Samantha Barbash, the real-life inspiration for Jennifer Lopez’s savvy, scammy character Ramona in Hustlers, doesn’t think the movie is that impressive.
In the film, Ramona leads a handful of strippers in a scam to drug club-goers with a mix of ketamine and MDMA so they’re fucked up enough that they don’t know how much they’re spending. But Barbash recently told Vanity Fair that while Lopez was impressive (“Her body looked incredible”) and that there were small resemblances like birthmark placements and piercings, the movie wasn’t exactly accurate. “I am nothing like that in person,” she says. In fact, she thinks Cardi B would have played her better. “Not taking away from Jennifer,” she says. “But just because Cardi was in the business.”
And while in the movie Ramona and Destiny, Constance Wu’s character based on Roselyn Keo, work together to develop their special recipe, Barbash maintains she didn’t drug anyone. “The majority of the guys were drugging themselves,” she says. “Did I drug anyone? Never in my life. Did I know the girls were doing it? One hundred percent. That’s why I got conspiracy charges.”
While the movie clearly takes creative liberties with the Hustlers story, first reported by Jessica Pressler in New York Magazine, the movie’s scope is bigger than the dancers at its center. A snapshot of the American economy at its highest sinking immediately to its lowest at the hands of the same greedy men these strippers scammed, it’s a celebration of sex workers turning the tables. It might not be 100% true to life, but it’s certainly timeless.