So, earlier this week I stumbled upon the New York Magazine article about Anna Delvey (a.k.a. Sorokin), the “fake German heiress” and subject of the new Netflix series Inventing Anna. The story was just out there enough to spark my imagination. Here was this young woman pretending to be rich, paying for nothing, dressing in head to toe black like couture Ian Malcolm, and wandering the globe like a millionaire.
I devoured the article and went on to listen to Rachel DeLoache Williams’ My Friend Anna. In it, Rachel relays her first hand account of being swindled out of over $60,000 by this woman.
The book was interesting, although I wish it had been more investigative, and less focused on Rachel’s personal impressions. Basically, it focuses on her going on vacation with Anna and being stuck with a huge bill. While of course this was a shit situation, Rachel seems less like she was Anna’s friend and more like just another of her marks; although it was probably less intentional than that (she isn’t rich so Anna likely didn’t set off to defraud her specifically).
It’s not that I like Anna. She is in no way, shape, or form a sympathetic character. In fact she might make a decent meal for Hannibal Lector, fitting the definition of “free range rude” to a T. Anna isn’t a nice person. In fact, her rude persona seems to have been a major part of her rich girl façade. What I find fascinating is that this scheme worked for her for as long as it did. She lived for years without a real job, scamming people, hotels, restaurants, and ultimately banks, for a lifestyle I can only dream about.
It’s just as impressive as it it messed up. And it seems to have kind of paid off for her. While there is a lot of talk about her inability to directly profit from The new Netflix series, it’s clear that she already has. They paid for her legal counsel, provided a stylist for her during her trial, and paid her substantial debts when she was found guilty on most counts.
Notably, she was not found guilty of swindling Rachel out of 60k, supposedly because the jury thought Rachel was laying it on a little thick in testifying this was the worst thing that ever happened to her. Sure there are worse things than suddenly finding yourself in an enormous amount of debt, however, I think everyone can agree it must have been horrible for her. I suspect the not guilty verdict on this charge had more to do with Rachel’s benefiting from the vacation and offering her credit card to the hotel, but I could be wrong.
While Anna’s present situation isn’t enviable (she has been in ICE detention waiting to be deported for an inordinate amount of time), her experiences were priceless, literally. Although Anna reportedly wanted power and control she actually seems to have left most things up to chance. This entire debacle was a gamble that seemed to play out well for her for years, bolstering her confidence in the ruse. As someone who doesn’t like to give up control, I wouldn’t have been able to stomach this sort of life on the edge for days let alone the 4 years Anna kept it up!
All in all, I’m excited to see what Netflix came up with (and probably most excited to ogle all of the designer outfits this series promises to display). I wonder if Anna will be portrayed as relatable or completely awkward and aloof? I guess we will find out today.
Note: image of Céline glasses is from MyTheresa, where they can be purchased for $302 (pocket change for an heiress, no?).
Note 2: I also listened to the BBC Podcast “Fake Heiress,” a semi-fictionalised account of Anna Delvey’s story. I would highly recommend it and actually found it more enjoyable than DeLoache Williams’ book.