Emilie Leadley–Pearl’s Own Super Woman
Over 20 years ago, Affinity Billing Representative Emilie Leadley contracted a virus that changed the course of her life. But despite the hardships she faced and continues to endure, Emilie has never given up on living life to her fullest potential.
Emilie says, “If I had a motto to live by it would be these words from Eleanor Roosevelt: ‘We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop to look fear in the face… we must do that which we think we cannot.'”
From her contributions at Pearl, to her long list of hobbies, to raising her neurodivergent son, Emilie has filled her life with things that matter.
An Early Interest In Insurance
Unlike many of us in the industry, Emilie took an interest in insurance at a young age. Her mom worked as a receptionist at an American Family Insurance claims office in Peoria for about 20 years, and Emilie visited the office frequently. “I spent a lot of time getting to know my mom’s coworkers and their jobs,” Emilie recalls. “At one time, I had hoped to be a claims adjuster.”
Emilie’s interest in claims adjusting morphed into damage assessment and emergency response with the American Red Cross Disaster Relief team. Later, Emilie joined Pearl Insurance as a temp doing product testing. Once the temporary project with Pearl ended, Emilie was hired on full time.
Emilie’s current position as an Affinity billing representative is a great fit for her skill sets and interests. “I enjoy the variety and the opportunity to analyze data,” she says. “There is never a dull moment, especially when diving into a large spreadsheet. I love being able to weed out any issues and assist in finding a solution.”
More Than Just a Job
For Emilie, it’s not just the job itself that makes working at Pearl so great. She also loves her Pearl family and the community it creates. “I love how no one person is more important than the other, as it is for our success that we work together,” she explains.
Emilie says she shares the same values as Pearl. “What is important to me is also important to Pearl: commitment to self, to family, to community, and to the overall success of our business. I am comforted that I can come into work every day and know the leadership is looking out for my safety and security.”
As someone who grew up visiting her mom at work, it’s important to Emilie that her family feels like they are part of the Pearl community. “My son proudly wears Pearl shirts and shows interest in learning more about our company. He wishes to know my work friends more than my other friends, because he knows we are a work family and have a special connection that is not shared outside of Pearl.”
Work Hard, Play Hard
Outside of work, Emilie has varied interests. She’s a weather junkie and storm spotter, gamer (video, apps, and board games), avid reader (comic books/sci-fi/zombie/non-fiction), amateur astronomer, musician, frequent napper, podcaster creator and listener, and Peoria Area Filmmakers founder and Facebook group moderator.
Emilie was in the Society of Creative Anachronisms (SCA), a medieval reenactment group, where she served on the board as secretary and herald for several years. “I learned calligraphy, heraldry, axe throwing, and how to make ink,” she shares.
Emilie also participated in Army ROTC in college and spent time on different bases, including a summer at Fort Knox. “It was the same area where Stripes was filmed and the location of the Patton Museum,” she says. “It was there that I fell in love with tanks and wished to pursue a career in ordinance so I could work on them.”
One thing Emilie is not a fan of? Dessert wines. “At one time, I was a wine expert,” Emilie explains. “I spent a lot of time educating the public on wine as well as selling wine and wine accessories.” Emilie would frequently attend distributor tastings where winemakers would showcase their products in hopes distributors would choose their wines to sell. “My most challenging task was to test 19 Sicilian dessert wines in 30 minutes, taking copious notes on each to see if we should introduce the line to the Peoria area. I am no longer a fan of dessert wines as a result,” Emilie laughs.
Emilie lives with her son, Asher, and her two cats, Kaylee and Cuddles. She also shares custody of her two dogs, Jake and Capt. Malcolm Reynolds, with her ex-husband.
Emilie says her son Asher is the number one person in her life. “Asher is neurodivergent, super bright, and loving,” she says. “He has taught me to open my mind to neurodiversity by increasing my knowledge and acceptance in a world that is normal to him but new to me.”
On alternating weekends, Emilie spends as much time as possible with her partner, Steven. “We spend a lot of time napping on the couch, getting coffee, visiting the bookstore, gaming, and watching campy movies.”
Emilie says she used to feel like Super Woman—fearless and ready for adventure. She dreamed of becoming a soldier and entering the military. However, shortly after graduating college in 2000, she was bitten by a mosquito, which led to an acute and very serious case of viral encephalitis.
Emilie was put into a drug-induced coma for about a week, and her brain was swollen for about six months. “This created scar tissue on my brain, leading to long-term chronic conditions including epilepsy, narcolepsy with cataplexy, ADHD, and mobility issues,” Emilie explains. “This ended my chances to enter the military.” Despite everything, Emilie learned from her father to not let the disability define her. “It’s part of me, but it’s not everything about me.”
Emilie says life is an adventure, and even though she can no longer climb a mountain, let alone walk on occasion, she never gives up. “I shall continue to move forward to be the best version of myself.”
Perhaps Emilie’s life looks different than she once imagined, but to us, she’s still Super Woman. Her perseverance and positive attitude despite her hardships is proof of that.