The first time Jennifer Lopez struts onscreen in Hustlers is a freakin’ revelation. As Ramona, the veritable queen of her seedy domain, she’s introduced to audiences in a glittering, silver, floor-length coat and hat, both of which she soon ditches as she begins a flashy, acrobatic pole dancing routine (which will make your abs sore just from watching it). She spins. She twirls. She flips upside down. She revels in the tidal wave of dollar bills thrown her way. And this is all set to a song that might at first seem unexpected, if not bizarre, before you realize there’s nothing else that could have quite done Ramona justice: Fiona Apple’s “Criminal.”
“Doesn’t money make you horny?” she says afterward, clutching an armful of money to her glistening chest as she walks by Constance Wu’s Destiny, the club’s newest and most naive dancer, before heading back to the dressing room. It’s everything you need to know about Ramona distilled into one perfect, sexy opener.
“This is the first time you see my character. It’s sexy, it’s dangerous,” Lopez explained of the scene during a video diary documenting her crash course in pole dancing. “[Ramona] has the whole game on lock. From what she does [in the club], to how she treats these people and how she talks to them . . . I’m going for ‘get money.’ These guys come in here, and they want sexy, slutty, dirty fantasy.”
The mini-documentary shows just how hard Lopez worked on Ramona’s opening routine, earning plenty of bruises to her legs and arms in the process. But in the end she admits it was totally worth it, adding a level of authenticity to Ramona’s grit. Apple’s haunting 1996 track, off her album Tidal, is a genius choice for the scene as well. Rather than having Ramona writhing around to a base-heavy party song, she moves to lyrics like, “I’ve been a bad, bad girl,” and “What I need is a good defense / Cause I’m feelin’ like a criminal.” (Hopefully you don’t need me to tell you why those lyrics resonate.)
Want to relive the moment? Press play on Apple’s “Criminal” ahead, and then keep scrolling to see Ramona doing her thing in GIFs.