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Inventing Anna: What's True and What's Fiction in the Anna Delvey Netflix Series

Believe it or not, many of the most outrageous events in the show are based on real incidents

Kat Moon

[Warning: The following contains spoilers for Netflix's Inventing Anna. Read at your own risk!]

Every episode of Inventing Anna begins with the same disclaimer: "This whole story is completely true. Except for the parts that are completely made up." In the Netflix drama based on journalist Jessica Pressler's New York article "How Anna Delvey Tricked New York's Party People," Julia Garner stars as the fake German heiress who scammed New York City's socialites and big banks. Born Anna Sorokin in Russia before moving to Germany as a teen, the grifter was found guilty of swindling more than $200,000 during her trial in 2019. Inventing Anna largely follows Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumksy) — the fictionalized version of Pressler — as she attempts to learn the truth about Delvey's actions. 

Many of the major characters and plotlines in Inventing Anna are based on actual people and events referenced in Pressler's piece. Some names like the journalist's were changed, and certain details depart from the original story. But for the most part, the most outrageous events in the show are not far off from the incidents described in the New York article. Here's what's fact and what's fiction in Inventing Anna

Vivian Kent gets pushback from editors for the Anna Delvey story: At the start of the series, Vivian's pitch for reporting on Anna is dismissed by Manhattan editors who instead assign her a Wall Street #MeToo story. The character lists a number of reasons why she does not want to. "Obviously those are not our actual bosses at New York. Our bosses are quite the opposite," Pressler said in an interview with Vulture. "I think the show bosses are a stand-in for patriarchal offices in general." But "fact is braided with fiction" in the portrayal of the response to her idea, according to the journalist. "It was not a no-brainer to do an 8,000-word story about a non-famous person. It might be now," she said. "They did want me to write a Wall Street Me Too story, and I did react in pretty much exactly that way — though not as articulately."

Vivian Kent is pregnant while working on the piece: "I was super pregnant while reporting that story and finished two weeks or so before I had a baby," Pressler said in the same interview. The pregnancy is depicted in the show, though the timeline is slightly altered likely for dramatic effect. Instead of finishing the story around two weeks before giving birth like Pressler,  Vivian goes into labor at the office. Her water breaks at her desk as she's wrapping up the piece, and the character makes one final call to a source before filing the story and being rushed to the hospital.

Anna Chlumsky, Inventing Anna

Anna Chlumsky, Inventing Anna

David Giesbrecht/Netflix

Vivian Kent lends clothes to Anna Delvey for the trial: The show mentions an Instagram account dedicated to Anna's court looks, which exists in real-life. In the Vulture article, Pressler talked about buying the white dress and the snake-print dress for Anna. "I wasn't thinking of these things as metaphors. It was like, 'What is on the sale rack that doesn't have something you can shiv someone with attached to it,'" she said. Pressler also noted that she added her own black dress into the mix. "This wasn't all because of Anna's vanity — defendants have to wear civilian clothes at trial because if they wear a prison jumpsuit it might prejudice the jury," the journalist said. One difference is that while Anna wears white as she receives the guilty verdict in the show, in real life she wore black at that stage of the trial. 

Anna Delvey prepares to launch ADF, the Anna Delvey Foundation: Much of what Inventing Anna depicts about Anna's business plans is real. In the New York article, Pressler wrote, "Anna was preparing to launch a business, a Soho House–ish type club, she told Neff, focused on art, with locations in L.A., London, Hong Kong, and Dubai." This is similar to the vision that Anna has for ADF in the series. "It will be the pinnacle of the global art world and I will stand at the top of it," she says in Episode 2. The show also mentions architect Gabriel Calatrava, hotelier André Balazs, and restauranteur Richie Notar — a founder of Nobu — all of whom Anna connected with in reality to discuss plans for ADF. Church Missions House, the building that Anna was interested in making the home of her private club, is also shown in the series.

Alan Reed becomes Anna Delvey's finance lawyer to help secure funds: Alan Reed, played by Anthony Edwards in the show, is based on Anna's real-life lawyer Andy Lance. Lance is a partner at law firm Gibson Dunn, and helped her secure funds for ADF. The New York article reads: "After filling out Gibson Dunn's new-client-intake form, which included checking boxes that confirmed the client had the resources to pay and would not embarrass the firm, Lance put Anna in touch with several large financial institutions, including Los Angeles–based City National Bank and Fortress Investment Group." As portrayed in the show by Alan, Lance did not confirm that Anna had the resources to pay while helping her make these connections. 

Julia Garner, Inventing Anna

Julia Garner, Inventing Anna

David Giesbrecht/Netflix

Rachel Williams is scammed out of $62,000 by Anna Delvey: One of the biggest scams in the series takes place when Anna and a few friends, including Rachel Williams (Katie Lowes), vacation at a luxurious resort in Morocco. Anna is told that the credit card she had given to the hotel is nonfunctional, and threatened by the staff to be removed from the premises unless a payment is made. Rachel eventually hands over her work card, which is charged $62,000 when Anna is unable to cover the expenses. This incident is similar to what happened in real life between Anna and Rachel Williams, who was a photo editor at Vanity Fair. The New York story describes "a pair of threatening goons" appearing in the doorway when the credit card Anna used to book the hotel in Morocco was discovered to be nonfunctional. "The photo editor was forced to put the balance — $62,000, more than she was paid in a year — on the Amex she sometimes used for work expenses," the piece says. "Anna had promised her a wire transfer, but a month later, all Rachel received was $5,000." The wire transfer of just $5,000 was shown in the series, too. For the real-life Williams, American Express later forgave the debt.

Rachel Williams writes about her experience of being conned in Vanity Fair: This detail is true, as Williams published the essay "As an Added Bonus, She Paid for Everything": My Bright-Lights Misadventure With a Magician of Manhattan in April 2018. The subheading reads, "She walked into my life in Gucci sandals and Céline glasses, and showed me a glamorous, frictionless world of hotel living and Le Coucou dinners and infrared saunas and Moroccan vacations. And then she made my $62,000 disappear." Williams also wrote the book, My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress, in 2019 where she further details her relationship with the con artist. In a new interview with Vanity Fair, published after the release of Inventing Anna, Williams expressed her disapproval of the show. "I think promoting this whole narrative and celebrating a sociopathic, narcissistic, proven criminal is wrong," Williams said.

Neff Davis stays loyal to Anna Delvey: One of Anna's closest friends in the show is Neff, a concierge at the 12 George hotel where Anna stayed. Portrayed by Alexis Floyd, the character is based on the real-life figure with the same name (Neff is short for Neffatari), who worked at a hotel named 11 Howard. Davis is a prominent voice in Pressler's piece and talked about how Anna tipped with $100 bills and brought her to dinners at Le Coucou where CEOs and celebrities were present. Asked by Bustle about whether Inventing Anna's portrayal of her as "a bold, brash woman who was hellbent on defending Anna's actions" was a true depiction, Davis said, "Yes, definitely." She added: "Of course, I had to set boundaries with Anna, but I truly stood by her side because she was there for me when I needed her. Loyalty is loyalty."

Inventing Anna is now available to stream.