a musician; she is a businesswoman. She pivoted from music to the sex industry and launched what is essentially the Mary Kay of sex toys. She promotes these toys on her sexy-time web series, Kandi Koated Nights, and she also wrote and produced a play before rejoining her girl band, Xscape, last year.
However, Kandi isn’t all business. She got married and had a baby a few years ago, despite fervent objections from her mother, who was convinced that Kandi’s soon-to-be husband was a pint-size gold digger. (In reality, he is a television producer and only a wee bit short.)
Seen during season: six, in the middle of a confrontation with “the old-lady gang,” a group otherwise known as Kandi’s mother and her three aunts.
If it had a name, it would be called: Little Orphan Annie
Real Housewives tagline: “It’s a hard-knock life … if you mess with me.”
Major beefs: the color green.
Seen during season: eight, while Kandi was warming breast milk.
If it had a name, it would be called: Beyoncé, circa late 2008
Real Housewives tagline: “Even though I wrote ‘No Scrubs,’ I still celebrate all the single ladies.”
Major beefs: Taylor Swift, I guess?
Seen during season: nine, after an encounter with her baby daddy.
If it had a name, it would be called: I Dream of Jeannie
Real Housewives tagline: “Stop wishing for riches and just get a job.”
Major beefs: lazy people and loose tendrils.
Like Kandi, Cynthia knows what it feels like when your family hates your soon-to-be husband. During her first season, which happened to be the third season of the show, Cynthia experienced a wedding-day drama that seemed made for television. (Was it?) Her mother and sister hid her marriage certificate and Cynthia’s wedding was nearly ruined. Seven years later, Cynthia is newly divorced, but her wig stockpile continues to grow. The former model might own more wigs than any other housewife — a true mark of distinction.
Seen during season: nine, when Cynthia left her ex-husband for good.
If it had a name, it would be called: It actually has a name! It’s called the Cynthia, and you can buy it for $132.
Real Housewives tagline: “Actually, I’m the biggest wig in Atlanta.”
Major beefs: static electricity.
Seen during season: eight, as she was questioning her then-husband on his reasons for canoodling with another woman in a bar.
If it had a name, it would be called: Beyoncé, circa 2007
Real Housewives tagline: “Who run the world? Curls!”
Major beefs: actual running.
Seen during season: six as Cynthia tries to convince NeNe to attend a masquerade ball.
If it had a name, it would be called: the Angela Davis
Real Housewives tagline: “We have to talk about liberating our hair as we liberate society.”
Major beefs: hair care that contains silicone.
Kenya Moore says she never wears wigs. She also says that she is often mistaken for Beyoncé. Here is a photo of Kenya.
Porsha Williams joined the Housewives crew during the show’s fifth season. Back then, she was married to former NFL quarterback Kordell Stewart, a man with a head shaped like a thumb. Porsha often talks about her family legacy; her grandfather is civil-rights legend Hosea Williams. But perhaps she should have listened to Hosea more, since she once visited a former stop on the Underground Railroad and inquired how the train was able to fit. As they say in the South, bless her heart.
Porsha has made other puzzling statements on the show. Last season, she said Kandi had a “sex dungeon,” and she also claimed that she doesn’t spread lies. Hmm, neither of those seem to ring true.
Seen during season: ten, during a rare moment of introspection.
If it had a name, it would be called: Beyoncé, circa 2016
Real Housewives tagline: “I was served lemons, so I wondered what I was supposed to do with them … exfoliate?”
Major beefs: limes?
Seen during season: ten, shortly after she wiped out on the roller-derby floor.
If it had a name, it would be called: Jessica Rabbit Redux
Real Housewives tagline: [indistinguishable cooing]
Major beefs: unsexy hair products, like dandruff shampoo.
Seen during season: nine, as Porsha explained the genesis of Kandi’s “sex dungeon” rumor.
If it had a name, it would be called: the Kris Jenner
Real Housewives tagline: “Just try to keep up.”
Major beefs: everything? Hey, controversy is what keeps the lights on in here.