NeNe Leakes' EBONY Power 100 cover sparks online debate

The photograph features a smiling Leakes raising a glass of champagne, while sitting pretty in a bathtub filled with diamonds.

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Never one to be camera shy, reality star-turned-actress Nene Leakes covers the recent Power 100 issue of Ebony magazine. The photograph features a smiling Leakes raising a glass of champagne, while sitting pretty in a bathtub filled with diamonds.

Known for her infamous, simply stated mantra, “I’m very rich,” the Real Housewives of Atlanta star made her way up the Hollywood hierarchy, landing a guest spot on the hit series Glee before making it big on the new NBC comedy The New Normal. She plays the mouthy secretary Rocky, a character crafted specifically for her by the show’s creator Ryan Murphy.

“”I’ve always liked acting — I did it years ago, this isn’t my first time doing it… I love becoming a character outside of who I am,” Leakes said in an interview last month. “Even when I was a little girl, I loved make believe, so I like it.”

While Leakes has certainly extended the typical fifteen minutes of fame allotted to reality stars and become a prosperous household name, the flamboyant nature of her Ebony cover has lead the blogosphere to question her sense of taste. “It’s the money and power issue, but the message doesn’t quite get conveyed that way,” writes Brittney M. Walker at EURWeb. “It looks sort of cheap and gimmicky.”

The online magazine Clutch also addressed the cover, focusing less on the photograph and more on the statement that Ebony has made by selecting the controversial reality star for the honor. “Ebony boasts that it is ‘more than a magazine, it’s a movement,’ but does allowing Nene Leakes—one of reality TV’s biggest bullies—[to be on its cover] fall in line with that mission?” Clutch asked readers.

Leakes has yet to respond to the naysayers. Meanwhile, the public will continue to hash it out online.

The issue spotlights a bevy of black celebrities, athletes and influential professionals alongside Leakes, including Tyler Perry, Shonda Rhimes, Gabrielle Douglas, Cathy Hughes, Rihanna, Bishop T.D. Jakes, Cee Lo Green and Cam Newton. The Ebony Power 100 Gala will also be held for the first time to celebrate those honored on the list at Lincoln Center in New York City this evening. “In this issue, Ebony selects the 100 primary influencers and game changers who have made vital accomplishments during the past year,” said the magazine’s editors of the issue and event.

Should Leakes’ hustle towards gradual success be respected — or have her controversial demeanor and reality television credentials made her unfit to be celebrated?

Follow Patrice Peck on Twitter at @SpeakPatrice and Tumblr.