Jennifer Lopez: Original Stripper sues for $40m
Samantha Barbash, the former stripper who inspired Jennifer Lopez’s character in the hit drama Hustlers, is suing the companies behind the film for $40m. Barbash alleges her character and likeness have been exploited and is seeking $20m compensation and $20m in punitive damages. Court documents show Barbash is targeting production company STX and Lopez’s own Nuyorican Productions.
The film, based on a New York magazine article, tells the story of a group of strippers who developed a scheme to steal money from their clients. Lopez’s performance as Ramona Vega, the ringleader, has secured her Golden Globe and SAG award nominations.
Barbash was approached by the film’s producers about her involvement but she claims they offered her “peanuts”. In the suit, Barbash alleges they tried to “obtain a consent and waiver” but she refused to sign it. Barbash also alleges she has been defamed in the film, which shows Lopez’s character “using and manufacturing illegal substances in her home where she lived with her child”.
The suit reads: “Defendants did not take caution to protect the rights of Ms Barbash by creating a fictionalised character, or by creating a composite of characters to render J-Lo’s character a new fictitious one; rather they engaged in a systematic effort to make it well-known that J-Lo was playing Ms Barbash.”
Barbash was placed on probation for five years after pleading guilty to conspiracy, assault and grand larceny. When the film was released to great acclaim and a $157m total at the global box office, Barbash told Vanity Fair she wasn’t a fan.
“I wasn’t really that impressed,” she said. “I was impressed with Jennifer. She was incredible. Her body looked incredible. She had it down to a tee, but it wasn’t factual.”
Roselyn Keo, who inspired Constance Wu’s lead character, chose to support the release at its Toronto film festival premiere and has written a memoir called The Sophisticated Hustler.
Lopez and the companies at the centre of the suit have yet to respond.