Why are we all so obsessed with Anna Delvey?
If Anna Delvey didn’t exist, then Aaron Sorkin would have had to invent her. Or maybe Roald Dahl. Or F Scott Fitzgerald. Or James Ellroy. Although even these literary titans might struggle to create a fiction as outrageous as the one that Anna Sorokin created for herself.
That thing you do when you’re eight and pretend you have a pony? Sorokin didn’t do that. That saying: “Go big or go home”? Sorokin did do that. But while she certainly went big, she didn’t go home. She went to prison.
In 2019, after three years spent living the high life posing as an enigmatic heiress in New York, she was found guilty of fraud and grand larceny, having duped a string of banks and hotels out of more than $275,000. She also conned a slew of wealthy acquaintances, talking one into chartering a $35,000 private jet and another into paying a $62,000 hotel bill. Sorokin didn’t so much sit on a throne of lies as a colossus.
Born Anna Vadimovna Sorokina in Domodedovo, a working-class town south-east of Moscow, she didn’t have much time for the life her truck driver father and housewife mother provided. When she was 16, the family moved to Germany. When she was 20, she moved briefly to London, followed by Paris. By the time she was 22, she’d moved to New York and changed her name to Anna Delvey. She also decided to pretend to be a wealthy German heiress, as you do. Armed with a fictitious $60 million inheritance, she set out to take Manhattan — for a fool.
Charming, charismatic, ruthless and often rude, Sorokin was adept at blending into Manhattan’s wealthiest social circles. Her lawyer, Todd Spodek, argued in court that she had tried to “fake it until she could make it” — a relatable statement, for sure, but one that grossly understates the case.
The reason people are so obsessed with Sorokin is simple: she had the balls to pull off on a grand scale what so many people try and fail to pull off on a small one. To use a phrase popular on social media, Sorokin succeeded in living her best life — right down to the clothes she wore in court, chosen by a stylist. Like Jay Gatsby, she was a deeply flawed embodiment of The American Dream: a person from humble beginnings who rose to achieve wealth and social status. Only her wealth was borrowed and her social status was conferred via a chimera of untruths.
“I just want to say that I’m really ashamed and I’m really sorry for what I did,” Sorokin said when she was convicted. “I completely understand that a lot of people suffered when I thought I was not doing anything wrong.” As someone who found the wording of her apology chilling in the first place, it doesn’t surprise me a jot that following her early release on parole from Albion Correctional Facility in New York, Sorokin seemed the opposite of contrite. She has already said “going to trial is the new sex tape”, called the prosecution against her “an insult to her intelligence” and boasted that the prison guards treat her like a “celebrity”.
But then, anyone who has ever encountered a predator or a narcissist will know that they don’t do apology or contrition. They merely say what they know is expected of them in order to elicit sympathy, then they move on. The single-minded dedication that Sorokin once expended on being a fake heiress has now been transferred to her latest cause: “controlling the narrative”. Narcissists need to be in charge of the story. The only true pain they ever feel is when they perceive this power as having been taken away from them.
Happily for Sorokin, this is 2022. Whether you’re a con artist or a piss artist selling fake diet pills to gullible teens, never has controlling the narrative been more easy. Before you could say “insincere”, Sorokin had created a new Twitter account, published an open letter to Harvey Weinstein on her website, Anna Delvey Diaries, and posted on Instagram about her latest project, Anna Delvey TV. That she still feels the need for her own TV channel tells you everything you need to know about Sorokin. After all, this is the woman whose life story lands on Netflix today, in a limited series produced by the stellar Shonda Rhimes.
I’m as fascinated by Sorokin as the next person, but also horrified by the fame and riches she has accrued from defrauding her so-called friends and traumatising them in the process. She was paid $320,000 by Netflix for the rights to adapt her life story (though she’s had to spend most of it on fines, attorney fees and to pay back her victims), a move that hardly advocates for a life of humility and truth. After her release on February 11, she had a German camera crew following her every move, while her Instagram feed shows her quaffing champagne in a bathtub at a luxury New York hotel.
But Sorokin’s freedom was short-lived and she’s currently in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody while the authorities decide whether to deport her (she was born in Russia, grew up in Germany). In February 2022, in an article for Insider, Sorokin wrote: “While the world is pondering Julia Garner’s take on my accent in Inventing Anna, a Netflix show about me, the real me sits in a cell in Orange County’s jail in upstate New York, in quarantine isolation. My visa overstay was unintentional and largely out of my control.
“So no — it doesn’t look like I’ll be watching “Inventing Anna” anytime soon. 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.”
But what could be next for Sorokin? Anything — provided that it pays. “Write Me. Follow Me. Sue Me. Pay Me,” instructs her (now defunct) website, and people will. She has already proved that she can write, so an autobiography will undoubtedly follow. She also seems keen to break into banking, tweeting that “the only job I’m willing to accept is @GoldmanSachs creative director”.
One day soon, maybe she’ll be counting her legitimate millions. Which only goes to prove that maybe crime does pay, after all.