Just look at 29-year-old Michael Cory Davis, and you might wonder why he has yet to become a household name. He's an attractive young actor with chocolate-brown skin, shoulder-length locks and endearing eyes, who may end up getting more attention for his activism than his work in Hollywood.
If you can get beyond his striking good looks and actually listen to what he has to say, you'll find an adamant and articulate activist with an infectious passion for combating global injustice.
This passion is quite evident in his latest film, "Cargo: Innocence Lost," which sheds much-needed light on the billion-dollar sex trafficking and forced prostitution industry. For the past four years, Davis has been working as an activist for sex trafficking victims, after he found unexpected celebrity in eastern Europe and was approached to lend his name to the cause.
Born and raised in Brooklyn, N.Y., Davis then pursued his dream of becoming an actor for six years in Los Angeles, before he found his life's mission in, of all places, Sofia, Bulgaria.
As one of the few black faces in the small European country and a former cast member of the popular soap operas "All My Children" and "The Bold and the Beautiful," he became an instant celebrity while shooting two feature-length films for the Sci Fi Channel there in 2003.
"The Bulgarian media got wind that I was in the country … and they blew me up to be this huge celebrity," Davis remembers. "I would have all these kids run up to me and speak to me as if they knew me. In the space of three weeks of being in Bulgaria, I had more success than I had in Los Angeles."
As Bulgaria embraced Davis, he found one group that was interested in using his star power for a greater purpose. Face to Face Bulgaria, an independent organization that focuses on sex trafficking and forced prostitution education and prevention, asked Davis to attend one of its fundraising events.
"I went to the organization … and I looked at pictures, read stories, and got a full complete understanding of what was happening in their country and … all over the world to the young women and boys … being manipulated into forced prostitution," Davis explained.
As many as 500,000 people are trafficked in Europe every year, the majority of whom are women and girls forced into prostitution. And Bulgaria is a "source, transit and destination country" for men and women trafficked for the purposes of sexual exploitation, according to the U.S. State Department's Trafficking in Persons Report released in June.
Davis then gladly accepted the group's invitation to get involved, and he decided to use film to help prevent future victims of human trafficking, and tell the stories of victims worldwide.
"I was so moved by the spirit of these kids ԡ who suffered through such horrific crimes, you know, against their body and against their being and they still had a spark of life," Davis said, "and … a reality hit me in the way that I have to do something to keep that spark alive in them and help the victims."
Davis realized media would be the best tool to educate as traffickers prey on vulnerable children and women in areas where they don't get information about this crime.