(Actresses Riley Keough and Taylour Paige portray Stephani and Zola)
“Y’all wanna hear a story about why me and this b***h here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense,” the tweets begin. Zola caught the attention of tweeters worldwide when a series of posts led readers on a wild ride that would last just a weekend, but impact a culture for years to come. A story of sex, exotic dancing, and mishaps follow two women to
Florida on a mission of “hoeism” and adventure.
In October 2015, a user lit the app on fire with a thread of 148 tweets telling a story that was too hot for tv. What seemed like true fiction took over newsfeeds and dominated conversations across the Twitterverse. A true story based out of Detroit, exotic dancer A’Ziah King, known as Zola, recounts how one customer changed the course of her life while working as a waitress. Played by actress Taylour Paige, Zola grabs the attention of viewers from the opening credits, similar to the tweets the movie depicts.
“It’s totally that first line. The first line of the Twitter is ‘do y’all wanna hear a story about why me and this b***h here fell out?’ To me, that’s just a great opening. It’s like cannon-grade. It’s the opening of Lolita. It’s the opening of among Dick. It’s like that level,” says writer and director Janicza Bravo.
Their first encounter was a meeting during King’s shift at a Detroit Hooters restaurant. The two become fast friends and embarked on a journey both would remember for a lifetime. Zola goes on a road trip with new friend Stephani, played by actress Riley Keough, who talks the exotic dancer into making some quick cash on a weekend getaway. Remembering everything that glitters is not gold, Zola finds herself involved with an unidentifiable pimp, Stephani’s ill-guided boyfriend, and thugs looking to bring a permanent end to the stress-filled weekend.
Taking the tweets, digging into the emotion and grit of the story and turning them into a real-life cinematic production took time to develop. The movie, while based on true events, shows a story of womanhood, dominance and grit. It’s also a story of friendship with two women who are starkly different, but similar. Zola brings an authentic air to the screen and does not attempt to capture the same energy evoked October 2015, but allows the content to relay the message.
“The thing we discussed a lot is how do we replicate the electric nature of what happened on Twitter, and the thing is we couldn’t. We were never going to do that,” says Bravo. “Her story is just so purposive and inherently has this vibe that the whole thing is just jumping at you and demanding of you and asking you to engage.”
In an effort to present her character fully, Paige immersed herself into the storyline. A classically trained dancer, one concern was appearing too technical on-screen. Getting a job in a Los Angeles strip club and studying the dancers, Paige worked in the club for a month under a pseudonym to understand the dance life.
“Riley and Taylour are phenomenal. Taylour was the first person cast and I loved working with her so much because she wanted to bring this authenticity and it was an authenticity I hadn’t fully thought out,” says Bravo.
As the movie is set to hit screens, fans will not have to wonder where Zola, Stephani and the others involved in that weekend trip to Tampa, are today. Currently, the real Zola, A’Ziah King, is living in Atlanta and is a mother to two girls. She released an album in 2021 entitled “Zola” as reported by PopSugar. Stephani, real name Jessica, was last reported in Detroit living as a mother.
Before the film debuts in theaters, the writer and star of the film are giving fans a more in-depth look into Zola. A new book, “The Story,” features a foreword by Roxane Gay and an afterword by Janicza Bravo, and gives readers an in-hand copy of the tweets that defined a moment in Twitter history.
“Zola,” the film, hits theaters on June 30.
Original Twitter thread: https://m.imgur.com/a/WDwyW