If you’re like me, you watched Netflix’s new mini-series Inventing Anna and became way too invested in the real-life Anna (Sorokin) Delvey.
For those who have not seen the show, Inventing Anna tells the true story of Anna Sorokin, a twenty-something socialite who successfully posed as a rich German heiress. However, the mini-series does disclaim: This whole story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up.
After reading the original article about Anna, watching her on 60 Minutes, listening to her on Call Her Daddy, and doing a deep internet dive…
Here’s what I found:
Anna was born in Russia and moved to Germany with her family at a young age. She attended Central Saint Martins, an elite fashion college in London, but never graduated. Instead, Anna moved to Paris and interned for Purple Magazine. During her internship, she visited New York for Fashion Week and fell in love with the city. She was actually able to transfer to the Purple office in New York which is when she adopted the Anna Delvey persona.
Anna continued to work for Purple for a short time, but quickly used her Anna Delvey identity to infiltrate celebrity circles. She tipped in crisp $100 bills, lived full-time in luxury hotels, received pricey beauty treatments (like $400 eyelash extensions pricey), and wore designer clothing like her trademark Celine glasses. Anna was said to have told people she would inherit a $60 million trust fund from her father to convince investors and banks to loan her money for her grand business plan, the Anna Delvey Foundation (ADF).
She hoped ADF would become an elite members-only club focused on art and luxury. Similar to the Soho House, but better. She planned to have restaurants, bars, a bakery, exclusive lounges, workspaces, hotel rooms, and art galleries inside. In Jessica Pressler’s original article about Anna, she said: “Anna was preparing to launch a business, a Soho House-ish type club… focused on art with locations in L.A., London, Hong Kong, and Dubai.” However, Anna was arrested before she could make her dream a reality and nothing came of ADF.
It’s estimated that she swindled banks, hotels, an aviation company, and high-society acquaintances out of approximately $275,000. Yes, it is true, Anna convinced the aircraft startup company, Blade, to charter her a private plane to Omaha, Nebraska so she could attend the Berkshire Hathaway Annual Shareholders Meeting and try to meet billionaire Warren Buffett in May 2017. She sent Blade a forged confirmation of a wire transfer from Deutsche Bank and never paid the bill for the $35,400 flight.
Anna had fake email accounts, Photoshopped bank statements, and a voice-disguising app to make her lie even more legit. She used the voice-disguising app to pretend to be a made-up German man who managed her trust fund and could wire over money to cover loans and deposits. She created a second fake identity for a woman who she said was a family accountant. She did this to try and secure funds for ADF.
The show leads its viewers to believe Anna is a product of society’s ills like narcissism, sexism, and capitalism. We watch her scam her way to luxury through New York’s most elite, and I’m not going to lie, I ate up every second of it. Instead of portraying Anna as a protagonist who just wanted money, we see radical self-empowerment and manipulation of the system.
I think Inventing Anna shows how confidence can carry someone. A big part of life is confidence, and the thing about confidence is no one knows if it’s real or not. Was it okay for Anna to do what she did? No. But I think her story could inspire people to go after their goals with confidence… just don’t break the law while doing so.
A Young Woman in a Man’s World
The show portrays Anna as someone who did not want to be seen as a dumb socialite, but rather a smart businesswoman. It is mentioned numerous times that Anna thought she was not taken seriously because she was a young woman trying to make it in a man’s world.
Anna’s boyfriend in the show was loosely inspired by her real-life, unnamed boyfriend of two years. In the show, boyfriend Chase Sikorski is looking for seed money for his app Wake which captures and crowdsources data related to dreams. The app does not exist in real life and Reddit threads believe this was included in the mini-series to pose the question: why are some schemes criminal while others are not?
In April 2019, Anna was found guilty for eight of her ten charges and sentenced to 4-12 years in state prison. The charges included multiple counts of attempted grand larceny, larceny in the second degree, and theft of services. She was granted time served for the two years she was in Rikers Island awaiting her trial and was released seven months early for good behavior as well as the COVID-19 pandemic. On top of the three-plus years she spent in prison, Anna had to pay a $24,000 fine and was ordered to pay restitution of approximately $199,000.
While on trial, Anna hired a celebrity stylist to pick out her court attire and was often late to court due to wardrobe complaints. Tabloids focused more on Anna’s court looks than the case. There was even an Instagram account dedicated to Anna’s court looks. At the height of her fame as a New York socialite and German heiress, she had over 40,000 followers on Instagram. That number has risen to nearly 600,000. She has also been paid at least $320,000 from Netflix for Inventing Anna.
Anna was detained and taken into custody by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) on March 25, 2021, for overstaying her visa. Her lawyer appealed her deportation and applied for her to be granted asylum. Anna remains in ICE custody to this day, waiting for the approval of an emergency stay request that was granted in November.
Another thing about Anna’s story is how it illuminates society’s attitude towards wealth. People tend to glorify self-made millionaires and mock those with inherited wealth or trust funds. Anna was neither a self-made millionaire nor an heiress, but she was creative, ambitious, and knowledgeable with good taste. Did she deserve to ride on a private jet or vacation in Morocco any less than an actual rich person just because she wasn’t wealthy? Obviously, I don’t think it was ethical of her to do that, but I don’t think it means she deserves less than others.
Is Anna sorry for what she did?
The day after she was sentenced, Anna allegedly told the New York Times, “The thing is, I’m not sorry.” She continued, “I’d be lying to you and everyone else and to myself if I said I was sorry for anything. I regret the way I went about certain things.”
In October 2019, Anna offered her first apology for her crimes. At her parole board hearing, she said, “I just want to say that I’m really ashamed and I’m really sorry for what I did.” She noted, “I completely understand that a lot of people suffered when I thought I was not doing anything wrong.”
In the mini-series, Anna’s lawyer tries to convince the jury that she is just a young girl who told a lie and was nowhere close to getting the money for ADF. He even remarked, “You may love her or hate her for exploiting the system,” and that is true.
You can love or hate Anna for what she did, but she manipulated the system to her advantage. She came from a middle-class family, her father was a truck driver, not a rich German oligarch, and now she is famous… sitting in ICE custody… but famous (with a Netflix deal).
As a female, I was in a frenzy when learned Anna’s story. I can’t decide if she should be called a girl boss or a con artist. She scammed so many rich, educated men for so long. These men probably saw Anna as a young, naive girl yet she was able to take advantage of them.
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