I’ve met some incredibly interesting and talented women in the 10 years I’ve lived in Las Vegas, some of whom have impacted my own career [in music] in an amazing way. Through Vegas/Rated’s monthly Women in Power series, I will introduce trailblazers that exude confidence, passion, intelligence and relentless hustle, and who all live in a city that has often been deemed a “boys’ club.” These are women to draw inspiration from, have a drink with and listen to their stories. They come from diverse industries and backgrounds; they vary in age and personal style, but the common denominator is passion and drive. These are women who are changing the game and playing by their own rules.
My first encounter with Staci Columbo Alonso, senior vice president of marketing and CMO of Station Casinos, and board president of Noah’s Animal House, was at a Noah’s event at Hard Rock Hotel. She was there in support of a family who lived at Shade Tree and had a Pitbull named “Cowboy” that they were desperately trying to keep in their custody. Noah’s Animal house is a facility conceptualized by Alonso to provide housing for Shade Tree residents who have pets in their lives. Staci came to discover that most women in an abusive situation will not leave their pet behind and they continue to stay in the bad relationship. Noah’s gives these women the courage to start fresh with the comfort of their pets.
Grace under fire, she greeted almost everyone in attendance, coordinated with her team, calmed the nerves of the family, and hugged her son Noah every 10 minutes. Unbeknownst to me at the time, this was par for the course.
After doing the photo shoot for this feature, I learned how involved she is in the lives of women who seek shelter at Shade Tree. One resident was kind enough to allow her dog Zeus to pose with Alonso. When the shoot was over, the woman threw her arms around Staci with tears running down her face-not only as if she were a long-time friend-but truly honored to have her dog represent Noah’s Animal House.
Alonso is fascinating and complicated. She lights up like the Las Vegas skyline at the mention of her son, as well as any four-legged animal. At 49, she is in better shape than most people at 21. A former aerobics instructor, Alonso has continued to make fitness a daily priority, working out 4 to 5 days a week. “I tend to stress a lot,” she says, and admits exercise is her stress reliever.
Stoic, yet relentlessly compassionate, she juggles being a mother, a wife and a philanthropic force. Few see the softer side of this gaming maven-by-day, but Alonso is a woman to relate to, admire and be inspired by.
What has inspired your hustle? Life. I just love life and there is so much to be done. Lucky for me, I am a Virgo, so there is always a list. If you ever read the book The Purpose Driven Life, our life’s mission is defined by “shape”- spiritual gifts, heart, abilities, personality and experiences. My life work is clearly “shaped” for Noah’s Animal House, named after my son when he was 4 years old. His father passed away tragically while I was pregnant. While trying to grieve, recover and cope with this crisis during my pregnancy, I found great comfort and healing from my two rescue pups. It prompted me to later ask the question of Shade Tree – “What do we do when women and children arrive at the shelter with their pets?” The answer “no pets allowed” was unacceptable to me, since this environment is when we need our pets the most. The idea of Noah’s was formed and “shaped” into a reality thanks to so many giving Las Vegas locals. It is named after my son, so he, too, can have a sense of purpose and responsibility.
What was your family experience growing up?
My mom and dad divorced when I was in high school. They loved each other, but my dad didn’t know how to express that love in a healthy manner. My mom cared for him later in life when he became ill, until his death in 2012.
What did you draw from that experience, and what did you apply or do differently with your own family?
My dad’s unhealthy jealousy and control over my mom impacted my life very much and played a key role in my desire to serve on the Shade Tree board. I have respect and admiration for my mom’s strength and role as a mom through it all.
How many years have you lived in Vegas?
Tropicana Atlantic City transferred me to Tropicana Las Vegas in 1992. I was the first female casino host at the Trop. Those were fun and educational times! My entire career has been gaming since I turned 21, which has allowed me to work all over the U.S. and even international when I was with IGT.
Describe your title and profession.
I am so lucky to work for the Fertitta family as senior vice president of marketing/CMO of Station Casinos. Having worked for most major casino companies, I am forever amazed at how Station Casinos can employ 12,000 team members and still run it with the feeling and support of a family-owned business. I worked for them when they had three casinos and now with 19, and somehow through all of that growth, the culture and core values are still the same.