According to Jones’ pastor, Jones was recruited from the church to participate in a documentary. Jones was not informed it was all satire and that the teenage girl named “Tutar” was actually 24-year-old actress Maria Bakalova. Jones told the New York Post she learned it had been a ruse when the movie trailer was released and that she felt “betrayed” because she had been genuinely concerned for Tutar’s well-being.
Jones received a small sum for her role in Borat. But her pastor felt Jones deserved more for being the “moral compass” of the movie and has launched a GoFundMe campaign on her behalf. As of this writing, the campaign has raised more than $50,000.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. Jeanise Jones Was Told the Documentary Was About Women’s Rights & That She Would Mentor a Teenage Girl
Jones says she genuinely believed she was mentoring a young girl who was facing dire circumstances. She had never seen the original Borat movie and was not aware Cohen and Bakalova were actors, The Oklahoman reported.
Jones explained to the New York Post she was led to believe that “Tutar’s” father planned to marry his daughter to a wealthy, older man. “I’m feeling like she’s from the Third World and that kind of stuff does happen where they sell women.”
Jones was brought on as a voice of reason who could educate “Tutar” about her rights. Jones told the Post, “They told me it was a documentary for this young lady to understand she has rights and she can do whatever a man can do.”
In the movie, Jones first meets “Tutar” when “Borat” brings his daughter to Jones’ home. “Tutar” had a ball and chain weighing her down, which appeared to shock Jones. She removed the weight after “Borat” left.
In subsequent scenes, Jones explains to “Tutar” that much of what “Borat” has told her about women is not true. Jones demonstrates to “Tutar” that women can drive and dissuades her from having plastic surgery. In this clip, Jones tells “Tutar” that she is a beautiful young lady and does not need to change anything about herself; Jones also encourages her to go to school and “use her brain” because her “daddy is a liar.”
Two days after Borat dropped on Amazon Prime, Jones commented on Facebook:
Thank you to all who have reached out to me from here in OKC to around the entire world! Yes it was me in the Borat movie. I was recruited to be in a “Documentary”. At ABSOLUTELY NO time did I know this was a satirical comedy movie and that I was being “setup” so to speak. It’s all good I just did what my Mother Ozell Smith (RIP) taught me to do from as far back as I remember. Again, thank you to all and to God be the glory for it all.
2. Jones Genuinely Believed ‘Tutar’ Was in Trouble & Prayed For Her For Months
Jones worried about the “Tutar” for several months after filming wrapped. According to her pastor, Reverend Derrick Scobey, Jones asked him to pray with her for “Tutar” and the girl’s family, The Oklahoman reported. Scobey said they “all genuinely thought she was in trouble.”
Scobey further explained on the GoFundMe campaign that although Borat is satire, Jones was entirely herself as she interacted with her charge:
This was not scripted for Jeanise. It all came from the heart. She is one of the most authentic people I’ve ever met. One good thing that has come from this is that Jeanise doesn’t have to worry about “Tutar” anymore. She has WORRIED about this young lady for a year.
Jones told the New York Post she wished the Borat producers had informed her sooner about the true nature of the movie. She added, “We were up there praying for her and asking God to help her and we were doing what we thought was the Christian thing to do.”
3. Producers Looking to Cast a ‘Black Grandmother’ Recruited Jones From Ebenezer Baptist Church in Oklahoma City
Borat movie producers visited Oklahoma City to find someone who could fill the role of a babysitter and mentor figure. Sunday school leader Benita Gillispie explained to The Oklahoman that the producers said they were looking for a “Black grandmother” for a documentary. She and Scobey thought of Jones, who Gillispie said volunteers as the lead usher at the church.
Gillispie told the newspaper she had to do some persuading to convince Jones to come in and talk to the producers. But once Jones came in, the producers immediately wanted her for the movie. Scobey wrote on the GoFundMe campaign that he felt Jones’ participation benefited the film because she was able to serve as its “moral compass and a light shining in darkness.”
4. Jones Lost Her Job Due to the Coronavirus Pandemic
Jones told the New York Post that movie producers paid her about $3,600 for her part in the movie. The scenes with “Tutar” were filmed in Oklahoma. Production later flew Jones to Washington to shoot a subsequent scene with Cohen, which airs toward the end of the movie.
Jones’ pastor shared on the GoFundMe page that Jones lost her job due to the coronavirus pandemic. According to her LinkedIn profile, Jones previously worked as a claims auditor for the Reserve National Insurance Company. The Oklahoman added that Jones was in the insurance industry for more than three decades but was “working as a receptionist at a metro counseling center” before the pandemic.
According to Scobey, Jones has three children and six grandchildren. A search of online property records suggests Jones has been living in Oklahoma City since at least the late 1980s.
5. Scobey Says Jones ‘Would Never Ask Anybody for a Dime’
In a video update shared on the GoFundMe page, Jones addressed viewers to share her appreciation to everyone who had donated. She repeatedly reiterated that the online fundraising campaign had been her pastor’s idea and that he was the one who launched it.
Off-camera, Scobey is heard explaining that all of the money raised was going directly to Jones. He joked to Jones, “I’m not going to keep your money!” On a more serious note, Scobey adds that Jones is the type of person who would “never ask anybody for a dime.” He said the online fundraiser provides a tangible way for people who appreciated her uplifting role in Borat to say thank you.
On the page, Scobey insinuated that Jones and other church members were not angry about the movie producers’ deception. He wrote, “The joke is on us/Jeanise and that’s no problem.” He added, “I would be remiss if I didn’t thank Sacha Cohen Baron and Monica Levinson (Producer) for casting Jeanise in this movie.”
But Scobey also feels that Cohen owes Jones an apology. He told the New York Post, “I would love to see him, if nothing else, on a Zoom call in a very lighthearted manner, ‘We’re sorry we pulled one over on you.'” Scobey also said he felt Jones deserves greater compensation from the filmmakers for her participation.