Life story

from German heiress to New York prisoner

Shonda Rhimes knows how to tell a good story, but Anna Sorokin, the subject of the TV producer’s first Netflix show, has already done most of the legwork for her.

Invent Annawhose nine episodes debuted on the streaming platform on Friday, tells the true story of Sorokin (played by ozark‘s Julia Garner), who tricked Manhattan’s elite into believing she was a wealthy German heiress named Anna Delvey worth 60 million euros ($67.9 million). She rose through the upper echelons of New York’s art, financial and fashion scenes, before being caught red-handed and ultimately landing in Rikers Island prison.

The 20-something socialite cheated “friends” and banks out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Evidence during her trial also showed she stole a private jet and tried to secure a $25 million loan from a hedge fund to set up an exclusive arts club.

She would avoid paying huge restaurant or hotel bills and even put a friend in the position where she had to put $62,000 on her credit card to cover vacation expenses (more than said friend in a year).

Sorokin was certainly not an heiress. She wasn’t even German. She was a magazine intern, born into a family of Russian immigrants living in Germany.

Chances are you’ve heard the story before, since journalist Jessica Pressler new York magazine article about Sorokin went viral in 2018.

The show is a dramatization of what happened, told from the perspective of exploratory journalist Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky), a character based on Pressler, who also serves as the show’s producer.

From prison to freedom to custody

Sorokin’s rise was between 2013 and 2017, but her downfall came in 2019 when she was sentenced to between four and 12 years in prison on charges of robbery and stealing services. She ended up serving three years and three months.

Hours after his release in February 2021, Sorokin took to Twitter, writing on a new account that was later suspended: “Someone from Fortress Investment Group – I need $720 million by the end of next week, DM me”. His bio said “I’m back”.

She hired a camera crew to follow her and said Initiated she was “filming everything I’m doing right now” and would see what she would do with it “later”. “I just got out of jail two days ago. So this is me like getting all this stuff from Sephora, I open a bank account as soon as I get permission from my parole officer.”

On Instagram, she wrote: “I’m only consistent”.

Not even two months later, she was deemed a “danger to society” by a judge and is now being held by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, at risk of deportation, from which she appealed.

Do these decisions inevitably make me a permanent threat to public safety? The government says yes. But compared to whom? All is relative

Anna Sorokin

Earlier this month, before the release of Invent AnnaSorokin wrote an open letter to Initiated custody on her experience in prison, getting Covid-19 and the Netflix show (“Did I mention I’m the only woman in ice custody in this whole prison? Tell me I’m special without telling me that I’m special.” )

Over the past few years, she has repeatedly shown no remorse, saying she is not sorry for her actions. “Certainly I, the ultimate unreliable narrator, have made some questionable choices that I would not necessarily repeat today,” she wrote in the letter.

But then: “Do these decisions inevitably make me a permanent threat to public safety? The government says yes. But compared to whom? All is relative.

Does crime pay?

The people Sorokin scammed will no doubt side with the government when it comes to viewing her as a threat to public safety. So do those concerned with the glamorization of crime that can come with dramatizations and even documentaries about real cases like these.

But Sorokin benefited in more ways than one from the Netflix show.

Julia Garner as Anna Sorokin in a scene from

The streaming network paid Sorokin an initial fee of $30,000 before the trial, according to the BBCalthough that money went to his lawyer, reported the New York Post. Sorokin was then paid up to $320,000 by Netflix for the rights to adapt her life story and landed other deals.

She couldn’t keep all of the money owed to the Son of Sam law, which prevents criminals in New York from profiting from their notoriety, and some was given to victims and around $170,000 was used to repay banks, but when asked BBC Newsnight if crime pays, she replied, “In a way, it did.”

“He’s a role model for some people,” his lawyer said. 60 Minutes Australiaas shown in Time. “She is obviously famous. People like to engage with her. His social networks are exploding. So hopefully she can harness all of that into something really positive, productive and monetize on it. I hope she can make a real business out of it.

What is fact and fiction in “Inventing Anna”?

There’s a disclaimer with every episode: “This entire story is completely true. Except for those parts that are completely made up.”

It could refer to anything Sorokin has made, but Rhimes has certainly taken a few liberties along the way.

As mentioned, Kent’s character is based on real-life journalist Pressler, who was indeed pregnant for much of the writing process. She wrote the exhibit in part as a way to redeem herself after, in 2014, Bloomberg News rescinded a job offer when an article she had written turned out to be a hoax, which the series refers to.

Anna Chlumsky as Journalist Vivian Kent in

Sorokin’s boyfriend, Chase Sikorski (Saamer Usmani), is also real, but the show gives him far more attention than in Pressler’s original story. Pressler wrote of a “boyfriend Sorokin ran with for a while”, calling him a “futurist on the Ted-Talks circuit who had been profiled in the new yorkerand saying they functioned as “a team” for about two years, rising through the ranks of New York’s elite.

In Invent AnnaSikorski will only speak to Kent if she calls him “futuristic” in the article, and when the character’s app project fails, he moves to the United Arab Emirates to work for a sheikh, another detail that is reflected in the real story.

While it’s unclear who the real person is, some believe it to be Hunter Lee Soik, who founded a free app called Shadow, lived in Dubai and was previously profiled in the new yorker.

Also real was Sorokin’s Anna Delvey Foundation, an exclusive arts club in New York that Garner’s character wants to open at Church Missions House. She talks in the series about wanting to have pop-up shops, exhibitions and installations from artists such as Tracey Emin and even having artist Christo wrap the building; all the details that have been included in the new York magazine the new yorker room.

A big part of

Presser said Vulture she ‘certainly didn’t try to break into anyone’s house’, when describing Kent’s reporting trip to Germany, and said she had in fact lent Sorokin clothes for the trial, “but it wasn’t a predicament for me the way it was for Kent. It felt more like this sort of slimy streak of ridiculousness.

The situation in which Garner’s Delvey “borrows” a private jet to attend Warren Buffett’s annual investment conference is also reminiscent of the truth, when she “convinced” (according to Pressler’s article) a company called Blade to charter him a jet for $35,000, sending him a bogus confirmation for a wire transfer that never arrived.

A few other characters are also based on real people, such as financial lawyer Alan Reed, who appears to mirror Andy Lance, a partner at Gibson Dunn who Pressler says worked closely with Sorokin (although didn’t respond to the reporter’s request for comment at the time), and Peter Hennecke, who was supposed to run Sorokin’s family office in Germany, but Pressler said “he seems to have been a character fictitious”.

The tumultuous holidays in Marrakech in episode six with Delvey, his personal trainer, videographer and vanity lounge journalist Rachel DeLoache Williams also performed. The scenes in the show were not only a reflection of Pressler’s play, but also based on a first-person narrative written by Williams for vanity lounge in 2018, though Williams has since described her portrayal on the show as “shocking.”

Updated: February 16, 2022, 8:30 a.m.

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