These Are The Real-Life Hustlers
In 2019, audiences were rocked by a film that reignited Jennifer Lopez’s acting career and made us all wonder if that really was Usher making a cameo in a movie about law-breaking strippers. “Hustlers” was the surprise hit of the year that drew in $157 million at the box office (via Box Office Mojo) and earned critical praise for Lopez in what was deemed “a career-best performance,” per RogerEbert.com.
Unfurling like a female-led “Goodfellas,” the film was adapted from a New York Magazine article that told the incredible true story of strip club employees who scammed Wall Street stockbrokers from millions by way of dances and spiked drinks, leaving these naive customers penniless. Names were changed, and certain job descriptions were altered in the film, but the core tale of a band of wallet-snatching seductresses going against Wall Street remained the same. But just who were these “Robin Hood”-type thieve who took millions only to lose everything? And what did they think of seeing their own story up on screen?
Samantha Foxx – The Real Ramona Vega (Jennifer Lopez)
For Lopez’s character Ramona Vega, the “Hustlers” ringleader was inspired by the original brains of the operation, Samantha Barbash (aka Samantha Foxx). Sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty for various crimes including conspiracy, assault, and grand larceny, she believed that her story was certainly one worth telling, but never settled on this film being the one to do so.
Originally, Foxx was approached by the studio to purchase the rights to her story but declined. Speaking to Vanity Fair shortly after the release of “Hustlers”, Foxx revealed, “they were trying to pay me a minuscule amount. I’m a businesswoman. J. Lo doesn’t work for free. Why would I? At the end of the day, I have bags that are worth more than what they wanted to pay me.” After seeing the finished product, Foxx said, “I wasn’t really that impressed. I was impressed with Jennifer. She was incredible. Her body looked incredible. She had it down to a T, but it wasn’t factual.”
Foxx declared that crucial details in the film were factually incorrect, going as far as to sue STX Films in 2019. Speaking to the New York Post at the time, she said, “we’re putting a stop to it because she’s [Lopez] actually misrepresenting me. I was never a stripper. It’s defamation of character.” Foxx declared that she wasn’t a stripper as shown in the film but a hostess (via Yahoo) for the club, Scores, where the scams took place.
Roselyn 'Rosie' Keo – The Real Destiny (Constance Wu)
One member of the original “Hustlers” that had a far more positive reaction to the story being adapted than Foxx was her former partner-in-crime, Roselyn “Rosie” Keo. As the inspiration for Destiny, she embraced the movie’s success, even going as far as visiting the set and posting photos with Constance Wu on Instagram. Like Foxx, her name was also changed for the film, but her side of the story had very few inaccuracies. Keo did turn to “fishing,” the name of the scam labeled by Foxx, to earn extra cash as a single parent and raise her only child, and the movie method was the same. However, her grandmother being present and dying during this time was false, as she, in fact, passed away when Keo was 16.
Further deviations were made to Keo’s narrative. In the film, Destiny reveals to Ramona personally that she took a plea bargain, leading to an outburst of rage from Lopez’s character. The real story is much simpler and, perhaps, even colder. Keo did take the same route with the officers that hauled her in, but the news traveled back to Foxx rather than via a face-to-face talk. In the original article that sparked the idea for “Hustlers”, Keo revealed to New York Magazine, Samantha sent a single text, saying, ‘We heard you took a deal. Good luck.’ Neither former friend has spoken to the other since.
Karina Pascucci and Marci Rosen – The Real Annabelle and Mercedes
Played in the film by Lili Reinhart and Keke Palmer, Annabelle and Mercedes were the carefully planned bait to the unsuspecting customers, luring them back to the strip clubs where the bank account clearing would take place. Courtesy of the actress herself, Lili Reinhart confirmed in a now-deleted Instagram post (via Refinery29) that her part was based on Karina Pascucci, with only the name changed. Like Keo, Pascucci attended the film’s premiere.
Marci Rosen, on the other hand, took the whole adaptation of her story very differently. Sharing the same duties as Pascucci, Rosen would also be on temptation duty for the men the girls were hoping to hustle. Following her arrest and matching 16-week prison sentence, Rosen kept a much lower profile than the rest of her former workmates and stayed out of the public eye (via People).