How far would you go to secure your financial future?
Working as a stripper to make ends meet, Destiny’s (Constance Wu) life changes forever when she becomes friends with Ramona (Jennifer Lopez) – the club’s most popular earner.
Ramona soon shows Destiny how to navigate her way around the wealthy Wall street clientele who regularly visit the club
But when the 2008 economic crash severely damages their profits, the gals and two other dancers (Keke Palmer and Lili Reinhart) devise a daring scheme to take their lives back.
But how close to the true story is the film?
*Spoiler warning for Hustlers*
The true story behind Jennifer Lopez movie Hustlers
According to the journalistic article in which the film was based, entitled The Hustlers at Scores by Jessica Pressler (played by Julia Stiles as ‘Elizabeth’ in the film), the background of Destiny and her introduction to the world of stripping was much the same.
In real life, Destiny was named Roselyn Keo and was the daughter of Cambodian refugees who came to America for a better life but eventually left Rosie and her brother with their elderly grandparents in Rockland County and left for Atlantic City.
Rosie was a self-described “wild child” and ran with bad crowds and nasty boyfriends, eventually dropping out of school to work at a diner at the age of 17 to support her grandparents.
It was here that she was discovered by an employee from Lace – a local gentleman’s club – who asked if she wanted to make more money performing at the club.
Lying about her age to get a job at Lace, she began making around $500-$1000 dollars a night but realised there was bigger money in Manhattan.
It was at the popular Hustler Club that Rosie met the hugely popular Samantha Foxx (Ramona in the film), who is described as “a single mother from the Bronx, she’d started dancing at 19, and, like an ornamental plant purposefully stunted to conform to a certain ideal, she’d been shaped by the industry in which she grew up. Her body was Jessica Rabbit curvy, her lips Angelina Jolie puffy; her hair, which concealed tattoos of a cascade of stars running down her neck, was Cleopatra black. Buried within this ultrafeminine package was a mercenary streak worthy of Gordon Gekko.”
Samantha took Rosie under her wing as she was prone to do, which seemed to be the reason why despite being in her 30s she managed to stay as top-dog on the poles by ensuring that the girls worked in groups to get as big payouts as possible.
One Wall Street man who visited often spent $100,000 on each of the three nights he visited one week, with the girls taking home $10,000 each, which Samantha would remark was “nothing” to those men.
The job took its toll on Rosie’s romantic relationships as men became seen as something to take money from and who think women are disposable objects.
Rosie still studied while at the club, educating herself in Psychology at Berkley College in New Jersey which helped her to understand the patrons and employees at the club.
Having ambitions to be a major success and viewing Samantha as a “cautionary tale”, Rosie cultivated an attachment to a patron – named Brian in the article – who even let his fiancée return to Kazakhstan due to his attachment to Rosie.
However, Rosie dropped off the grid and resurfaced two years later by calling him out of the blue and it was clear that she had a baby with her.
Left a single mother as a result of her tempestuous romantic relationship with her on-off boyfriend, and Brian once again engaged, Rosie returned to Hustlers with a bigger need to make money.
However, the stock market crash of 2008 had changed the industry, populated now by Russian and Colombian beauties who also offered sexual favours which Rosie could not compete with.
This was then Samantha came back into her life, no longer performing, but bringing men to the clubs with younger “minions” and somehow making tons of money.
It then became clear to Rosie that Samantha was bringing high-paying customers back to the club – either with her own wiles or those of her younger friends Karina and Marsi (who had a convict boyfriend like Keke Palmer’s character in the film).
First there would be wining and dining with all the attention on the guy as they ran up the credit card as much as possible, but if in a difficult situation, the girls spiked the drinks with a mixture of MDMA and ketamine, making them both happy but also unlikely to remember what happened.
When the guy was “laid out” to the point of being barely conscious, they would wrack up huge sums of money in the club, and taking credit card details.
Samantha commented in the article: “It sounds so bad to say that we were, like, drugging people. But it was, like, normal.”
The men targeted were usually the super-rich and unlikely to miss the money, according to Samantha, and if any complained she managed to talk their way out of it or convince them it would be trouble to pursue any further.
Rosie began being the most organised of the group and helped establish it as organization.
They expanded their clientele to even bigger spenders and employed easily mailable girls from Craigslist.
Samantha and Rosie always took home the biggest cuts, and the other girls increasingly got less.
Soon other girls caught on to the success and Marsi and Karina began to grow unreliable, prompting issues between Samantha and Rosie. Samantha also had a soft spot for lost girls who had problems, but Rosie saw this as a weakness in their business strategy.
The clients grew riskier and more unpredictable and one man even got drained of all his money and couldn’t pay his mortgage and he had a family, but Samantha encouraged Rosie to remain ruthless.
Rosie claimed that there was a sting operation used with a troubled dancer – named Marjorie in the article – and she could tell the situation was off.
Following this, a pattern was emerging with men making claims of what had happened to them and failing to pay huge bills at the strip clubs.
Then on June 9, 2014, it all came tumbling down as Samantha was arrested at her neighbourhood ATM, followed by Karina, Marsi, and Rosie.
The police had found three men to testify against the women and they faced charges of forgery, conspiracy, grand larceny, and assault.
Some men had lost their jobs and had their home lives threatened, but Samantha and the girls were unmoved, the way they saw it was that men got away with worse all the time – even citing Billy Cosby.
The girls panicked, and Samantha tried to get them to stick together, but Rosie took a deal, saying “I’m, like, the only one of those girls that’s normal, with a brain on my head, with a child and a future.”
Rosie wasn’t concerned about the thought of Samantha in jail, however: “I was watching Orange Is the New Black. She’ll be like Red. She’ll be like V.”
Rosie got five years’ probation due to the plea deal, as did Samantha. Karina and Marsi served four months of weekend in jail, according to Cosmopolitan.
She told Jessica Pressler in 2015 that she was now living in California but her engagement was on the rocks but was making new friends and she was learning how to trade stocks and was even thinking of being a motivational speaker like The Wolf of Wall Street, Jordan Belfort.
Like in the film, Rosie also got attached to speaking to journalist Jessica Pressler and complained about Samantha and also explained her own behaviour, saying “Hurt people hurt people.”
Hustlers is in cinemas now.
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