Netflix’s new show “Inventing Anna” is about scammer Anna Sorokin, aka Anna Delvey.
It’s based on a viral article by journalist Jessica Pressler, who also produced the show.
Here’s how it stacks up to reality, according to a journalist who covered the saga and Sorokin herself.
The introduction of every episode of “Inventing Anna” carries the same message: “This whole story is completely true, except for all the parts that are totally made up.”
As a person who covered the real-life Anna Sorokin’s trial in 2019, reported on documents from her legal troubles, and interviewed her and people close to her in the years since, I can tell you: It’s more true-to-life than you can imagine.
Though Sorokin hasn’t been able to watch the show, I spoke with her about some of the scenes and broke down fact from fiction.
The Netflix show, starring Julia Garner, is based on a 2018 New York magazine article by Jessica Pressler about Sorokin — who also goes by Anna Delvey — scamming Soho until it caught up with her. Sorokin left hotel bills unpaid, took a trip to Morocco and left a friend with the $62,000 bill, and pretended to be an heiress with a $60 million fortune in order to try to convince financial institutions to loan her money for the Anna Delvey Foundation, a plan to develop a mixed-use arts and restaurant space in Manhattan.
Pressler — a talented journalist who also wrote the story that was the basis for the movie “Hustlers” — produced “Inventing Anna” with Shonda Rhimes. Sorokin, after selling her life story rights to Netflix for $320,000, provided information to lay out the scope of her deceit. Two of Sorokin’s friends, Neffatari Davis and Kacy Duke, as well has her former lawyer, Todd Spodek, are also credited as consultants in the show’s credits.
Sorokin finished her prison sentence after being convicted on charges related to her scam (although she is appealing her case). She was re-arrested by immigration authorities and remains incarcerated ahead of a possible deportation. Earlier this month, she wrote for Insider about her experience in jail and thoughts on the show.
“Even if I were to pull some strings and make it happen, nothing about seeing a fictionalized version of myself in this criminal-insane-asylum setting sounds appealing to me,” Sorokin wrote.
So, how much of “Inventing Anna” is “totally made up?” Here are 13 of the most striking scenes and details from the show and how they match up to reality.
The real-life Jessica Pressler really did have something to prove.
“Inventing Anna” switches between different characters’ perspectives in its nine-episode run. The glue holding it all together is Vivian Kent, played by actress Anna Chlumsky, the journalist based on the real-life Pressler.
In the show, Kent had been banished to “Scriberia” in the back of the newsroom because she botched a “listicle” item regarding a teenager who falsely told her he made millions of dollars trading stocks while in high school.
Very little of what follows rings true. It doesn’t make any sense that, say, employees are somehow punished by being moved to different seats. Nor does it make sense that a news magazine TV program addressing the controversy would try to interview her after running an episode about it.
But yes, the real-life Pressler really did write about a Stuyvesant High School student who claimed to make $72 million in stock trades in a short write-up for New York magazine’s annual “Reasons to Love New York” issue.
One of the magazine’s fact-checkers approved those claims based on bank documents that the student, Mohammed Islam, gave the magazine, according to the New York Observer. There was just one problem: Islam had faked the bank documents.
Once the scandal unraveled, Pressler had a job offer from Bloomberg News rescinded, according to HuffPost.
The real-life Pressler also owns a sick-looking wool black-and-white coat similar to the one Kent wears on the show.
But she didn’t work at “Manhattan” magazine.
Manhattan magazine, where Vivian Kent works on the Netflix show, is a stand-in for New York magazine, where the real Pressler worked and where she published her viral investigation on Sorokin.
You’ll notice the swishy custom font for Manhattan magazine is similar to the one used on the front cover of every New York magazine issue.
Adam Moss, the legendary former editor of New York, is also thanked in the end credits for “Inventing Anna.”
It’s hard to imagine a journalist just waltzing into the district attorney’s office.
There’s a scene early on in the show, after the Manhattan District Attorney’s office files criminal charges against Sorokin, where Kent bursts into the office of the prosecutor leading the case. Assistant District Attorney Catherine McCaw — played by Rebecca Henderson, who captures the real McCaw’s icy professionalism — turns her away.
The part where McCaw yields nothing to Kent definitely comes off as accurate. When I tried to talk to the real McCaw during breaks for Sorokin’s trial in 2019, she just glared at me.
But it’s hard to imagine a journalist just walking into the office of a prosecutor in the first place, much less when their case is awaiting trial.
That said, if any employees of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office are reading this, and I am wrong about how tight-lipped you folks are, please feel free to email me or slide into my DMs. I have a lot of questions about the Trump Organization investigation.
Yes, Sorokin really stiffed hotels with thousands of dollars in unpaid bills.
“Inventing Anna” shows Sorokin hopping around different expensive hotels in New York and leaving the bills unpaid. Hotel staffers find that her credit cards don’t work, and wire transfers she promises don’t come through.
The real-life Sorokin really did leave all those hotels holding the bill, and they were included in the “theft of services” charges against her when she went to trial. According to court documents reviewed by Insider, Judge Diane Kiesel, who oversaw the case, ordered Sorokin to pay the Beekman Hotel $10,000, the W New York Downtown Hotel $679.81, and the Le Parker Meridien $176.38. Sorokin later paid them all back with the money she received from Netflix.
The early episodes with Sorokin’s boyfriend have the least basis in the record.
It’s likely that Pressler uncovered more information about Sorokin’s past while preparing “Inventing Anna,” but some of the details in the first half of the show — her frustrations with her boyfriend not taking her Anna Delvey Foundation plans seriously, living with an older girlboss consultant, and lingering on a friend-of-a-friend’s yacht for days after everyone else left — don’t have much basis in what has been reported previously and may have been part of what the writers dramatized for the show.
In an interview with Insider, Sorokin said that the plotlines about her overstaying her welcome on a yacht and racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars in Bergdorf Goodman purchases on another person’s credit card “doesn’t ring a bell.”
She did have a boyfriend she traveled extensively with in 2016, she said, but she came up with the idea for the Anna Delvey Foundation after splitting up with him, not while they were together, as the show depicts.
Sorokin really crashed at Fyre Festival founder Billy McFarland’s place for a few days.
Billy McFarland’s downfall with Fyre Festival was part of the same “summer of scam” of Pressler’s Sorokin story.
But before both Sorokin and McFarland separately got in trouble with the law, they crossed paths. One of McFarland’s businesses pre-Fyre Festival was called Magnises. It was a sort of exclusive membership designed to offer exclusive access for concerts, Broadway shows, and travel.
Magnises didn’t actually quite do all that. But one of its other features was allowing members to use a townhouse in downtown Manhattan.
Magnises ultimately fell apart. But before it was evicted from one of its townhouses, according to Page Six, Sorokin crashed there for a few months and “wouldn’t leave” even though she had asked McFarland if she could stay for only “a few days.”
And yes, she really did know Martin Shkreli.
One scene from “Inventing Anna” shows her at a dinner with Martin Shkreli, the pharmaceuticals executive who was convicted of securities fraud in 2017 and remains in federal prison. Shkreli (portrayed by Will Stephen) plays tracks from “Tha Carter V,” an unreleased Lil Wayne album he got ahold of, in the show.
The two really did know each other, and he did really play that Lil Wayne album. In her New York story, Pressler reached out to Shkreli, who confirmed it in a letter he sent from prison. Rachel Williams, Sorokin’s former close friend, also wrote in her book that Sorokin talked about Shkreli and defended his price-hiking of lifesaving drugs.
Yes, Sorokin really did make up fake identities for the ostensible managers of her trust fund.
In order to try to get loans for the Anna Delvey Foundation, Sorokin had to show banks she could eventually pay them back.
So she concocted a fake backstory where she was the heiress set to gain access to a $60 million fortune back home in Germany. With those funds on the way, she believed, bankers and other financial institution might believe there was little risk in giving her money.
But in their due diligence process, bankers wanted to actually speak with the people managing her trust fund. In “Inventing Anna,” we see that process mainly through Alan Reed, a financial lawyer and composite character not based on any one particular real person, who helps Sorokin through the process of obtaining a loan.
Before Reed offers up Sorokin’s plans to financial institutions, he does his own due diligence. After he asks Sorokin for some evidence of her trust fund, Sorokin offers up a name: Peter Hennecke. Hennecke, she says, manages the Delvey family’s finances and could supply whatever documentation was needed.
We later learn in “Inventing Anna” that Hennecke was actually Sorokin herself, using a fake email account and a voice-disguising app while on phone calls with Reed.
In real life, Sorokin went through even more elaborate lengths.
The fake email accounts, Photoshopped bank statements, and voice-disguising app use was all real. Prosecutors presented evidence for all that in her trial.
But Sorokin also concocted a second fake identity, a woman presumably named Bettina Wagner. Wagner, Sorokin said, was a family accountant, and presumably told Rachel Williams that money paying her back for the Morocco trip was on the way.
McCaw cited the fake identities in closing arguments for Sorokin’s criminal trial, telling jurors that the fake identities proved Sorokin had criminal intent.
“We all know what a white lie is. A white lie is telling a girlfriend that her butt does not look big in those jeans,” McCaw said at the trial. “Making up fake bank documents, making up fake accountants, making up fake identity documents — those are not white lies.”
Yes, Sorokin really refused to show up in court without the right clothes.
The ever image-conscious Sorokin really did refuse to show up to her own trial because she didn’t have the right outfit.
In fact, it happened several times. Sorokin hired Anastasia Nicole Walker, a celebrity stylist, to pick out clothes for her trial. But she didn’t actually always get them, and was instructed to wear the white shirt and black pants that belonged to the court on several days.
Judge Diane Kiesel admonished Sorokin over her refusal to wear the outfits provided by the court.
“Your client seems a little too concerned about her clothing. This is a trial. She’s a defendant,” Kiesel told Spodek. “I’m sorry her clothing isn’t up to her standards. Are you asking me to stop this trial because of the clothing? She’s got to be here.”
Sorokin told Insider in a recent interview that she was frustrated with the logistics of her situation. She was taken to and from Rikers Island to the court in lower Manhattan every day. The long travel time meant she returned to her cell as late as 10 p.m. and had to wake up as early as 4 a.m.
Because her time at Rikers was outside of visiting hours, and the court’s rules didn’t permit people to give her items, it was difficult for her to get the clothing she wanted to wear, she said. The New York Department of Corrections, she said, should have found a way to get them to her.
“You can’t blame Rikers, but that doesn’t solve my problem,” Sorokin told Insider. “I’m still here without the clothes, just because Rikers told me no. I thought it’s a reasonable demand.”
On top of that, she said, she sometimes delayed entering the courtroom because she simply felt sick given the lack of sleep, bad food, and occasional bullying she endured in jail.
“It was a combination of, like, multiple events, and I just felt just awful — like just physically awful and nauseous,” she said.
Outfits on the show are also true-to-life, like that snakeskin dress Sorokin wears.
Sorokin did indeed hire a celebrity personal trainer.
One of Sorokin’s friends in “Inventing Anna” is Kacy Duke, played by Laverne Cox.
In the show and in real life, Duke really is a successful personal trainer, known for working with Dakota Johnson ahead of “50 Shades of Gray.” Sorokin hired her for a number of group workouts and eventually did become something of a friend to her. Duke also consulted on “Inventing Anna.”
Sorokin left Rachel Williams with the bill for that Morocco trip.
The famed trip to La Mamounia, a five-star luxury hotel in Marrakesh — and who would pay for it — became one of the most contentious episodes of Sorokin’s saga.
In the fall of 2017, Sorokin organized the trip to Morocco. She took with her Rachel Williams, a Vanity Fair photo editor she befriended; Kacy Duke, her personal trainer; and Jesse Hawk, a videographer she wanted to make a documentary about the genesis of the Anna Delvey Foundation.
It was a vacation. The group hung out at hotel’s spa, dined at restaurants, took a private tour of Yves Saint Laurent’s villa, and shopped at bazaars.
After a week, the management of La Mamounia told Sorokin that her credit cards weren’t working and that she needed to pay up. It was a tense scene. Williams, believing Sorokin was wealthy and would pay her back, offered her own credit card and her Vanity Fair company card to settle some bills.
Williams has chronicled the episode, and what happened next, in court testimony, a Vanity Fair article of her own, and a book. When she returned to the United States, she asked Sorokin to pay her back. Sorokin blew her off, told her the money was on its way when it actually wasn’t, and eventually gave her just $5,000 out of the $62,000 she said she’d pay back.
(Maybe Williams should have taken Sorokin up on her offer to get paid back in Bitcoin. The $62,000 in Bitcoin at the time would be worth about $352,000 today.)
After months of fruitless attempts to get repaid, and a dramatic intervention where Sorokin kept up her guards, Williams went to the police and helped set up a sting operation where Sorokin was arrested in Los Angeles.
Williams testified, and wrote in her book, that American Express ultimately gave her all her money back. Her book deal and HBO deal from her story also gave her the potential to earn up to $600,000 more, she testified.
At trial, the jury acquitted Sorokin of the prosecutors’ charge alleging she stole from Williams.
But Williams and Davis didn’t really run in the same circles.
“Inventing Anna” portrays Williams, Duke, Davis, and Sorokin as a crew of friends who did everything together. Davis even confronts Williams about not visiting Sorokin in jail in one scene.
They weren’t quite as close-knit in real life. While Sorokin did invite Williams to her workout sessions with Duke, Davis wasn’t really part of the same crew. Williams also didn’t know Duke particularly well until after the Morocco trip, when she went to great lengths in order to get Sorokin to pay her back, she wrote in her book.
Yes, Pressler really went to Germany to meet Sorokin’s parents.
Towards the end of “Inventing Anna,” our main character is still hard to understand.
Why did Sorokin think scamming was the best way to pull off the Anna Delvey Foundation? What drove her?
Kent — Pressler’s stand-in — goes to Germany to find out. She tracks down Sorokin’s family in a small town. Her parents don’t want to talk with her at first. Eventually, Kent finds out, this is a family with a sort of chip on their shoulder. They’ve been subject to discrimination in Germany because of their Russian background, and Sorokin had something to prove.
Pressler really did meet Sorokin’s family, Sorokin told me. But in real life, Pressler’s visit wasn’t a surprise for them.
While Pressler wanted to make the trip for research purposes, Sorokin helped arrange meetings and pointed her to the places she spent time in when she was younger.
“She did not break into my house,” Sorokin told Insider, laughing.
Sorokin found it difficult to describe her relationship with her real parents. After finishing up school, she “just couldn’t wait to get out of there” — a common sentiment among 19-year-olds living with their parents — and after a while landed an internship at Purple magazine in Paris. Her parents weren’t really plugged into the fashion world, she said.
“Generally, I would definitely agree that my parents did not really know what to do with me,” Sorokin said.
“I talk to my parents couple times a week,” she added. “I guess they are learning to deal with the whole situation.”
Read the original article on Insider