“Okay listen up. This story long. So I met this white bitch at hooters …”, were the words that kicked off a 148-tweet story authored by Aziah “Zola” Wells on October 27, 2015. Two girls, a pimp and a disenchanted boyfriend all piled into a car en route to sunny Florida, and a trip for two strippers to make money quickly escalated into prostitution, a suicide attempt and murder.
Hashtagged as #THEStory, Aziah’s posts instantly went viral and celebrity tweeters like Missy Eliot couldn’t get enough of her tale. Fans dressed as Zola for Halloween and parody movie posters were photoshopped based on the story. Aziah claimed that the tweets were slightly embellished, but stands by the fact that the story was based on real events.
Zola was working as a waitress at a Detroit-area Hooters restaurant. As a waitress, she often engages in conversations with customers. This is how she met “the white bitch” Jessica. Through their conversation she learns that Jessica was a exotic dancer, a profession Zola, herself, was involved in off and on. Jessica suggests that the girls should dance together sometime and they both exchange numbers. The following day Zola receives a text message from Jessica, “BITCH LETS GO TO FLORIDA!”
Zola was reluctant to accompany Jessica on her trip since the pair had just met, but remembered a trip she had made to Florida a few months prior and came back with $15,000 she had made dancing there. Jessica told her that her boyfriend, Jarrett, and her roommate, “Z”, would be coming along with them. In spite of her apprehensions, Zola agreed to accompany them in order to make some quick cash.
Zola had just discovered that she was expecting a child and with a new baby on the way she could use the money she made dancing. Zola’s boyfriend was less than thrilled about her making the trip, for obvious reasons. In Aziah’s own words, she had to “fuck him calm” before grabbing her bags and climbing into the car with Jessica, Jarrett, and a hulking black man, who introduced himself as Jessica’s roommate.
The gang arrives in Florida and the girls leave Jarrett in some rathole motel while they head off to the club. Zola’s disappointed with how they make out that night, but she still manages to pull in $800 before prompting Jessica to call Jarrett to pick them up. Instead she calls up Z, her roommate. Zola asks Jessica what was going on between the two of them and Jessica confides in her that Z used to “take care of her”, code for Z used to be her pimp. Zola wants nothing to do with all that, but doesn’t judge Jessica for her past decisions.
Z pulls up to the club and Jessica tells Zola to hide her money in her bra because Z was going to ask how much they made that night. When he asks, both girls lie and say that made nothing. Z says his fiancée who lived down in Florida, didn’t make anything either and the trio drive to pick her up from another club. Once she enters the car Z turns and says, “nobody made shit. Y’all wanna trap?”, which Zola explains is another way of asking them if they wanted to turn tricks.
Jessica is immediately on board with the idea and asks Z if he has any clients. Z takes the girls to a much nicer hotel than the one they left Jarrett at and hands Jessica a pre-paid phone, which Zola calls a “trap phone.” Once the girls are in the room, Zola confronts Jessica, outraged that she would want her to engage in prostitution with her. Jessica cries and begs Zola to stay.
Then there’s a knock at the door. It’s Jessica’s first client. The man tells Zola that he was there for the white girl and proceeds to have sex with Jessica right there in front of Zola, then hands her $100 and leaves. Zola is disgusted that Jessica is selling herself for so low. Jessica says that she doesn’t make the prices, but Zola convinces her that she should be charging a $500 minimum. She could pocket the extra money without Z being the wiser.
Jessica meets with close to 20 clients according to Zola, when suddenly he boyfriend calls. Jarrett is in a rage and demands to know where the girls are. She says that they’re staying at a hotel by the club and they’ll be home in the morning, but Jarrett knows what’s going on and starts cursing out both Jessica and Zola.
Jessica’s pimp returns and asks Jessica how much she made. She gives Zola $500 for helping her secure some clients through backpage and Jessica’s pimp keeps the rest of the $5,500 she made that night. The girls are then dropped back off at the hotel Jarrett had been staying. They find him outside smoking pot, accompanied by a black man with dreadlocks. Jarrett tells the guy all about what Jessica was out doing the night prior. Jessica and Jarrett start fighting and Zola makes her way to the pool.
Zola returns and the couple are still fighting. Jessica’s pimp calls the trap phone and tells Zola to set up some more clients for Jessica that night. Zola helps Jessica with her makeup and places up the new ad. Jarrett is livid and takes a screen shot of the Backpage ad and uses Jessica’s phone to post it to her Facebook. Jessica is mortified because all of her friends and family are on there and may have seen the post.
Jessica’s pimp arrives and grabs Jarrett by the neck. Jarrett is crying and pulls out a gun, but Jessica asks him to just beat him up. Z then proceeds to have sex with Jessica in front of Jarrett and demands that he takes her to all her outcalls. Jarrett is crying, but agrees to go along with the plan because he is fearful of what Z may do to him.
Jarrett and Zola wait in the car as they drive Jessica to meet with a number of different clients. As Jessica is meeting with her last client, the phone rings. It’s a man asking for two girls, but Zola explains that she only has one available. He offers $2000 for Jessica to meet him in a room with four men. Jessica’s nervous about the job and asks Zola to wait in the hallway in case something happens.
Jessica knocks on the door and a man asks who’s there. Jessica sweetly says “incall” and the door flings open. Two men snatch her up and drag her into the room. Zola saw what happened and runs to the car to tell Jarrett. When she gets to the parking lot, Jarrett was gone. He pulls up several minutes later and she wants to know where he went, as he was specifically instructed not to leave. He says he just got thirsty and stopped at a nearby gas station for a drink. Zola tells him what happened with Jessica and they discuss calling the police.
Zola, having a gun in her pocket, realized that calling the police wasn’t a possibility. They would have to call Z.
Z pulls up and is livid. He storms up to the room and pounds on the door. A voice inside calls “who is it?”, Z yells into the door, “where my bitch man?” The other man says that she isn’t in there, but as he’s answering they hear Jessica scream. A man opens the door and it happens to be the same black guy with dreadlocks the girls had seen smoking marijuana with Jarrett earlier back at the hotel.
The dreadlock guy is a rival pimp and offers Z $20,000 to buy Jessica out. He was angry that she had been stealing work from his girls. Neither Zola or Jarrett can see what’s going on in the room, but she says she heard some shuffling and then a gunshot. Z emerges from the room, running with Jessica slung on his shoulder.
They jump into the car and make their way to the hotel. Jessica is badly beaten, but she’s alright. Z tells the group that one of the guys in the room reached for a gun and he had no choice but to shoot him in the face.
The next morning, Z is counting up the money Jessica brought in and tells Zola and Jarrett that he has two tickets for them to fly home. Jarrett refuses to go home without Jessica, but Jessica insists that he go back home and that she’ll meet him there in a few days. Jarrett is upset and crying and Jessica attempts to console him. Suddenly he stands up and starts running as fast as he could towards the balcony and jumps. Luckily he is caught by his pants and Z is forced to come help him. He slaps Jarrett in the face and walks him and Zola to the car waiting to take them to the airport.
Four days after her and Jarrett get home to Detroit, Zola gets a call. It’s Jessica calling from Vegas. Her and Z were picked up. Jessica was charged for prostitution and Z was wanted for six counts of murder, including in Florida, and the kidnap of 15 underage girls. She hung up the phone. Since then Z has been sentenced to life in prison, while Jessica has made a fresh start for herself back in Detroit.
Fact or Fiction?
The Washington Post writer Caitlin Dewey set out to investigate the story and distinguish which parts were true and which parts had been slightly embellished. Most of Aziah’s story was confirmed as true. As for Z, he has been identified as Akporode Uwedjojevwe A/K/A Rudy. Currently he is being held on a number of charges ranging from trafficking to sexual assault. He is due for court in January.
Jessica has denied the story, saying that the Zola story is mostly a work of fiction. Jessica claims that it was Aziah who had been prostituting herself in Florida and Jessica agreed to stay because she was scared. Others have backedup up Aziah’s claims, reporting that similar situations had occurred between themselves and Jessica.
While the story is primarily boiling down to he said/she said drama, both Aziah and Jessica hope that the story can help girls out there who think that forced or coerced prostitution could never happen to them. Though not all prostitutes have been forced into the profession, according to statistics published on the website Equality Now, nearly 20.9 million adults and children are sold into sex slavery worldwide.
Aziah claims that since the story went viral she has received a number of offers by publishers looking to give her a book deal and talks of a full-length feature film may be in the works.