NOTE: This spoiler was submitted by Alex
In 2007, Destiny (Constance Wu) begins her job at a strip club. As the new girl, she makes a little bit of money, but after having to pay out multiple people at the club, there’s not that much left over. She goes home to her grandmother who has raised her since she was abandoned by her mother as a child and uses the little money she has left to help take care of her.
In the present day, Destiny is being interviewed by Elizabeth (Julia Stiles), a reporter working on an article about everything that happened with the strippers. Destiny tells her about meeting Ramona Vega (Jennifer Lopez) – one day at the club, she witnesses Ramona doing an incredible strip routine and making dollars upon dollars. She follows her up to the roof where she’s smoking, and asks if she can have a light. Ramona wraps her in her fur coat since it’s cold, and the two get to know each other a bit. Ramona offers to help Destiny learn the craft of stripping and learn how to make big money. With the help of Diamond (Cardi B), she teaches her the moves, but she also teaches her about the way of the land: what kind of men will pay what and how to maximize profits. The two become very close, and Destiny meet’s Ramona’s young daughter who she’s single-handedly taking care of. Destiny takes after Ramona and starts doing very well financially, able to take care of her grandmother. She has clients buying her computers and taking excellent care of her. One night, Usher comes into the club, and the DJ plays Usher songs and all the girls – including Mercedes (Keke Palmer), Liz (Lizzo), Tracey (Trace Lysette) go out and dance for him. Destiny says it was one of the best times she ever had.
Then, in 2008, the recession hits and hits Wall Street especially hard. Wall Street types were the bread and butter of the industry, and now many of them either have no many to spend or spend much less. The club becomes a bit of a ghost town. Destiny meets and starts dating a man who quickly gets her pregnant and she stops working at the club.
In 2011, Destiny gets into a screaming breakup with her boyfriend and kicks him out for good. Now faced with providing for her daughter and her grandmother, Destiny calls her old client who bought her the computer – only to find he’s now married and can’t take give her anything. She tries to get a job in retail, but the interviewer finds her resume unimpressive. She reluctantly returns to the club, but finds it much different – the club mom (Mercedes Ruehl) explains that times have changed – many of her friends are gone, now replaced with Russian girls who will provide sexual favors (something the old girls didn’t do) for cheaper than ever, and business is low – there’s less money to be made.
Destiny is in an extremely low place when she runs into Ramona, and the two happily reunite. They got out to a diner to catch up. Ramona tells her what she’s been up to: Ramona and Mercedes had gotten regular jobs in retail, but the money was barely enough and Ramona’s boss is degrading to her. One night at the club, Ramona finds Annabelle (Lili Reinhart), crying alone in the dressing room. Her family has disowned her after finding out she works there. Ramona saw a business opportunity – to go “fishing”. Since there was no business in the club, she would go and find men to bring. She recruits Mercedes and Annabelle, and the three of them would go to a bar, find an eligible man, then ply him with drinks and bring him back to the club where they would run up his credit card and keep a percentage of whatever he spends. This worked pretty well, but sometimes Ramona would dose the man’s drink with a mix of ketamine and MDMA and then get him to the club and run up his credit card. Ramona asks Destiny if she wants in: she says yes, as long as no one gets hurt.
Everything goes well. Ramona, Destiny, Mercedes and Annabelle are making wads of cash. They end up needing to recruit more girls to the team in order to handle all the business. Ramona has a lavish Christmas party for everyone, and Destiny brings her grandmother. They all give each other presents and laugh together, a makeshift family. But soon, around 2013, other girls start copying their business plan at the club. Ramona wonders why they have to cut the clubs in on anything, and decides instead to instead begin working out of hotels or other venues they control – more money, but also less safety. They have to recruit even more girls who they can’t vet, like the shifty Dawn (Madeline Brewer). Ramona and Destiny argue over methods – Ramona will run up a guy’s credit card to the limit on the first night, assuring he’ll never come back, even though Destiny knows that man could have been a repeat client. Because of this, they burn through their regulars and have to find new, potentially untrustworthy clients.
One night, Destiny gets a panicked call from Mercedes. A client on drugs jumped off his roof and missed his pool, landing on the concrete. Destiny tries to reach Ramona, but can’t get a hold of her. Destiny and Annabelle go over and help Mercedes get the naked client into a car and they drop him off at the hospital. Destiny returns, in full a trashy outfit with blood on it, to drop her daughter off at school. After that full ordeal, she returns home to find her grandmother has passed away. At the funeral, Ramona holds Destiny as she cries.
Elizabeth asks Destiny if Doug was the last straw for her – Doug was a genuinely nice guy who had been through a terrible series of events – his house was destroyed in a disaster and his wife abandoned him and his special-needs child. After the girls drug him and run up his credit card, he calls back, pleading with Destiny to refund his card so he can pay his mortgage. Destiny begins to feel bad and Ramona rips the phone away from her, calling her an ungrateful bitch. Doug, meanwhile, reaches out to the police. One of the cards they racked up was a corporate card and he has lost his job. They laugh him off initially, but he has evidence – a recording of his phone call with the girls. The police pick up Dawn and flip her incredibly easily – she wears a wire and participates in a sting operation. Another client comes forward, and eventually the police have enough evidence. They arrest Destiny, Ramona, Mercedes, and Annabelle.
The police pressure Destiny that if she doesn’t flip on the others, she’ll never see her daughter again. Once they’re released, Ramona tells Destiny she’s getting them a lawyer, but Destiny tells her she took the deal, for her daughter. Ramona is furious at her, but mostly sad. The two hug and cry, knowing this is the end for them and their pseudo mother-daughter relationship, and Ramona leaves her behind.
After the article comes out, Destiny calls Elizabeth, knowing she interviewed Ramona, and wants to know all the horrible things Ramona said about her. But Elizabeth tells her the truth – when she went to see Ramona, working at her new regular job, she still had a picture of Destiny in her wallet, like a proud mother. Destiny cries, and Elizabeth tells her she should reach out to her. Onscreen, we learn that Destiny avoided jail, Mercedes and Annabelle got probation and a few weekends in jail, and Ramona got five years probation. The last thing we see is the four of them joyfully dancing during their heyday of the scheme.