Soraya Marcelo is a twenty-something-year-old who began working as a companion when attending college in New York City (in her words: “the Backpage era”). Now based in Orlando, Soraya describes quitting her day job as “the best decision of my life”.
Soraya speaks of what she has learnt about escort marketing as a woman of colour, how COVID prompted her to begin offering virtual companionship, and her least favourite parts of being an escort.
Where to find Soraya Marcelo:
Amelia: Hi Soraya, thanks for talking to me today. Can you start by introducing yourself?
Soraya: Thank you, Amelia, for this amazing opportunity. This will be my first interview, so I am extremely excited about it. I go by Soraya Marcelo, and I am a companion based in Orlando in the U.S. I’ve been in the industry on and off for approximately five years. This is honestly the longest I’ve been in the industry without taking a long break or putting it on the back burner.
I first started as a companion (the Backpage era) when I was in college and “retired” when I got accepted to my grad program. I say “retired” with quotes because I had – well, still have – amazing clients who supported me while I was in school and starting my career. Three years into my field of study, I was beyond miserable and felt like I needed more. I decided to go back into the industry but as an exotic dancer. It literally gave me the adrenaline (and, of course, the extra cash) that I was not getting at my day job. In a weekend, I was making the same or double what I was making at my other job. After a year, I made the best decision of my life, which was to quit.
The moment I quit, I knew that I wanted to do something even more drastic. So, two months later, I packed up and moved to Florida.
Amelia: When you say you quit, you mean your day job? What was it like to take that leap of faith?
Soraya: Yes, my day job… Um, to be honest, it was a bit nerve-wracking. But the fact that I was soooo over it gave me that extra push to leave.
Amelia: And what is the industry like in Orlando? What are your clients like?
Soraya: When I first moved from NYC to Florida, I moved to Tampa before Orlando. It was solemnly because they have so many clubs to work at. No kidding, it’s crazy how many strip clubs are in Tampa. On the same week of my move, one of my clients (from being a companion) flew down to see me (bless his heart). At that very moment, I decided that I wanted to go back to being a provider.
I put up an ad, and for some odd reason, it advertises in Orlando/Tampa at the same time. Most of the requests I was receiving were coming from Orlando. Now, Florida as a whole is a very, very, very tough place to work at. Why? Because people are out and about, so you’re very likely to run into someone while you’re at the beach or at a bar. In Central Florida, on the other hand, there’s a lot to do but not a lot of adult entertainment. I learned very quickly that the best way for my business to thrive was to be very active on social media.
COVID did something very interesting to my business. I am still very much in shock. During that year, people that wouldn’t generally be online were all of a sudden online. People that wouldn’t generally buy content are now buying content. Prior to COVID, I didn’t offer online content because I didn’t need to do so. If an established client wanted to purchase a clip or pictures, I would sell it to them, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to advertise online content in general. However, the moment that I started to offer virtual companionship, it broadened my audience. Now, some of the clients I originally met virtually have actually become great in-person clients as well. It gave clients the chance to text or talk for a small fee before meeting.
Amelia: That’s really cool. Since COVID, I’ve definitely noticed many sex workers who were solely doing in-person sex work venturing into the online space. Changing track a little – I’ve spoken to sex workers of colour before who feel that they need to market and brand themselves very differently from white providers in order to get bookings. Do you feel this is the case for yourself?
Soraya: I’ve come to the realisation that the way that I advertise myself can’t be the same way that a conventional slim white companion does. Even though I am not dark-skinned, I am still a woman of colour with curves and a head full of curls. I needed to present that on my social media. It honestly became a snowball effect – the moment I let go of that persona, the less stressed I became and the more I started to get booked by clients that I actually enjoyed being around.
Amelia: That’s great. I’ve heard that sentiment from escorts so much – that presenting yourself more authentically can have such a positive impact on business. What is your favourite and least favourite part of being an escort?
Soraya: My least favourite is the stigma that escorts have — the constant, “Wow, I didn’t think that you…” or “Oh my god, you’re so … for an escort.” Like sir or ma’am, you know that I am human. That means that there’s a possibility that I may not fall into a stereotype that you most likely learned through mainstream media. Also, I hate it when people that don’t know much of the industry swear up and down that it is easy when, in reality, it is not. Ohh, and admin. Can’t forget about admin! [laughs]
Now, my favourite is that it’s legit my business. When I don’t work hard (meaning when I’m not motivated), it directly affects my business. This holds true to anything you do in life. Lastly, the connections that I’ve made over the years. Some people have legit changed my life, and I am forever grateful.
Amelia: Honestly, I think admin is the bane of every sex worker’s existence! Now, last question for fun – how did you choose your escort name?
Soraya: My best friend and I chose it after a bottle of wine. We Googled “sexy exotic names” or something like that! [laughs] We started mixing and matching and, voilà! Soraya Marcelo came about.
Amelia: I love that. Now, thank you again for sharing everything with me today. I really appreciate it. Are there any last words of wisdom you’d like to share with sex workers reading?
Soraya: I want to say that there’s a market for EVERYONE. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t find it right away. The moment that you realise that this is actually a business and that you have to put in the work to see results, that’s when things eventually will start going your way. The harsh reality is that for some, it could start going great the first month, for some, after two or more years.
Where to find Soraya Marcelo:
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