Since a 19-year-old Detroit stripper named Aziah King (aka Zola) tweeted out a story of epic proportions on Oct. 27, she captivated millions of online readers, including studios, producers, and even Missy Elliott, who wrote: "That Zola story wild. Ended up reading the whole thing like I was watching a movie on Twitter." A post at New York says the opening line—"Y'all wanna hear a story about why me & this b---- here fell out????????"—might be "one of the best first lines in recent literary history." But which parts of the crazy narrative about a weekend trip involving a manic depressive boyfriend, an overbearing pimp, prostitution, kidnapping, suicide, and shooting are fact instead of fiction? The Washington Post has interviewed police investigators and several main subjects (not counting Zola herself, who is presumably bombarded with interview requests from the press, but who wouldn't comment to the Post) to give a detailed account.
If you've read the full story—it's here, but note that the language and content is rough—rest assured no one was shot in the face or jumped off a fourth-floor balcony. But the real story is as grim as Zola's telling was gripping, involving actual human trafficking, forced prostitution, rape and other forms of physical and psychological assault on what began as a last-minute road trip to Tampa to make more money stripping. "While [Zola's] story may have seemed 'crazy,' however, and while [Zola] herself is hilarious, there’s nothing unusual (or funny) about its sheer level of violence," writes Caitlin Dewey at the Post. "People think this story is fake, but they need to have an open mind," one victim says. "All that stuff you see on TV, on SVU—that’s real. It happens. It happened to me." Next up: a movie version? King has said there's interest. (Raids on a network of sex traffickers in the southeastern US last week spanned eight states.)