'Undercover Boss': Alfred Angelo President Paul Quentel Gives Wedding Dress To Onetime Homeless Worker
Assistant store manager was forced onto streets for being a lesbian
Life on the streets
As can be seen in the video, Leeanne explained her life story to a man she thought was named "Lee Jeffries," a personal training coach appearing on a second chances reality show in the hope of launching his own business. "Jeffries" was in fact Paul Quentel, the president of Alfred Angelo Bridal, the country's second largest bridal company. Leanne told "Jeffries" how her parents kicked her out of her house when she was a teenager. And after her welcome ran out with friends she was forced to live on the streets, she said. She eventually ended up living at New York's Penn Station, sleeping "on a bench." She also said she was "forced to wash her hair in sinks, and did what [she] needed to do."
How did Leeanne end up homeless at the age of 17? Leeanne is a lesbian, and as she explained, her parents decided her orientation was not acceptable to them, and onto the streets she was sent. Such adversity, and at such a young age, for homosexuals is in fact a common phenomenon; LGBT youth represent 30 percent of some 600,000 homeless youth throughout the country, according to the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force Policy Institute, as was reported by the Wall Street Journal.
The 'Austin Powers' school of management
You could only hope all those faced with such a circumstance respond the way Leeanne has. As she showed on the episode, Leeanne combines fun, discipline and poise -- exactly what you'd want from your worker and manager -- during her workday. She for instance, set up dry-erase boards for each of her workers to set sales goals. On her board, she chose to display the well-known image of "Dr. Evil" from the "Austin Powers" movie series. Why? Because of his devilish little saying of his, "one million dollars." That's Leeanne's sales goal, she said over a laugh.
Leeanne also displayed grace when fulfilling the various aspects of her job. She jumped from music stores to tanning salons without breaking a sweat in managing the vital business relationships that are central to the modern wedding bonanza culture. (Alfred Angelo brings in $90 million in revenue a year throughout the world.) She also proved herself adept at providing helpful counsel to the company's vital client roster of brides-in-waiting, dispensing advice on how dresses matched clients' eye colors.
So how did she climb out of her ditch? Leeanne didn't get into major specifics, broadcasting a reserved disposition about her life story. She did say, though, that when she living on the streets she wound up landing a sales position which eventually "grew into management." It's highly likely the modest Leeanne was glossing over dramatic aspects from her life.
She did, however, share some words of wisdom for fellow homeless people. "A lot of people think of homeless people, there's not really anywhere they can go but down," she told "Jeffries." "But if you really want something [and go for it] you can get it." It's an important message; as should come as a surprise to noone, homelessness has risen during the last five years of financial crisis.
Gay in the workplace
"Incredible," was the reaction Quentel had while walking away from working with Leeanne. Bizarrely enough, however, the model turned executive shared no major thoughts on the status of gay workers in America, an issue that is now front and center in the national dialogue. Indeed, as AOL Jobs has reported, LGBT workers can currently be fired for their identity in 29 states. The drive to pass a federal law making sexual identity a protected class for hiring and firing is at this very moment on the verge of securing enough votes in the U.S. Senate to withstand a GOP-led filibuster.
And gay workers' increasing prominence in America was featured on the hit CBS series earlier this season when the first "out" executive was featured after five seasons -- Loehmann's CEO Steve Newman.
Quentel, for his part, appeared to be respectful of, but shared no major thoughts, on Leeanne's stated plans to marry her girlfriend. Leeanne didn't mention key details about the wedding, but if she does indeed get hitched, Leeanne will have to hit up the interstate highway system to leave the state where she currently works; Ohio is not one of the 14 states that has legalized marriage for same-sex couples. But that number keeps on growing, and according to the Atlantic Wire, Hawaii and New Mexico might be next to legalize.
The boss did exhibit an admiration for Leeanne in the reveal portion of the show. He invited her to the company's headquarters in Florida to help the company come up with incentive strategies to get the most out of workers. And then he showered her with gifts. She will be allowed to choose whatever dress she wants for her upcoming nuptials, as will her bridesmaids. She was also given $25,000 for a home, and another $10,000 for furniture. Quentel teared up during the segment.
At one point during her appearance, Leeanne looked back on her life on the streets and all she went through. And she didn't seem to harbor much resentment. "I am lucky," she said.
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Dan Fastenberg was most recently a reporter with TIME Magazine. Previously, he was a writer for the Thomson Reuters news service's Latin America desk. He was also a reporter and associate editor for the Buenos Aires Herald while living in South America.
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