“Inventing Anna”: How A Pretender Faked Her Way to the Top

Kate McCrea

Staff Writer

In 2018, Anna Sorokin, also known as Anna Delvey to the NYC elite, was arrested and charged with several counts of fraud against some of the biggest banks in the world.  On February 11, 2022 Shondaland television production company released a nine part limited series show called “Inventing Anna” on Netflix. The series explores how Sorokin was able to infiltrate New York’s elite upper echelon of society with seemingly little effort, while scamming boutique hotels, private jets, trips on yachts, and other luxuries.

 So, why does this woman hold so much sway over the public, all these years later, especially in a society that has the attention span of a gnat?  What is it about Anna that intrigues people and makes them want to hear her story?

According to creator Shonda Rhimes, when she read Jessica Pressler’s original article about Sorokin (who has since gained notoriety due to one of her previous stories being made into the critically acclaimed film “Hustlers”), she was inspired by how easily this young woman was able to infiltrate the most elite and notoriously hard to crack echelon of society, the New York fashion elite and jet setting crowd. The crowd that had seen it all and done it all, that was so jaded nothing ever impressed them, was impressed by this girl with an ambiguous accent and no proof of her financial standing. So, Rhimes pitched the idea to her office and “Inventing Anna” was born.

The limited series was just released on Netflix earlier this month and immediately became another hit for the Shondaland empire. As tweets from viewers filled my timeline, I jumped on the bandwagon because apparently I was the only person who hadn’t heard of Sorokin before this show aired. As I watched the series with an odd fascination, I was struck by how hyped Sorokin is to this day, even after all the guilty charges and jail time. I also couldn’t help but notice how when a woman commits fraud, it’s worth being prosecuted for, but when certain men do the same crimes over and over, they become president. Sorokin’s main defense in the series was that she just did what she had to do in order to break into a prejudiced and closed society and she never intentionally scammed anyone, she was — in her mind, at least — trying to set up a legitimate business, somewhat akin to the SOHO house in NYC.  

Is that part of her appeal, then? That she was able to scam the scammers and get as close to “the American Dream” as she was allowed to get? And that she did it in a way that seemed so effortless? The question comes up over and over that if she were a man, would she have had to work as hard as she did to get as far as she did? In fact, hypocrisy and the unfair expectations of women in business is brought up quite a bit throughout the series, from everyone involved.

 Now let’s dig into the actual series itself. Julia Garner (Anna) leads a cast made up of various Shondaland favorites, including Anna Chlumsky, who plays Vivien Kent, who is loosely based on the reporter who broke the story, Jessica Presser. The series itself is oddly entertaining while being overly dramatic. The acting is so cringeworthy, you hope the actors are being given notes to make it that camp to go with the story. There’s a lot of what I call face and hand acting, where the actors get overly dramatic with facial expressions and movements (think the actors from Twilight with all of their eye twitches and head tilts).

The characters are all morally questionable for the fact that they’re more upset about being thought of as fools or that Anna is in jail for something that others get away with all the time, than the fact that they never consider she’s actually a criminal. It’s part of Anna’s charm over everyone she meets that she’s empowered with a gift to make them hate her yet want her approval at the same time. Even with Rachel’s story, she gets made into the villain, as someone who took advantage of Anna, and tried to set her friend up to get out of charges she herself could have faced if her job went through with charging her for using her work card to charge a $62,000 vacation. Out of all the charges, hers is one of the few that Anna is found innocent of. 

Since then, Rachel has sold her story to Vanity Fair, landed a book deal, and sold her story again to Lena Dunham for HBO. She was also the one that helped the DA track Anna down and arrest her, and according to the show, that was almost a worse crime than the one Anna perpetrated because of, you know, girl code.  Nevermind the fact that Anna put her in a terrible spot by promising to pay for that ill fated trip, but Rachel should’ve known better, because it’s always the victim’s fault for being that stupid, am I right? Especially if they dare to recoup the money lost and make lemons from lemonade, like any person would, but I digress.  

Throughout the series, we follow Vivien as she investigates Anna’s background and becomes enamored with Anna. She goes from being a reporter interested in the story, to someone so wholly fixated on her innocence, she can’t see past Anna playing her just like everyone else. Her obsession with Anna causes a rift in her marriage, makes her lose sight over her own impending motherhood, and put everything off so she can “understand” Anna and what makes her tick. It’s interesting how invested Vivien becomes in exposing the “real Anna” after she was allegedly screwed over by another interview with a person who was later revealed to be a total fraud as well, which cost her her career and reputation. In the end, she becomes another Anna Accolite, and is drawn into her web. After she writes her story and makes Anna into the icon she is, Anna plays on her self doubts and vulnerabilities to manipulate Vivien into getting special favors in prison, VIP rooms, and basically scams another VIP service out of nothing. Even in jail, Anna has an amazing capability of pulling something from nothing and charming everyone around her into doing her bidding.  

As the trial progresses, Vivien flies to Germany to try to track down Anna’s father, and finds out that, far from being the business magnate Anna claimed, he’s just an ordinary man who doesn’t know how to relate to his daughter or how to help her. Vivien, who’s been so caught up in Anna’s fantasy world till now, is highly disappointed in finding someone who seems so broken and can’t understand how Anna came from such a place to invent herself into what we see in New York. But aren’t rags to riches the ultimate American Dream? If anything, that would be a story people could relate to more than just some bored rich girl who decided to scam people out of millions. As the story winds down,Vivien comes to the realization that Anna was using her the whole time, even as Vivien tried to play Anna by giving her what she wanted: notoriety. Anna didn’t want to be found innocent, she just wanted to be thought of as an intelligent businesswoman and become famous as a result.  

This series and the entire case of Anna reflects our culture’s obsession with famous socialites who are only “famous for being famous” as we’ve seen with our fascination with the Kardashians, the Hiltons, etc. over the past two decades. Anna is just the latest person to create a place for herself in society, but she did it in such a manner that crossed lines that shouldn’t be crossed. Not only did she bite the hands of those that lifted her up, she crossed some of the most powerful players in the New York banking system. And ultimately, that hubris was her downfall. 

Is Anna just the newest trend as a result of over-absorption of our pop culture obsession, or is this a deeper, psychological issue that just latches on to the latest trend as an excuse for her behaviors? I’m sure sociologists will explore this in the years to come. Did our fascination with reality stars like the Kardashians, Real Housewives, and Jersey Shore enable us to believe someone like Anna is truly a victim of society, instead of the perpetrator of serious crimes? Let me know what you think in the comments. 

Will we see more women like Anna rise to fame and notoriety, the latest evolution of our fascination with “reality stars and true crime?” As I write this, Anna has been released from jail but is being held by ICE for overstaying her visa. There’s no word on when or if she’ll be deported. 

Since the show aired, however, Anna has been very active on her Instagram account, accusing Rachel of harassing her lawyer Todd to coerce Anna into co-writing a book together, which Rachel ultimately sold. She’s been posting every bit of publicity she can find on herself, which shows she’s still very much a narcissist that believes everything is about her and that she’s the victim in all this. Anna is even writing articles about herself and selling them to magazines like Business Insider, the New York Times, and several others to name a few. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s planning on selling her story to the highest bidder. Anna used Instagram to put her on the map, and she’s still using it to make a comeback even as we speak.  

Inventing Anna | Official Trailer | Netflix – YouTube



Categories: Arts & Entertainment, What to Watch

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