Location: Las Vegas, Nev.
Marcela Loaiza, a cocktail waitress with MGM Resorts (No. 289), has made it her mission to make sure that no sexual trafficking survivor goes unsupported. Loaiza was a single mother in her mid-twenties and working two jobs in her native Colombia when her daughter fell ill and needed to be hospitalized, costing Loaiza both her jobs. Burdened by mounting medical bills, Loaiza took up a man’s offer to be a professional dancer in Tokyo—but when she arrived there in 1999, she says she was forced into sexual slavery. Though Loaiza was eventually able to flee and make her way back to Colombia, her escape didn’t lead to a happy ending: she received no support or justice from the Colombian government, she says. After two years, Marcela became suicidal. One day, while crying and praying in a church, she was approached by a nun. She told the nun her story, and the nun, in exchange, gave Loaiza a crucial gift: she told her that her experiences weren’t her fault. “For the first time, I realized I was a victim,” Loaiza says. The nun helped her get back on her feet, providing her psychological support for three years.
Loaiza has since founded the Marcela Loaiza Foundation, a non-profit group dedicated to helping other sex-trafficking victims receive the support they need. With help from the nun who found her so many years ago, Loaiza provides psychological support and other help to 12 women in Colombia. She formed an alliance with the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, delivering speeches at embassies, universities, and government agencies—and helping others understand that sexual slavery is not a choice.