Real-Life Stripper Who Inspired Jennifer Lopez’ Hustlers Character Is Suing For Millions

Jennifer Lopez as Ramona in Hustlers
(Image credit: (STX Entertainment))

When movies take on the “inspired by a true story” element, there’s a certain credibility that comes along with it from the audiences’ perspective. That is, until someone involved in the events being portrayed inevitably comes forward. One real-life character from The Irishman recently came forward about the inaccuracies in Martin Scorsese’s masterpiece, and now the woman who Jennifer Lopez’s Ramona is based on is filing a federal lawsuit against the Hustlers producers for $40 million.

When Hustlers first came out, Samantha Barbash made her distaste for the movie quite well-known. Now, the real-life Ramona is suing Jennifer Lopez’s Nuyorican Productions, as well as STX Entertainment, Gloria Sanchez Productions and Pole Sisters LLC. According to court documents obtained by People, Barbash claims Hustlers “exploits” her likeness and defames her character.

Samantha Barbash also claims that the producers in Hustlers reached out to her to “obtain a consent and waiver” for the production of the Golden Globe-nominated film and “their ultimate portrayal,” but she refused due to the compensation being offered to her. Barbash is particularly sour over one scene in Hustlers that she claims is defamatory since it portrays her “using and manufacturing illegal substances in her home where she lived with her child.”

The former stripper is seeking $20 million in compensatory damages and $20 million in punitive damages with her lawsuit against Hustlers. It's worth noting that the movie doesn’t use her name in the movie and implements an “inspired by a true story” billing with a few creative liberties made to the story. The movie was adapted by writer/director Lorene Scafaria from a 2015 New York Magazine titled “The Hustlers at Scores.” It was a big hit at the box office – making $157.3 million worldwide on a reported $20 million production budget.

Previously, Samantha Barbash has said she “wasn’t that impressed” with Hustlers, saying that Jennifer Lopez’s portrayal of her was nothing like her own. She said if Cardi B played her, she might have done a better job, especially considering the rapper used to be a stripper herself and knows the business. Jennifer Lopez recently admitted she considered becoming a stripper before her career took off, but ultimately never took up the profession.

The actress spent months prepping on a pole to nail the moves in the movie. Samantha Barbash said she didn’t know how to do the moves J-Lo did in the movie either. She found it “a little degrading” that the actress didn’t reach out to her ahead of playing her. On the other hand, Roselyn “Rosie” Keo, who Constance Wu’s character of Destiny is based on, attended the Toronto Film Festival with the cast for the film’s premiere.

Hustlers follows the lives of a group of strippers who decide to turn the tables on their Wall Street clients by drugging them and nabbing their credit cards for their own gain. Samantha Barbash and Roselyn “Rosie” Keo were sentenced to five years of probation following the criminal acts.

Submit your picks for the biggest 2020 Golden Globes snubs here! Hustlers is now available on Blu-ray, DVD and digitally.

Sarah El-Mahmoud
Staff Writer

Sarah El-Mahmoud has been with CinemaBlend since 2018 after graduating from Cal State Fullerton with a degree in Journalism. In college, she was the Managing Editor of the award-winning college paper, The Daily Titan, where she specialized in writing/editing long-form features, profiles and arts & entertainment coverage, including her first run-in with movie reporting, with a phone interview with Guillermo del Toro for Best Picture winner, The Shape of Water. Now she's into covering YA television and movies, and plenty of horror. Word webslinger. All her writing should be read in Sarah Connor’s Terminator 2 voice over.