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She was jailed in Panama. This Coquitlam woman shares why

Alana Moor, a graduate of Coquitlam's Gleneagle Secondary, was sentenced to nearly seven years in prison for drug trafficking in Panama. Now, she's a life coach who's placed in a major speech competition.

Alana Moor describes her childhood years in Coquitlam as being a “rebellious teen with a good heart.”

But that pales in comparison to the harrowing tale of her life as a jet-setting fashion stylist whose future took a dark turn, a story she's now sharing as an inspirational speaker.

In her youth, Moor said, she ran, played baseball and gold-level soccer, was on the swim team and trained with the Goh Ballet and Danzmode Productions.

She attended Dr. Charles Best and Archbishop Carney regional secondary schools before graduating from Gleneagle Secondary and moving to Montreal to continue her dance studies.

But, a few years later, after graduating with honours in fashion design from Humber College in Toronto, the then 27-year-old woman sought to become a stylist and build up her fashion portfolio.

Holding down two or three jobs at a time while trying to climb the industry ladder, Moor met a woman who organized parties for celebrities and asked, by chance, if she could be her stylist.

“I saw this opportunity,” Moor recalled in an interview with the Tri-City News on Tuesday, June 4. “I thought, ‘This is my ticket.’”

The woman agreed to Moor’s request, but declined to pay her. Instead, she said, she would take Moor to her VIP events and introduce her as her stylist.

For the next year-and-a-half, Moor “hustled." She worked the party scene, would leave at around 2 a.m., go to her friend’s store in Toronto at 3:30 a.m. to source trendy clothes and style her “boss” for the next day.

As Moor started to gain a name for herself and get recognized for her looks, another opportunity landed: Her “boss” asked Moor to come to her office and meet an official linked with a famous rapper.

“They were excited,” she remembered. “They wanted me to provide styling for the rapper for his music videos. I felt like I had made it.”

But first, the pair wanted to thank Moor for her hard work by treating her to a vacation in Panama.

And could she bring a bag back to Canada for them?

“My first question was, ‘Is it drugs?’ They said, ‘No, you don’t have to worry. Trust us,’ so I agreed.”


About two weeks later, Moor was on a flight to the Central American country and having the time of her life at a resort.

On the day she arrived, a man introduced himself as her boss’ liaison in Panama; two days before she left, he returned with an empty bag.

Moor could sense something was not right and searched the luggage for clues. There were none.

At the airport and feeling uneasy, drug dogs roamed but they didn’t pick up any scent from Moor’s extra suitcase.

Still, after passing through security at the terminal, armed officers approached her and held her for six hours in a waiting room.

A prosecutor then entered, explained what was happening, told her about 11 kg of cocaine she was carrying and asked her to sign a piece of paper to admit to owning the bag.

Moor was handcuffed and taken to a male prison where she was shackled to a chair for three days — with little food and water, and no toilet.

A court sentenced her to six years and nine months in jail for drug trafficking; however, because of good behaviour, she was released after four-and-a-half years and put on probation for two years.

During those two years, Moor said she was fortunate: Not only was her freedom returned in part, but she also ran a luxury Airbnb owned by the founder of Burt’s Bees.

One of her guests was her “biggest fan”: the Panamanian judge who had sentenced her five years prior.

“We’re still in touch,” Moor said. “He was very happy with how I spent my time in prison.”

Life change

Now 37, Moor is wary about describing what she saw in jail in Panama as many female prisoners took destructive paths by ingesting drugs or trying to kill themselves.

For Moor, though, she focused instead on being constructive because she “realized very quickly" she was "going to lose the time" if she didn’t use it to her advantage.

"I knew that one day, it would end.”

She pored over books, devised business plans, worked out and mastered the Spanish language. She participated in prison programs, too, and gave back — even starting a nonprofit to help her fellow inmates.

And when it came time to leave Panama, in 2021 during the COVID-19 pandemic, she returned to Toronto first before coming home to Coquitlam, where her father lives.

As she attempted to restart her life, another opportunity came Moor’s way — this time, a good one.

Last year, as the event manager for Planted Expo, North America’s largest plant-based vegan trade shows, Moor met a woman in Toronto who encouraged her to share her story of survival.

Moor signed up for Speaker Slam’s “Freedom” competition, which took place last month in the Lula Lounge in Toronto, and talked about transforming her attitude from blame-shaming to taking “radical responsibility” for her decision in Panama.

Her speech won third place and, in late September, she will advance to the Wildcard Race where she will compete for a chance to take part in the Grand Slam: Inspirational Speaking Finals, in November at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio. The winner takes the title and a prize package valued up to $50,000.

New business

Currently hopping between Coquitlam and Costa Rica with her partner and their two-year-old son, Justice, Moor said she’s building her motivational speaking and life coaching business, of which many of her clients are women also wanting to launch their own coaching companies, and military personnel with severe PTSD.

Eventually, Moor and her family plan to return to Panama for good.

She reflects on how she turned her life around, under the most brutal conditions in a foreign country.

“You have to face the adversity,” she said. “It’s really hard to take responsibility but you have to be tough. And I am tough. You have to be willing and build a plan until the end.”

She added, “I missed a lot of life by being in prison, but that’s not an excuse not to push forward. You have to be resilient to change your life for the better. Always.”