The Robin Hoods of Hustlers don’t wear little green rompers and pointy hats. Actually, the Robin Hoods of Hustlers don’t wear much at all. But the strippers in Hustlers have the same goal as that jolly young figure in English mythology: Steal from the rich (wealthy men who visit their club) and give to the poor (themselves).
Hustlers, out September 13, turns the scheme made famous in Jessica Pressler’s New York article, “The Hustlers at Scores,” into the focus of a high-octane film. As the story goes, hostess Samantha Barbash (in Hustlers, Jennifer Lopez’s Ramona) was the ringleader of a scheme to party with stripclub’s clients, spike their drinks with drugs, and swipe their credit cards ruthlessly.
Before Keo started stripping, she was a high-school dropout working as a waitress. Professional dancing provided a much-needed windfall for the 17-year-old. On most nights, she could rack in $1000 dollars. When a certain man from Guggenheim Partners came into the club, she’d get a guaranteed $10k. Keo eventually left the business, but was compelled to start dancing again after having a daughter.
That’s when she reconnected with Barbash, who by then had moved on to another venture. She called it “fishing.” In 2013, Barbash and Keo, along with strippers Marsi Rosen and Karina Pascucci, begin a pattern of “party, drug, steal, repeat.” Keo was meticulous in keeping records of who they met with, what they spent, and what they bought. “I treated it like a real business,” she told New York.
The ring especially preyed on married men, relying on their sense of shame to not report high credit card charges. But their party didn’t last long. In 2014, a year after a cardiologist named Dr. Zyad Younan reported $135,000 in credit card charges to authorities, Keo and co. were arrested.
After taking a plea deal, Keo avoided jail time and spent five years on probation. Keo has since left her club days behind. Now, she’s a stay-at-home mom in theNew York area, where she lives with her daughter and her daughter’s father. Keo is no longer in touch with Barbash.
With the Hustlers’ release, Keo is becoming a public figure in her own right. Keo’s 20-week-old Instagram is proof of her new, starstruck life. She partied with the movie’s stars at the Toronto Film Festival. She went backstage at a J.Lo concert backstage. She landed a celebrity bestie; her selfies with Wu belie their close relationship. Her counterpart Barbash, however, has not met the film with the same praise.
If the movie and New York article aren’t enough, hear side Keo’s unfiltered side the story in her brand new book The Sophisticated Hustler, out in September.
Ultimately, know this: Keo doesn’t want you to admire her character in Hustlers. In a recent interview with New York, Keo admits she thinks it’s “crazy” that people are rooting for her. But the undeniable truth is that people are rallying around Keo and the women of Hustlers, gaining support in unexpected places.
Case in point: The other day, my grandma asked me if I had heard of “that strippers movie.” I had. Naturally, I asked what she thought of the women’s actions. Without hesitating, she said, “I think it’s great. Why shouldn’t they? The guys were taking advantage of them, so they might as well use their credit cards.”
As far as I know, my grandma has not been involved in a crime ring (though she does follow Billions religiously and thus is pretty rock ‘n’ roll, as grandmas go). Something about Destiny’s story in Hustlers, though, brings out the inner grifter. What would we do if we could get away with it?
Here’s what we can root for, guilt-free: Seeing Keo thrive in 2019. She sure seems to be.