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Nene Leakes’ advice to Chicago’s domestic abuse survivors

Unless you were out in Rosemont last week, you missed it: “The Real Housewives of Atlanta’s” Nene Leakes was a featured speaker at the Women’s Expo on September 13 and 14. She took to the stage to remind women to take care of themselves and to fight back against domestic violence. One way to stay strong, she says, is for women to stop tearing each other down.  The other way is to know your value and fight for it.

“I want you girls to know [that] I danced in the strip club honey. I’ve been through it all,” says Leakes. “I was in an abusive relationship. If I can stand up here and be a strong independent woman, I know you can make some strong moves every single day.”

“Men are here to support you, not to beat you. if you are in that kind of relationship you need to get out of it now,” she says. “Love does not hurt.”

Leakes is speaking out a time when several celebrities are stepping forward to announce their personal abuse stories. Meredith Vieira brought her coworkers to tears when she talked about being afraid to leave a boyfriend, and taking a job in a different state to avoid the beatdown that she was sure was enroute. Halle Berry has already been quite public about the domestic abuse that led to her being partially deaf in one ear.

And all this is once again in the public eye after a series of previously hidden domestic abuse issues surfaced in the NFL over the last few weeks. Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Ray McDonald are only a handful of the players who have made headlines given their recent brushes with the law regarding domestic abuse issues or accusations (or in Rice’s case: casino elevator video.)

The Chicago Ultimate Women’s Expo is a traveling showcase that usually stops in the north suburbs of Chicago. This year’s speakers also included Wynonna Judd. As for Leakes, the star is reportedly the frontrunner for the open spot on “Fashion Police.” She’s also returning as coach Roz Washington on “Glee” and was cast as the wicked stepmother in the Broadway adaptation of “Cinderella.”

— Adrienne Samuels Gibbs, agibbs@suntimes.com, @adriennewrites