“Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch right here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” That’s how then-19-year-old A’Ziah “Zola” King opened her viral 148-tweet thread in October 2015. It’s also the way the trailer for the new movie Zola, based on the thread, begins.
King’s thread, which became known as #TheStory, tells a wild tale involving a road trip to Florida, stripping, sex work, murder, and a wide variety of other unbelievable details. (Some of them are unbelievable because they’re exaggerated, but we’ll get to that.)
After the Twitter thread took the world by storm, the natural next step was for it to become a movie. The whole thing was pretty cinematic, after all, and packed with twists and turns. After some production changes and a delay due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Zola is finally being released on June 30. Here’s everything to know about the Twitter saga before you see the film adaptation.
King’s story is about a “ho trip” gone wrong.
King opened #TheStory with photos of herself and a woman named Jessica, who she had a falling-out with—to put it lightly. King said they met while she was working at a Hooters in Detroit and Jessica invited her to go strip at some clubs in Florida the next day. King joined her and quickly got mixed up in Jessica’s world.
King has a lot to say about their time together.
The entire Twitter thread has been preserved online, but the main points of the story are (1) King found out Jessica was a sex worker, (2) King briefly became her pimp, (3) Jessica’s actual pimp got involved in a violent altercation, and more. I won’t spoil the ending for anyone who plans to see the movie, but you can read the entire thread here.
King exaggerated some details.
Giving an account of the story to Rolling Stone soon after it went viral, King admitted to embellishing some of the details of the story to make it more entertaining. But Rolling Stone spoke to others who were involved, including Jessica and her boyfriend, who confirmed that the trip really did occur but just had differing accounts of parts of it. Jessica claimed that it was King who wanted to be paid for sex work, for one, which King denied.
She was involved in the production of the film.
Zola is directed by Janicza Bravo and cowritten by Bravo and Jeremy O. Harris. In an interview with Time, King explained that Bravo was a big supporter when it came to King being properly credited and the film maintaining the voice in the original tweets. “Janicza really wanted to make sure that she did it justice and kept it as authentic as possible,” King said. She said she also “got close” with Taylour Paige, who plays her character. The Jessica character, called Stefani in the film, is played by Riley Keough.
King wanted to make sure there was authenticity specifically because it’s a story about sex work. “We already have a lot of misrepresentation when it comes to sex work,” she told Time. “It’s either a bit too glamorized or a bit too dehumanized. So I think that keeping it accurate to my actual experience was the most necessary thing. These experiences are taboo still, but it’s such a norm, this is something that could happen to anyone at any time. I wanted it to be a proper representation for just Black women in general—for sex workers, for Black sex workers. I really wanted it to represent us in the way that it really goes down.”
She hopes to keep writing.
Being the first person to have a Twitter thread adapted into a feature film and being credited with popularizing the idea of a Twitter thread at all are major achievements for King. She hopes to continue telling her stories.
“I’m not necessarily, I don’t think, a playwright,” she told Time. “But I do really enjoy writing. And I have a lot of experiences that I think are worth sharing. So I would definitely love to continue writing in some way or producing in some way. That is the goal. I guess I’m good at it!”
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