A’Ziah King's 148-tweet thread went massively viral in October 2015, partly because the events she described were unbelievable and partly because she's an incredible storyteller. The entire internet devoured Zola's tale with voyeuristic interest, even as it took dangerous and upsetting turns. It was easy to compartmentalize the dark adventure in 140-character increments. Even though it was supposedly true, the dramatic story had the feel of hyperbole.
Six years later, the wild Twitter saga is a major motion picture, Zola, starring Taylour Paige in the titular role and Riley Keough as "this bitch" she fell out with. Reviews from the Sundance Film Festival called it “wildly entertaining” and a “crazy-ass ride.” But as The Daily Beast reports, a young woman who was entrapped by Jessica Swiatkowski and her "pimp," Akporode “Rudy” Uwedjojevwe, right after Zola escaped their schemes says that the movie trivializes the real terrors of sex trafficking.
“There’s nothing glamorous about this,” Jessica Forgie told The Daily Beast. “It’s kind of mind-blowing that someone actually finds humor in that. This is entertaining and funny to you? What about the reason why he’s in prison? They’re leaving it out and they just make it look like it’s all fun and games. It wasn’t fun and games.”
When she was 19, Forgie and a friend wound up broke and stranded in Nevada while returning from a cross-country road trip. The friend, Breeonna Pellow, messaged Swiatkowski for help. A limo arrived to take them to the Reno airport, but it soon became clear that Swiatkowski and Uwedjojevwe were flying to meet them. "It all went way downhill after that. [Jessica] was not innocent, and neither was my friend," Forgie said.
The women were taken to Reno’s Atlantis Casino Resort, where Uwedjojevwe pressured both Forgie and Pellow to prostitute themselves along with Swiatkowski. When Forgie refused, he confiscated her phone, and then sexually assaulted her after she pleaded to go home. When Uwedjojevwe went into the bathroom, Forgie managed to escape.
"I took that as my time to run," she told The Daily Beast. "I left the doors open; I ran for the elevator. He wasn’t behind me at that time, but he must have realized, 'Oh my god, I just left her alone.' I ran down to the front desk and said, 'I need your guys' help.' I felt a hand on my shoulder and when I turned around, it was him. I said, 'Get the fuck away from me. Do not touch me… you are going down.' Well, he ran out the doors."
Uwedjojevwe was subsequently apprehended by police and charged with sexual assault, battery, two counts of trafficking, and two counts of attempted pandering with threat of physical force. He plead guilty to two charges, sex trafficking and coercion, and was sentenced to 16 years in prison. But just five years later, Uwedjojevwe is eligible for parole, which Forgie said terrified her. She claimed that during his trial, Uwedjojevwe had put a hit out on her. Authorities apprehended the alleged hitman before anything went down, but only when the suspect was three blocks from her house.
Forgie said she thinks King should have done more to protect other women, rather than cashing in on the entertainment value of her tale. "If the roles were reversed, I would definitely make it known that this is out there," she said. "It’s supposed to be a fun indie movie, but people need to know that sex trafficking is out there. Bad people are out there."