The grifter of SoHo
By Hollen Wheeler; courtesy photo
Need a new mini-series to binge watch? Inventing Anna is one of Netflix’s latest, a drama based on a real-life grifter who swindles highbrow New York society, friends and hotels out of more than $250,000. The series, created and produced by Grey’s Anatomy Shonda Rhimes, has escalated to national popularity since its February release. Saturday Night Live has recently spoofed Anna and some of her quotes have become memes.
Born in Russia and then moving to Germany in her youth, the twenty-something Anna Sorokin, the real name of the woman and main character in the series, moves to New York in 2013 and reinvents herself as Anna Delvey (played by Ozark’s Julia Garner). Living in lavish hotels and tipping with $100 bills, Delvey pursues social and strategic connections around Manhattan. Promoting herself on social media, she claims she is a German heiress who will eventually get her fortune of $60 million. Always dressed in high fashion and with an ambiguous European accent, Delvey makes easy marks of those in her sights.
Delvey’s ambition is to create an elite social club called the Anna Delvey Foundation, or ADF, in a historic building in SoHo. The club would have a visual arts center, hotel, restaurants, working space – a space for a posh escape. Creating faux financial paperwork and accountants, Delvey meets with lawyers, banks and architects to raise the $35 million to get ADF off the ground.
After her financiers fail to deliver and with outstanding unpaid hotel and restaurant bills in the tens of thousands, Delvey is arrested in 2017. She spends two years on Rikers Island before she is tried and convicted for grand larceny and theft, given 4 to 12 years, and forced to pay a restitution fee.
Jessica Pressler, a New York-based reporter, broke the Delvey story in 2018. The article launched Delvey into the mainstream media and Pressler’s reporting is largely what inspired the Netflix series.
In the Netflix series, journalist Vivian Kent (loosely based on Pressler) has a hunch about Delvey, but her editors aren’t interested. Despite them, Kent pursues the story. She regularly visits Delvey in jail and they begin a relationship of sorts. Kent promises an exclusive feature to tell her story, but Delvey makes her work for it, giving vague answers and criticizing Kent (who is pregnant) for lack of style and gaining weight. As in the real-life version, Kent’s article gets Delvey the notice she wants and the fanfare at her trial.
In 2021, Delvey was released for good behavior but arrested six weeks later by immigration authorities for overstaying her visa. Today, Anna Delvey remains in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody pending deportation, and rumors of her refusal to leave the country are daily media click bait. In true form, the Anna Delvey drama continues.
To get more insight on the real Delvey, read in her own words what she thinks of her past and current situation in a recent Insider.com piece, Erasing Anna, or see her interview on ABC’s 20/20, The Sinfluencer of SoHo.
Inventing Anna is a fascinating portrayal of a modern-day con artist. Even though she is behind bars, many who know Delvey say she isn’t done.