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GISELLE MEZA

by Jennifer Tormo Summer 2013 Also on Digital Edition

GISELLE MEZA

Traffickers don't discriminate - doesn't matter what ethnicity you are, if you're wealthy or poor. Anyone can be tricked, especially when you're really young.

By 14, Giselle Meza had been through the worst. Lured from her affluent, Oregon neighborhood to Europe by a woman she thought was her friend, Meza became a victim of sex trafficking. She was changed forever. “I think it kind of made me fearless,” the 44-year-old reflects today. At age 16, the fearless Meza moved forward with her life and to Paris to begin her modeling career. She landed covers of Vogue, Marie Claire and Elle, and her 17-year career took her through 58 countries. But Meza couldn’t escape her past: the reality of sex trafficking con- fronted her on every continent. “Let’s say you live in Palm Beach or Boca Raton – you think those things don’t happen here. But they do happen,” she says. Meza founded Puresa Humanitarian in 2006, a non-profit international rescue operation. Rescued victims are physically and emotionally broken. Most are HIV-positive. Puresa offers them health care and counseling, and empowers them with job skills. They rediscover flavors and colors. “That’s when they come alive again,” Meza says. “When they say, ‘I love pink.’” It’s hard to say when Meza came alive again, but her spirit is unmistakable. She’ll risk everything to enter a brothel. “I don’t know if I’ll come out alive, but hey – it’s what I do.”  – Jennifer Tormo