New film based on ‘the greatest stripper saga ever tweeted’ from viral 2015 thread released


Five-and-a-half years after a former Hooters waitress named Zola went viral with an epic 148-tweet tale about stripping, prostitution, pimps, and trafficking, her wild ride of a story has been turned into a feature film, which is released in cinemas today.

In a lengthy tale posted to Twitter in 2015, A’Ziah King, known as Zola, from Detroit, told of meeting a girl named Jess while she was waiting tables at Hooters, and how after ‘vibing over our hoeism’ the two left for Florida the following day where Jess had sex with upwards of 20 men in one night for money and her boyfriend Jarrett attempted suicide.

The entire time the two were working for a pimp named Z, who she claimed she later learned was wanted for murder and kidnapping. 

The movie Zola premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and stars actress Taylour Paige in the titular role, and Riley Keough as a supporting character.

Speaking to the BBC, director Janicza Bravo explained: ‘I wanted to portray sex work as work, and I wanted to also tell a story about women who had found themselves in sex work, to some degree, on their terms.’

New film Zola, which is based on a lengthy tale posted to Twitter in 2015 by A’Ziah King, known as Zola, from Detroit, is set to be released in the UK today. The film follows Zola as she meets g a girl named Jess while she was waiting tables at Hooters, and how the two left for Florida where Jess had sex with upwards of 20 men in one night for money and her boyfriend Jarrett attempted suicide (pictured, Zola and Jess) 

The movie Zola premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and stars actress Taylour Paige in the titular role, and Riley Keough as a supporting character (pictured)

The movie Zola premiered at the Sundance Film Festival and stars actress Taylour Paige in the titular role, and Riley Keough as a supporting character (pictured) 

The two women exchanged phone numbers after bonding over their 'hoeism' and the following day, Zola agreed to travel to Tampa with her new friend and her boyfriend Jarrett

The two women exchanged phone numbers after bonding over their 'hoeism' and the following day, Zola agreed to travel to Tampa with her new friend and her African pimp Z

Jarrett Barrett (left) was later revealed as the man named as Jess’s boyfriend. Nigerian native Akporode Uwedjojevwe was unmasked as Z. He is seen (right) in a mugshot after being arrested in Reno, Nevada, for charges including sexual trafficking 

Zola, who was a waitress at the restaurant, was working when she befriended Jess, a fellow stripper. 

The pair exchanged phone numbers after bonding over their ‘hoeism’ and the following day, Zola agreed to travel to Tampa with her new friend, her African pimp Z and Jess’s boyfriend, Jarrett.  

They traveled down with Jess’ boyfriend and their roommate and she and Jess were already stripping at a no-nude club by that night, with Zola taking home $800.

Later in the story, she described how Jess started working as a prostitute, but Zola believed she was undercharging at $100 a pop — so she helped upgrade her listing on Backpage with a minimum price of $500. 

Zola's story, which was read by millions on Twitter, ended with her returning to Detroit safely with Jarrett while Jess, whose real name is Jessica Swiatkowski, found herself in jail in Las Vegas (pictured, Zola)

Zola’s story, which was read by millions on Twitter, ended with her returning to Detroit safely with Jarrett while Jess, whose real name is Jessica Swiatkowski, found herself in jail in Las Vegas (pictured, Zola)  

The story went on to involve Jess nearly being abducted, Zola being pressured to carry a gun, and more drama.

What ensued were two days of ‘trapping’, murder, suicide attempts and thousands of dollars won through stripping and prostitution, according to Zola’s version of events. 

Zola’s story, which was read by millions on Twitter, ended with her returning to Detroit safely with Jarrett while Jess, whose real name is Jessica Swiatkowski, found herself in jail in Las Vegas.

Z, whose real name is Akporode Uwedjojevwe, was charged with sexual assault, battery, two counts of trafficking, and two counts of attempted pandering with threat of physical force.  He was arrested in Reno, Nevada.  

After posting her story on Twitter in a epic stream of 148 posts, Zola was praised by Selma director Ava DuVernay and Missy Elliott. 

‘In India reading #Zola. Drama, humor, action, suspense, character development. She can write! There’s so much untapped talent in the hood,’ said DuVernay. 

‘That Zola story wild. Ended up reading the whole thing like I was watching a movie on Twitter,’ Missy Elliott added. 

Zola, whose real name is Aziah King, shared the story in 148 Twitter posts, some of which are seen above 

Zola, whose real name is Aziah King, shared the story in 148 Twitter posts, some of which are seen above 

Zola was approached by Hollywood directors and congratulated by celebrities for herstory-telling

Zola was approached by Hollywood directors and congratulated by celebrities for herstory-telling

Both women have since gone on to have children, while Jess has also fiercely contradicted Zola's version of events

Both women have since gone on to have children, while Jess has also fiercely contradicted Zola's version of events

Both women have since gone on to have children, while Jess has also fiercely contradicted Zola’s version of events (pictured left, Zola and right, Jess) 

Jarrett and Jess, two of the story’s central characters, spoke out to contradict some of the details in Zola’s version of events. 

The 20-year-old denied sleeping with men for money, claiming instead it was Zola who had acted as the prostitute and she the pimp during their trip. 

Jarrett denied throwing himself off a balcony, as told by Zola, and said both of the women ‘turned tricks’. 

Jess, who had one daughter at the time, is also engaged and has another baby. 

Speaking to the BBC, filmmaker Bravo said she wanted to clearly identify when sex work was on the women's own terms (pictured, Taylour Paige in the film)

Speaking to the BBC, filmmaker Bravo said she wanted to clearly identify when sex work was on the women’s own terms (pictured, Taylour Paige in the film) 

The Twitter thread became the subject of an in-depth piece in a November 2015 issue of Rolling Stone magazine – titled The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted – which also provides some inspiration for the film. 

Originally set to be directed by James Franco, the film ended up being helmed by filmmaker Bravo. 

Succession actor Nicholas Braun, who recently scored an Emmy nomination, also stars in the movie. 

Zola had its initial premiere at last year’s Sundance Film Festival, where it received widespread critical praise for its storytelling and acting performances. 

The Twitter thread became the subject of an in-depth piece in a November 2015 issue of Rolling Stone magazine - titled The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted - which also provides some inspiration for the film

The Twitter thread became the subject of an in-depth piece in a November 2015 issue of Rolling Stone magazine – titled The Real Story Behind the Greatest Stripper Saga Ever Tweeted – which also provides some inspiration for the film

Film stills from the movie, which is set to be released in the UK, show Zola speaking with Z while travelling across the US

Film stills from the movie, which is set to be released in the UK, show Zola speaking with Z while travelling across the US 

Speaking to the BBC, filmmaker Bravo said she wanted to clearly identify when sex work was on the women’s own terms. 

She said: ‘The real Zola who told the story imbued that work with so much respect and I hadn’t seen that before, and I hadn’t seen those women not played tragically.

‘There is a tragedy here, but the tragedy is when they lose their agency, the tragedy is not the work, it’s the loss of will and I wanted to make the distinction. 

‘Through and through Zola is constantly telling us what she will do and will not do.’



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