When we heard that Jennifer Lopez was going to be in a stripper movie called Hustlers, we knew we had to see it the day it hit theaters. But when we heard about the rest of the cast — Cardi B, who’s ready to show off her real-world stripping experience, rapper Lizzo, Riverdale‘s Lili Reinhart and Constance Wu from Crazy Rich Asians — we knew we needed to see it at midnight. The cast isn’t just jam-packed with stars, though. The trailer is also incredible. And most unbelievable of all is the fact that the movie is actually based on a real true crime story.
Hustlers was actually adapted from a magazine article called The Hustlers at Scores. First published in The New York Magazine in December 2015 and later shared online by The Cut, the article is a “modern Robin Hood story” that writer Jessica Pressler described as featuring “strippers who stole from (mostly) rich, (usually) disgusting, (in their minds) pathetic men.” Only, instead of redistributing that wealth to the poor, they kept it for themselves. In the piece, one of the women involved, Roselyn Keo, a.k.a. Rosie, told her own story.
“It was like la-la land in there,” Keo said about the Wall Street guys who’d come in to the strip club and drop thousands of dollars. “We had a guy who was — is — at Guggenheim Partners. He spent 300 grand in one week. He came in three times, 100 grand every time he walked in the room. Everyone made $10,000 every time he came in.”
For Keo, hustling quickly became part of the job as she sweet-talked customers into parting with their cash. And, over the years, she started learning from the best: Samantha Foxx, a.k.a. Samantha Barbash, another one of the workers who talked to New York Mag for the article and spilled her scheme: dosing men with MDMA and ketamine so they would be be able to push the men further when it came to spending money. Or, alternately, so they could spend the money themselves while their customer was incapacitated.
“It sounds so bad to say that we were, like, drugging people,” Keo said. “But it was, like, normal. … They all walked in ready to party. And yeah, we slipped an extra [drug] that they didn’t know about. But all of it goes hand in hand — sex, drugs, and rock and roll. You know?” For the most part, their actions flew under the radar, and when they didn’t, Samantha would do her best to convince them everything was fine, saying, “You were so happy, don’t you remember? … You were tipping everyone.”
Even when the men didn’t believe it, they usually dropped the issue and let it go rather than opting to file a police report and tell their families what had happened. “That’s why [it] worked so well,” said Keo. At some point, she admitted that they got greedy and the operation started to spiral out of control. And eventually, one of the men did go to the police. More than that, he’d brought his own recording of some of the women admitting that they’d drugged him. Later, a similar news story from the New York Post also got the attention of the authorities when a doctor named Zyad Younan alleged that a $135,000 bill had been racked up on his credit card when he was drugged.
In November 2015, three of the women involved, including Barbash, pleaded guilty to conspiracy, assault and grand larceny. Though Keo later claimed to the writer that the story she had spun was “fictional,” Pressler pointed out it was corroborated by “multiple indictments and many interviews.” In the years since, Barbash has also claimed that New York Mag got the story wrong. According to The New York Post, despite accusing J. Lo of “making money off” her story and playing her in the flick, she’s also insisting that the story Hustlers is telling isn’t a true one.
“They’re going off a false story,” she told The New York Post in April 2019. “I was not a stripper. Everything — where [J-Lo] is going on poles and stuff — that’s not me. … It’s defamation of character. … I’m going to have to do a lawsuit. I’m getting a gag order.” She’s not disputing everything that went down, but she is hoping to take things to court. “They should have worked with me instead of against me.”
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