Lisa Ling, a renowned journalist at CNN, has been traveling around the country for her eight-part series “This is Life with Lisa Ling.” Last Sunday the fourth episode in the series aired. “Filthy Rich” featured the extreme dynamics that exist in Williston, ND as a result of the oil boom. Ling focuses mainly on women who live in what she describes as a ‘sea of men.’ The women she interviews are diverse and come from many different areas of the boomtown culture.
First Ling visits the Williston Job Fair where she encounters many interesting women from all over the country looking for jobs as truck drivers, mechanics or rig workers. One women describes how it only took her 10 minutes to secure a job.
Boomtown Babes espresso is a small pink hut in a parking lot, but business is booming for the coffee shop. Women wearing fishnets, shorts and pink t-shirts describe how they enjoy their job and how ‘sex sells’ in Williston. Women in the service industry in the area generally make an unimaginable amount of cash through tips alone. A barista at Boomtown Babes espresso described a day where she made $600 in tips and later in the segment a waitress claims that she has made up to $1,000 in tips in just one night serving food.
Ling also interviews two women in their 50s working as truck drivers in the oil patch. These women work hard driving trucks back and forth from well sites delivering fuel. Examples of women following the American dream in North Dakota is a major theme throughout the segment.
The reporter also visits what she describes as the ‘dark side of the boom.’ Sex trafficking is a major issue in the oil patch of North Dakota, largely due to the surplus of men and money in the area. Ling follows Windie Jo Lazenko, a former sex worker/stripper who is working for free out of Williston to try to help girls get out of the trade. Lazenko describes sex trafficking in the boomtown as an ‘infestation.’ Ling interviews a young women who is attempting to leave sex trafficking behind. The 19-year-old moved to Williston to live with her boyfriend who later became abusive. “I came because I was in love. Well, I thought I was in love,” she described, “I woke up in the morning and I couldn’t recognize my face and that’s when I realized I had to go.” She became homeless and in desperate need of money. Her story, while common, is not always the story behind sex-trafficking. Lazenko describes that many women, like herself, enter the sex trafficking world as early as 13, often shipped around the country to work in cities around the country.
Watch the whole segment at CNNgo, or the YouTube video below.