You know her. We love her. She is one of us! Meet Leah Miller, better known as The Diamond Duchess and the face behind the most amazing, customized, crystallized pieces in the game. When she isn't creating masterpieces for yourself and your little ones, she is building an empire that embodies the principle of "do what you love and you'll never work a day in your life." Leah is wife to retired NFL veteran QB, Jim Miller, and mother to three (plus one on the way!). She is a Believer and a genuinely beautiful "BOSS" who shines bright like a diamond.
"I give all glory to God! All of His door openings, all of His vision and all of His ideas that I have received have taken Bella to where it is today. I know that it is ALL HIM because I work from my home studio, in a basement in Michigan. Who on earth would ever see me or what I do if it weren't for HIM?!? No one would know about me if it were not for HIM."
Name: Leah Paulovich Miller, Founder of Bella Artistry
Player/Team(s): Jim Miller (QB) Steelers, Jaguars, Atlanta, Detroit, Chicago, Tampa Bay, Patriots, Giants
Children: 3 (Sophia-14, Emmanuel “Manny”-9, King James “KJ” -2) and one on the way arriving November 2016.
Kanye or Carrie Underwood? Carrie
Ice Cream or Potato Chips? Ice Cream
Yoga or Spin? Neither
Manicure or Massage? Manicure
Where are you originally from and how did you get to where you are now?
I am originally from Pittsburgh. We (my family and I) now live in Michigan near Jim’s hometown. Oddly enough, we don’t have family here anymore but he started a custom home building company when he was playing here so he wanted to be near the company after he retired from the NFL.
How did you meet your Husband?
I was in college during my senior year at the University of Pittsburgh. I met Jim three days after the Super Bowl (96’), the Steelers had just lost that year (that was actually the first football game I ever watched on purpose). Ironically, I was actually dating an Olympic wrestler at the time and he was supposed to meet me out that night but he didn’t show up for some reason. That was the night I met Jim. I dated both of them for a little while. The funny part is that they were both "hometown heros" and would be invited to be on the same celebrity panels at a lot of the same events in the area. It was quite surreal when Jim was starting his first game in the NFL and the wrestler was at the game to flip the pre game coin while I watched from the stands. After awhile Jim and I started dating exclusively and we dated for three and a half years before getting married. We got married in Vegas. We didn’t elope but we knew there would not be enough time between him popping the question and me planning the wedding of my dreams during the offseason. We’ve been married 17 years.
Tell us about some of your most favorite WAGS memories?
The Super Bowl, of course. Even though Jim was the backup to Tom (Brady), we were still a part of the team and you can’t compare anything to that experience. I would also say I enjoy the lifelong friendships that you create. I know women all over the world from all walks of life because our paths crossed in the NFL. We don’t talk every day but, when we do, it’s like we have not missed a beat. My business (Bella Artistry) was born out of that time in our lives. I owe a lot of credit to that part of our lives for the niche I am in now.
As the wife of a retired player, how does your day to day differ from when Jim was still playing?
Jim is retired from playing but still involved with the NFL and fully immersed in football. So, my busy schedule and his still revolves around the NFL. Out of all of Bella Artistry's sports clients, the NFL clients make up 80% of our business, so my busy season ends up being the same as his. Jim is still gone three to four days out of the week and he travels more now that when he was playing in the NFL. During NFL season/school year I get up at about 5:15 to get my kids going and get ready for my staff of 13-21 (depending on time of year) to arrive. On the business side of my life, when you own your company- work doesn’t stop. You don't get to clock out and forget about it until the next day. But that's okay because I love to be busy and feel so much more accomplished when I have worked a 16-hour workday. For me, having my own "thing" is more enjoyable than working out, cooking dinner, house stuff and waiting for Jim to get home from football practice. I was busy then (when he was playing) but, this busy is “times 1000” and I LOVE work. My children are my most perfect creations and I am so grateful that I have been able to work from home for so long and spend as much time with them as I can.
What advice would you have for WAGS trying to find the balance between their own identity and that of their men?
My tip for anyone is to find something you love, to make it your job and to get your own identity outside of who “he” is. When the crap hits the fan after football is over (and EVERYONE will go through a period of transition), if the wife has something of her own then they are more likely to stay married. Find out what is important to you because football does not last long. I never liked the idea of being “Jim Miller’s wife.” Funny story, a few years ago at the Super Bowl someone came up to my husband and asked, "Aren’t you Leah Miller’s husband"? I got the biggest kick out of it! For years, I prayed that God would make me independent, self-reliant, and self-sufficient and He did it. I don't have to rely on anyone but God. Even if your spouse isn’t on board (with what you spiritually believe in), God will ensure that you have the desires of your heart if you make HIM your number one.
How did The Diamond Duchess concept and brand develop? You create the most amazing pieces, Leah!
I appreciate that. I’m touched by your kind compliment. I was an art major by training (my bachelor's is in painting and sculpting) and I worked for my father’s marketing firm for eight years and did really well for myself. I was making six figures on my own before I got married. Part of our (Jim and my) deal was that during the offseason we would live in Pittsburgh so I would still be able to work for my parents' company and travel back and forth from our in season locale to continue to service my clients. But when it was time to make the move, Jim didn’t want to move. So I was forced to leave my job. There was only so much shopping, cooking and cleaning I could do before I lost my mind. So I decided to cultivate my first love, which is murals and furniture. I started a painting company and painted furniture and murals for doctor’s offices, other player’s homes and other clients for about two years until I got pregnant. One day while pregnant with my first baby, I was working on scaffolding painting on the ceiling of a doctor’s office and caused myself some serious issues; I almost lost my first baby because the work was more dangerous than I realized. I knew then that I had to come back home.
What were the early days like?
When we first got into the league, there was not a lot of team-related things to wear to your husband’s games except a big, boxy jersey from his locker or the same one everyone else was wearing from the team store. I started creating because I didn’t want to wear something like that and there weren’t any other women’s sports clothes options. They didn't make any women's jerseys then. I had already been designing with crystals and other embellishments and would do pieces for myself and my girlfriends to wear to games or as gifts. Word would eventually spread as my friends moved from team to team so Bella just got bigger and bigger. At first, I did it for free but while we were in Palm Beach during one of Jim’s recoveries (2003, I believe), I began to charge a fee and made it into a business.
What are some of your favorite items you’ve created?
I really like designing shoes and I like to see footballs completed. I design every single piece that goes through the company. At any given time of year, I can have up to 21 wonderful and talented seamstresses and artists working at Bella bringing my ideas to reality. During Super Bowl Season, I had a team of 21 ladies working double shifts to get all 90 orders done in a 10 day period. I still say that accomplishment was miraculous! I prayed and prayed God would help us get our orders completed on time and we finished everything in 9 days (plus some of the orders for the girls on the waiting list)! Having something you've designed in your head and scribbled on paper come into existence from almost nothing but a pile of materials and Crystal is very rewarding.
This was a big wedding year for you, wasn’t it?
Yes, we were honored to be asked to create for some of the most fabulous weddings of the year. Nina and Earl Thomas, Gypsy and Aqib Talib, Cannon and Collins Tuohy Smith and Risalyn and DeAngelo Williams were some of my biggest weddings this year. We are honored to even be asked to create for such a special day. It’s up there next to the Super Bowl. Also, the volume of work is great to have, especially in the off season. Nina Thomas, for instance, had 22 robes, 15 jerseys and glasses made for the ceremony. The wives are pulling out all of the stops for their big day and they want it to be the best of the best so it’s an honor to be included in that. What’s your big picture for the brand?
We are currently working on our new storefront and studio. Our house is on a lake and so is our new location. We’ve slowly been refurbishing an area that is literally a “stones throw” from my house. We started it about two years ago but, over the past year I’ve really been working hard to get in the new space. My next goal is to complete it by the time the baby comes (God willing). The new location will quadruple our working space and we will have a storefront that will allow people to come in and design their own furniture, clothes and accessories; Customers will be able to procure our seamstresses on staff for alterations and custom clothing as well. You have accomplished some really beautiful moments over the past decade. If you were not an entrepreneur, what would you be doing instead?
Well, I always make jokes that my mom and I would open up our own Private Investigator/ Interior Design Firm! I do love to do interior design AND use my superb sleuthing skills. I am very much like my mom (and dad) because they are very artistic and brilliant business people. I hope to become half of what they are.
I have to say that looking back on where I have come from is amazing. I honestly started my company in my spare closet. To go from just me in a 5'x8' closet to 21 people with 4000 sq. feet makes me teary-eyed. I give all glory to God! All of His door openings, all of His vision and all of His ideas that I have received have taken Bella to where it is today. I know that it is ALL HIM because I work from my home studio, in a basement in Michigan. Who on earth would ever see me or what I do if it weren't for HIM?!? No one would know about me if it were not for HIM.
Check out more of Leah's work on Instagram @thediamondduchess or online at www.bellaartistry.com