Five years after her wild story about strippers, murder, and the Florida road trip from hell first went viral, Zola is officially ready to take her story to the big screen. On Thursday, August 6, A24 released the first teaser trailer for Zola, based on the 2015 Twitter thread by Aziah "Zola" Wells. And it promises to be just as wild and suspenseful as the original tale.
While the clip doesn't give much away about the plot of them film — or even a potential release date, simply teasing that Zola is "Coming Soon" — the teaser does give audiences their first look at the film's charismatic titular character, played by Taylour Page. Set to the sound of delicate harp music, the teaser finds Zola and Stefani (Riley Keough) primping in a room full of mirrors as they get ready for a big night out. "On October 27, 2015, @_zolarmoon tweeted the following... " reads some onscreen text, before Paige narrates the infamous tweet that started it all.
"You wanna hear a story about how me and this b*tch here fell out?" she says, in voiceover "It's kind of long, but it's full of suspense." After that, some more onscreen text promises that "Most of what follows is true," as the pair perfect their lipstick before they become distracted by the sounds of social media notifications, while a Twitter "heart" flashes onscreen. In other words, it seems that the trailer — like the film — will pay homage to Wells and the wild social media story that made her a sensation.
Back in 2015, Wells — who was then working as a Hooters waitress and exotic dancer — shared a 148-tweet thread telling the story about a road trip she took to Florida with a fellow stripper named Jessica, as well as Jessica's then-boyfriend, Jarrett, and their roommate, who Wells refers to as "Z" in the story. (All three of their names appear to have been changed for the movie.) What began as a trip to make some extra money by entertaining a new audience quickly becomes a wild ride that includes prostitution, murder, and attempted suicide. The thread went massively viral, with celebrities like Missy Elliot and Ava Duvernay praised Wells' storytelling and sharing the tweets with their followers.
Though some of the events Wells recounted in her Twitter thread were questioned by the other people involved — and Wells herself admitted to "embellishing some of the more sensational details" in a Rolling Stone interview published a month later — the story itself became the Internet's favorite topic of conversation for months afterwards. “I made people who probably wouldn’t want to hear a sex trafficking story want to be a part of it, because it was entertaining," Wells told Rolling Stone, adding that she had tweeted and deleted the story twice before it finally caught people's attention. "[Trafficking is] common and it happens. It could happen to anyone."
Soon after Wells' Twitter thread blew up, rumors of a film adaptation began swirling; in February 2016, Variety reported that James Franco would direct Zola, though his version of the film never began into production. In June 2018, Lemon director Janicza Bravo replaced him as the director and Paige was cast shortly afterwards. "I mean, it’s just a young woman, black, hustling, doing what you have to do to get what you want to get," Paige told Wonderland in January about what drew her to the role of Zola.
"I wanted to be pushed out of my comfort zone, and I was finding my confidence in surrendering to being lost a little bit," she continued, adding that Bravo took care to balance out the story's more outrageous moments. "It’s a black female lead, it’s not over-simplified, and [the character of Zola] is beautiful because she’s real," Paige said. "The film looks at the minutia of a black girl doing her hair; what she wears; the things she says — like, those little intimate moments that [show] a fully realized human being, regardless of what she does."