Anyone who loves a good true story about a glamorous con woman is in for a good few weeks. The Dropout, following the case of Elizabeth Holmes and the fall of her company Theranos, stars Amanda Seyfried and lands on Hulu in early March. But in the meantime, Inventing Anna has arrived on Netflix to keep you going.
This is the story of Anna Delvey, or Anna Sorokin, played by Julie Garner, a woman who posed as a wealthy heiress and fooled high class New York society, including rinsing a number of people for considerable amounts of money. The show is framed via the journalist who is building a story about Delvey’s case after she’s due to stand trial. This character is named Vivian Kent, played by Anna Chlumsky. At the start of each episode, Inventing Anna proudly states that the story is completely true except for all the parts that are totally made up. It’s a dramatization (a highly entertaining one at that) and not a documentary. But there are definitely elements inspired by true events.
Vivian Kent is a fictionalized character but the journalist she is inspired by did indeed write an article for New York Magazine about Delvey – the show is based on this article (in the show it’s called “Manhattan Magazine”). The name of the journalist is Jessica Pressler.
Though the show is about Delvey, Pressler herself is interesting. Alluded to in the show is a previous professional scandal that had set back her career and lost her a prestigious job offer at Bloomberg. This happened to Pressler. In 2014 she ran a story in New York Magazine about a New York highschool student named Mohammed Islam who claimed to have made $72 million trading stocks.
It later became apparent this was not true when Islam gave an interview to the New York Observer confessing that he had made the whole thing up. Though the New York Magazine’s fact checker had apparently seen a bank statement corroborating the eight figure sum Islam claimed, it was falsified. The story now has a header with an editor’s statement apologizing.
Pressler did indeed have her job offer from Bloomberg rescinded after the error, and she remained at New York Magazine. It was Bloomberg’s loss and New York Magazine’s gain.
In December 2015 New York published Jessica’s story “The Hustlers At Scores” about strippers who conned money out of their clients, which was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Then in Feb. 2016 the rights were snapped up by producers including Will Ferrell. It was made into the movie Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez, in 2019.
Her Anna Delvey article was published in 2018, so the idea that her reputation was in tatters and that she wouldn’t be snapped up by another news outlet at the time of researching the article isn’t true. She’s still a contributing editor at New York Magazine. Fun fact: she also used to write Gossip Girl recaps for Vulture and even had a cameo in the show.
Inventing Anna is streaming now on Netflix.