'Zola' Is The First Movie Inspired By A Twitter Thread — Here's How It Went Down

by Elisha Beach
 Woman surrounded by twitter symbols
Rich Polk/Getty/Scary Mommy

Back in 2015, Twitter threads were not quite a thing. Yet, A’Ziah King, better known to her followers and fans as Zola, wrote a 148-tweet thread that started with “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me and this b*tch fell out?” The tweet thread chronicled a (mostly) true tale of a road trip to a strip club in Florida that ended in a shootout. And if that first tweet didn’t hook you, I am here to tell you it is definitely worth the read. (You can read an archived version of the Twitter thread on Imgur.)

To say the tweet thread went viral is an understatement because viral tweets weren’t really a thing yet, either. Nonetheless, the epic thread became known as #TheStory, and in November of the same year, King gave a tell-all interview with Rolling Stone. Now, six years later, “Zola” has premiered as the first-ever movie adapted from a series of tweets, and A’Ziah King is credited as an executive producer.

The story is an emotional rollercoaster filled with money, sex, sex workers, pimps, finances, mental health issues, sex trafficking, and even murder. And whew child, it’s a lot. King told Rolling Stone, “I made people who probably wouldn’t want to hear a sex trafficking story want to be a part of it,” she says, “because it was entertaining.”

King’s rendition of the story on Twitter is raw, unapologetic, and highly addictive. It’s like a train wreck you can’t look away from. The story starts with her meeting Jessica Rae Swiatkowski at a Hooters, and they strike up a conversation. They are “vibing over hoeism or whatever” and exchange numbers. The next day Jessica texts her, “Bitch Lets go to Florida,” and King says she is down. And then the rollercoaster ride begins.

King wants to know who is going on the trip, and Jessica says her boyfriend and roommate. Well, it’s not long before King finds out the so-called roommate is actually Jessica’s pimp. Yes, you read that correctly…Jessica is on this trip with her boyfriend and pimp. And as you probably guessed, this is the catalyst for more than one problem on this trip.

And trust me, this is not the heavy stuff. The 148-tweet thread is a treasure trove of hot mess. But I will leave you to decide if you will read the real crazy parts of this Twitter-feed before diving into the movie. Just know the story is absolutely brash. It will definitely trigger anyone who has experienced any sexual violence, abuse, assault, and many other things. But if you love to hear a juicy, salacious story, grab your fav cocktail and settle in.

However, as off the rails as this Twitter thread is, there is something to be said about the fact that A’Ziah King, aka Zola, has been long honored as the originator of this story, and she was brought on board to contribute to the telling of her story. Unfortunately, we must acknowledge how rare it is that a sex worker’s story and Black women’s story make it to the Hollywood screen without being completely co-opted from the original creator.

Director Janicza Bravo and writer Jeremy O’Harris felt it was essential to keep her text as the “king that ruled over every decision.” There is even a Twitter whistle sound effect anytime there is a direct quote from King’s Twitter thread in the movie. Bravo sees it as “a nod and a bow to her and to her source material.” And the truth is, you have to give King credit for her captivating writing skills, no matter what your opinions of her may be.

Retaining the spirit of her original Twitter thread was very important to King. She told Time Magazine, “We already have a lot of misrepresentation when it comes to sex work. 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…I wanted it to be a proper representation for just Black women in general—for sex workers, for Black sex workers.”

Currently, King is actively participating in the promotion of “Zola.” She is also promoting the release of her book “The Story” that recounts the 148-tweet thread. She resides in Atlanta, Georgia, and is the mother of two girls. On Instagram, she lists herself as a writer, artist, songwriter, and philanthropist.

As for what the future holds for her, King shared with Time Magazine, “I am willing to continue on this career path. I mean, I have the content. I have the talent. …[S]o I’m hoping that I continue writing in some way.”