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Anna Delvey: The Fake Heiress Who Scammed New York’s Elite

Recently, many people’s interests have been picked by a story that happened in 2019 but is now making people talk more than ever. Anyone who has access to a Netflix account or any social media has caught a whiff of Anna Delvey’s (or should I say Sorokin?) story. Anna Delvey’s story goes as far back as 2017 when she first arrived in the United States. Still, at the beginning of this year, her story became more popular than ever for two main reasons. The first is probably the most obvious. It is the debut of the Netflix show directed by Shonda Rhymes, which attempts to give a detailed (albeit novelistic) account of Anna Delvey’s story. The second reason is that Anna now faces deportation due to charges of larceny and grand larceny. Besides, she appears to no longer have a visa that allows her to remain in the United States. Despite this, Anna is not giving up and keeps reiterating her legitimacy. Through her friends and connections that haven’t yet realized the extent of her lies, she maintains an active Instagram profile that has amassed 1 million followers.

Anna Delvey’s story is about how she pretended to be a fake German heiress entitled to an enormous trust fund for months. Still, obviously, there is more to it than that. The Netflix show Inventing Anna takes inspiration from an article written in 2018 by Jessica Pressler for New York magazine. The piece is titled Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It, and it is arguably the journalistic piece that made Anna famous. But why were people so attracted to her and believed every lie she came up with, to the point that important financial institutions agreed to loan her an enormous amount of money? The crux of Pressler’s article lies in the final sentences: “Anna looked at the soul of New York and recognized that if you distract people with shiny objects, with large wads of cash, with the indicia of wealth, if you show them the money,they will be virtually unable to see anything else.” What transpires here is that owning something just for the sake of it has partly become the way we assign value to people. Appearances are all that matters, so much so that it took months for many people close to her that Anna wasn’t actually a German heiress entitled to a trust fund.

What Anna Sorokin did, was essentially behave as if she was an actual German heiress. In a sense, she believed her own lie. By cashing blank cheques, Anna managed to pay for a lifestyle that dazzled people and never made her question her legitimacy. Her story can be looked at from many different angles. Still, one of the most exciting aspects is that even nowadays, she seems disillusioned. Since Inventing Anna aired on Netflix, her figure and the Anna Delvey persona have increasingly gained popularity. Even though she is currently in prison, she appeared as a host in different interviews. What transpires from her behavior and words is surprise at how things turned out for her, rather than regret for how she has damaged some of the people she had called her friends.

The person who probably suffered the most from Anna’s actions is Rachel Williams, a woman who Anna had befriended and who, like everyone else, had believed her when she had shown off her wealth. The difference between Rachel and the others, though, was that she was not as well-off money-wise; Rachel, who, by the way, also wrote an article about Anna (and profited off of it) was at the time working at Vanity Fair, not making nearly enough money to afford the expensive Moroccan vacation Anna on which Anna had taken her. When the credit card Anna had provided the hotel with kept getting declined, Rachel was forced to use her Vanity Fair American Express card to pay for the hotel charges, which amounted to about $60k and therefore ended up being deep in debt, since obviously Anna never really paid her back. The way Rachel was deceived by Anna stands out because she was not as affluent as the majority of Anna’s friends. She ended up in deep personal financial trouble once Anna deceived her. It is easier to empathize with somebody like Rachel. She had a regular job with a regular salary and was taken advantage of nonetheless. Still, we also have to consider that she went on a holiday and had experiences that she could never have afforded alone. She definitely was deceived, but on the other hand, she relied on Anna entirely, even though she was conscious that she was financially more vulnerable.

What happened to Rachel gives a measure of how far Anna would go to obtain what she wanted and live the kind of lifestyle that only a few wealthy individuals can afford. The feeling of “admiration” that we feel when we think about how Anna managed to charm her way into getting huge loans from New York’s most influential and affluent people gives way to feeling shocked at how she scammed her poor friend Rachel. In the end, the question remains: did Anna actually believe that she is, in some way, legit? Is she carrying out a lie just for the sake of it? Or does she simply have no empathy for the people she harmed? The boundary between reality and fiction in her case is very much blurred: in the interviews in which she appeared, she demonstrated that she is definitely capable of manipulating the situation to her advantage and making everyone (both the audience and the people involved) doubt what’s true and what isn’t.

Anna’s story happened back in 2017 and is only now being talked about mainly because of the Netflix show about her. What I wanted to delve into in this article is the different sides from which we can look at this story: Anna can be seen as a clever young woman who uses people’s attraction to money and material things to her advantage, but she can also be seen as an inconsiderate and terrible friend who took advantage of people’s affection for her in the worst way possible. There is another way to look at this story, though, and I believe it is the most interesting: Anna is just a girl chasing her dreams. As strange as it is to think about this, her goal was to open her foundation. In this exclusive place, people could go and be among works of art in a stimulating environment. That was her ultimate goal, and the fact that she didn’t come from a particularly privileged background would not stop her. This shows that there is only so far dreams and aspirations can go. If she had been a German heiress with an actual trust fund to her name, she would have had no problem securing the loan and paying for the hotels and vacations. Ultimately, the way Anna Sorokin managed to scam her way into New York’s elite is interesting because she managed to become somebody that she wasn’t. That way, because she was effectively living her lie, everyone believed her deceptions, including (probably) herself.


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