Meet The Hustlers Cast & The Real People That Inspired Their Characters

Every once in a while a movie comes along and the cast is so stacked with amazing people you just have to see it — and it’s even better when the cast is predominantly women. Hustlers —  which is loosely based on a true story about strippers, well, hustling — features some of our favorite actresses ever, along with a few up and coming actresses who have only just begun to make names for themselves (and we can’t wait to see where they go next). The Hustlers cast is so great, you’re either going to want to be one of the women in the movie, or be friends with all the women in the movie just to be in their presence... criminal element aside. 

Hustlers, which is inspired by The Cut’s story “The Hustlers at Score,” follows a single mom, Destiny (played by Constance Wu), who turns to stripping to support her family. She meets a veteran stripper, Ramona (Jennifer Lopez), and the two start working together to really bring in the big bucks. And I mean like, huge bucks. The two set out on a long-con, with a handful of other accomplices, to literally take the men of New York City for all their worth, or as much as they can max out on their credit cards. It’s a story of stealing from the rich to give to themselves. Or as the original The Cut article called them, "modern day Robin Hoods."


Here’s a who’s who on the big screen, and who they're based on in real life.

Photo: Courtesy of STX Films.

Constance Wu As Destiny/Dorothy

Wu has been steadily acting for the last decade but it was her breakout role in ABC’s Fresh off the Boat playing mom Jessica Huang that really put her on the map. Following last summer’s Crazy Rich Asians, Wu became a household name as the movie turned into a bonafide phenomenon. And sure, maybe she’s gone off a few times on Twitter, but who hasn’t?

The Real Destiny A.k.a. Roselyn Keo

In the movie, we meet Wu's Destiny, single mom who takes up stripping to support her family. As you know by now, the character concocts a scheme with Jennifer Lopez's Ramona to steal from rich men. 

Destiny isn't a real person, but she is inspired by Roselyn Keo, who goes by The Sophisticated Hustler on Instagram and who's been living her best life since promo for the film began.
Photo: Courtesy of STX Films.

Jennifer Lopez 

Plays Ramona Vega

Whether you know her best as J.Lo or Jenny from the Block, Lopez has been a household name for decades now. She started off as a R&B singer, wore that dress to the Grammys, and then transitioned into making some of the most cherished rom-coms ever in cinematic history before returning back to music. And also a stint on television, to. She’s constantly reinventing herself and her role in Hustlers is already gaining Oscar buzz. 

The Real Ramona Vega A.k.a. Samantha Barbash

Lopez's character is a seasoned stripper who has starts mentoring younger strippers. She later hatches a scam to steal thousands of dollars from their clients. 

Like Destiny, Ramona is a character inspired by a real person, Samantha Barbash. On Instagram she goes by Miss Foxita and she's not all that thrilled with the movie's interpretation of her story.
Photo: Courtesy of STX Films.

Cardi B As Diamond

You probably know Cardi B, but if you don’t, here goes: she’s a rapper and only the second woman to earn the #1 spot with a solo rap song for “Bodak Yellow.” Her private life is very public with her on-and-off again relationship with Offset, and they have a daughter, Kulture. She also used to be a stripper herself and has openly talked about her time doing that before making it in the music industry. 

The Real Diamond a.k.a. Cardi B

Cardi's character is a Bronx-born stripper who mentors Wu's Destiny. She's not based on anyone in the original Hustlers scheme. Instead, she is actually loosely based on Cardi B’s own stripping career
Photo: GP Images/Getty Images.

Keke Palmer As Mercedes

Palmer got her start playing the titular Akeelah in Akeelah and the Bee, and that lead to a starring role in Nickelodeon’s True Jackson, VP. She also had recurring roles in the first 90210 revival, Scream Queens, Masters of Sex, Star, and MTV’s latest Scream reboot. 

The Real Mercedes A.k.a. Marsi Rosen

In the movie, Mercedes is one of Destiny and Ramona's two right-hand women, helping them get the whole operation off the ground along with the help of Lili Reinhart's Annabelle.

Mercedes is loosely based on Marsi Rosen, who unlike her fellow cohorts, is staying out of the spotlight, even as the film saunters towards theaters.
Photo: GP Images/Getty Images.
Julia Stiles As The Journalist, Elizabeth

Stiles was THE It Teen in the late 1990s, after appearing in the cult-classic 10 Things I Hate About You opposite the late Heath Ledger. She then went to star in another cult-classic, Save the Last Dance, cementing herself as a true teen icon. That’s not all though, as she’s had a recurring role in the Bourne series opposite Matt Damon and also received a Emmy nod for her appearance in Showtime’s Dexter


The Real Elizabeth A.k.a. Jessica Pressler

In the movie, Elizabeth is a journalist who is tracking down the story about the Hustlers.

In real life, that journalist was actually Jessica Pressler (pictured center right with the real Annabelle, Karina Pascucci, on her Instagram), who covered the Hustlers story for New York Magazine's The Cut as a staff writer.  

She's also profiled Cynthia Nixon ahead of her campaign in New York State and took readers inside the mind of internet famed scammer Anna Delvey.

Photo: GP Images/Getty Images.

Lili Reinhart 

As Annabelle

If you are a tween, or know some tweens, then you’ve probably heard the name Lili Reinhart a thousand times before as she stars as Betty Cooper on The CW’s Riverdale. It’s also been a really confusing time for fans of Bughead shippers (Jughead Jones + Betty), as Reinhart’s off-screen romance with her costar Cole Sprouse has been front and center for the past few months. But now...they’re back together

The Real Annabelle aka Karina Pascucci

In the movie, Annabelle resembles what Reinhart's Riverdale character Betty Cooper might look like if she was a former strip club employee recruited to steal from the rich by Jennifer Lopez.

The "real" Annabelle is actually Karina Pascucci, who's brunette and not quite as doe-eyed as Annabelle. She's been enjoying the press around the film, and posed with Keo and Pressler at the film's premiere. She also loves a good selfie.
Photo: Paul Bruinooge/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images.


As Liz

Lizzo is our one true lord and savior and should be treated as such. Okay, while that’s not official — YET — she still deserves all the praise in the world for taking the music industry by storm this summer with a song she recorded two years ago. After making its way into Netflix’s Someone Great, Lizzo’s “Truth Hurts” is now sitting at the #1 spot on the Billboard chart and the singer’s popularity is only growing from there. Her recent VMA performance is required viewing. 

The Real Liz A.k.a. Lizzo

Lizzo plays a wise-cracking stripper who plays the flute. Lizzo is not a stripper, but her style doesn't stray far from her wardrobe in the film (she's literally posted photos with the same black x pasties from the movie), she is a twerking flute player, and the character's name is basically a chiller version of her actual name: Liz.
Photo: Michael Ostuni/Patrick McMullan/Getty Images.

Mercedes Ruehl as Mama

Mama doesn't have an exact real world counterpart, at least as far as we know.

Ruehl has had dozens of roles across film, television, and stage and has accumulated an Oscar, Tony, and a Golden Globe over the years. She’s recently had roles on Power, 2 Broke Girls, NCIS and appeared in Big and Married to the Mob

Photo: Frazer Harrison/Getty Images.

Trace Lysette as Tracey

Lysette is one of the first transgernder-women to appear in non-transgender role on television, playing Shea on Transparent. She’s recently appeared on RuPaul’s Drag Race as herself, FX’s Pose, and Drunk History

The Real Tracey... Doesn't Exist

There's not necessary a real Tracey, but Tracey's subplot involves the very real struggle of working as a stripper while trying to maintain a relationship with a jealous boyfriend.

And the character's name, Tracey, is clearly inspired by Lysette.
Photo: GP Images/Getty Images.

Madeline Brewer

As Dawn

Brewer has appeared in some of our favorite shows of the last few years, including Orange is the New Black, Black Mirror (in the episode “Men Against Fire”), and currently The Handmaid’s Tale playing Janine.

The Real Dawn A.k.a. "Marjorie"

Dawn is a late recruit to Ramona and Destiny's scheme, when the duo realize they need to outsource and bring in more help.

Dawn is most likely based on "Marjorie" from the original Hustlers article, who ended up confessing to fleecing the man who brought the whole operation down on tape (unbeknownst to her at the time, of course).
Photo: Walter McBride/Getty Images.

Steven Boyer 

As Doug [Bleep]

Boyer is part of the One Chicago family and currently stars as Jerry on Chicago Fire. Before that he appeared on NBC’s Trial & Error, Mom, and Orange is the New Black as Shady Jay the Super. He also has a Tony nomination for his work in the play Hand to God

The Real Doug A.k.a. "Fred"

Doug is the guy who brought the whole scheme down. In the movie, they call him "Doug [Bleep]" but in the original article, Pressler gave him another name: "Let's call him Fred" she wrote of the 40-something finance guy who called Keo pleading for her to credit back his mortgage payment.
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