By Bob Arnold
Born in Birmingham, Alabama, growing up in Madison, Mississippi, Mandeville, Louisiana, and Atlanta, and spending her early working life and child-rearing years in and around the Georgia capital, Leah Embry didn’t settle in our little of the world, which she always considered her home, until 13 years ago. Area folk concerned about their health and nutrition are glad she did.
Embry’s parents settled in Birmingham after leaving their families in Brookhaven, but southwest Mississippi just naturally became home to their daughter as she regularly returned with them over the years to visit grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins.
Today, Embry is the retail manager for Co-Lin Aladdin Campus as part of a dramatic life change after “coming home,” which included becoming a mom at age 40 to a son born 13 years after her oldest daughter and giving up a career in insurance and financial services to follow a growing interest in food preparation and nutrition that had started as a hobby while working in Atlanta.
Embry grew up in Mandeville, Louisiana, and Atlanta. In elementary school in St. Tammany Parish near New Orleans, she enjoyed dancing starting when she was nine years old as a member of the St. Tammany Starlets, with which she performed during half time at Super Bowl XXIV in 1989. At 16 years old, when her family moved to the Atlanta area, she joined the cheerleading squad, played softball and competed on the swimming team at Harrison High School in Marietta, Georgia, from which she graduated in 1996. “We couldn’t find a venue for dancing, so I became a cheerleader and athlete as a high school sophomore.” Embry explains.
Foreshadowing her pursuit of a business career, Embry also participated in her high school chapter of Future Business Leaders of America, and remembers meeting President Clinton at a conference.
From high school, it was on to the University of West Georgia at Carrollton, where she graduated with a degree in finance, and then started a 15-year career in insurance and financial planning in 2000 with New York Life and AFLAC. In college, she also met her husband Scott with whom she had two daughters while living and working in Atlanta.
When she wasn’t working or mothering, Embry, who always enjoyed cooking, also started focusing seriously on nutritional food preparation in her spare time. “I started studying nutrition after reading labels on cans and food packaging and wondering about those big words I couldn’t pronounce or which, like ‘BLT,’ were abbreviated,” she says. “I started visiting health food stores in the Atlanta, picking up brochures, doing research, learned about the dangers of food preservatives and sugar and organic foods alternatives.”
Then Embry came home, and everything has changed.
Embry’s husband, whose work involved travel related to Kinder Morgan’s oil and gas lands on the Atlantic coast, told her he could do his work from almost any location, and he wouldn’t mind doing it where she called home. So they moved with their two daughters to Brookhaven in 2010. Initially, she continued her insurance and financial planning career at their new location, but Embry decided to change her life five years later when she became pregnant at age 40.
“I quit my job to become a stay-at-home mom, home-school my daughters – Sophie and Bella, who were in the first and sixth grades – and care for my new son, Asher,” Embry recounts. She continued her self-directed education in nutrition, studied online with the Spencer Institute to earn a certification as a personal fitness chef in 2020 at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, and started counseling and cooking meals for clients with special health needs – diabetics and persons with other health issues, including high blood pressure and celiac disease.
In May a year ago, before her older daughter Bella, now 19, decided to enroll at Co-Lin, Embry accompanied her on a tour of the campus led by Richard Baker, the college’s vice president of finance. On the tour, Baker stopped at a renovation site and talked to them about the future opening of a campus hangout that would serve grill food and items that were nutritionally planned. “My heart started beating rapidly, and I texted him later that day about my business background, passion for cooking and nutrition, and interest in helping make that happen,” Embry says. A few days they were talking about the job she is now doing at Co-Lin.
Embry is at home!
What are your hobbies? After cooking and mothering, I also study and teach the Word of God. At East Haven Baptist Church in Brookhaven, I teach a Sunday School for women. When I have time, I enjoy painting and drawing.
Are you a reader? I love reading. I enjoy history and cookbooks. I’m also a news nerd, and read about politics. I like Christian fiction, particularly writings of Francene Rivers. Outside of the Bible, I very much enjoy Redeeming Love, which she wrote.
Do you follow movies or theater? I’m too busy to keep up, and would rather pursue studies, but I enjoy some movies out of the past – Dirty Dancing, Top Gun, Little Mermaid and the Jason Bourne films. I also follow the Yellowstone television series with Kevin Costner about the Western expansion.
How about music? Anything I can dance to – Motown, the oldies, country, even rap. My kids have also introduced me to new music, some of which I enjoy. I don’t play an instrument or sing.
What would you do with the winnings if you won the lottery? I’d give to my church first, then invest as a good financial planner. Finally, believe it or not, I am into five-speed fast muscle cars – Mustangs, GTs.
How would you change the world? By teaching the Word of God.