Domodedevo is a small town south of Moscow. Located on a large plain, it is flat and monotonous. During the winter Domodedevo is cold and snowy whereas during the summer it’s hot and humid. Although known for its large warehouse complexes and airport, it does have a museum of history and art.
It is here that Anna Sorokin, nondescript and yearning for an identity, was born and lived until the age of 16 when her family moved to Germany. There her father worked at a transport company until the company went bankrupt a few years later.
In Germany Anna struggled to learn the language. This made socializing difficult. The only joy life seemed to offer her was that found on internet. She was especially interested in fashion blogs and Vogue.
When she was 21, Anna began working for a PR agency in Berlin but then relocated to Paris where she worked for a fashion magazine. And it was in Paris when she actively began giving her life a new narrative. She started by changing her last name to Delvey. But Paris was not impressed so she moved to New York City where everything is possible. Here Anna presented herself as a wealthy German heiress who was trying to set up an exclusive art club for the elite of the elite.
Having acquired access to the upper echelons, she was now in a position to become a full-time con artist. Anna found a way to get invited to the best parties and soon she was everywhere. Most people assumed that she was another trust fund kid, bored with a bunch of money to spend. And she was able to keep up this image thanks to Instagram.
Anna started hanging out with a “futurist on the TED-Talks circuit who’d been profiled in The New Yorker” now revealed as tech entrepreneur Hunter Lee Soik. Like Anna, Soik also needed rich patrons. He’d invented an app meant to help remember dreams and create a dream database. For two years Anna and Soik were a couple working as a team until Soik realized that Anna was scamming his wealthy contacts. So the couple split and Anna had to start paying her own bills.
Cash flow problems developed and it was becoming more and more difficult to be sponsored by her rich friends. For a while she survived off bounced checks and fake wire transfers. She even used false documents to get bank loans. But Anna had made the mistake of swindling one of her friends for about $60,000. The friend, not pleased, went to the Manhattan District Attorney’s office that then organized a sting operation winding up with Anna’s arrest by the LAPD.
The story was covered by the press but not given that much attention until Jessica Pressler’s article in New York Magazine in 2018. And then BOOM! It was like a Nigerian email scam meant for the elite. Once Anna learned that people could be easily distracted by indications of wealth, they could see only money and nothing else.
Anna spent 19 months in Riker’s Island prison. She was released for good behavior by later was arrested by immigration authorities and is now a deportee in waiting.
Since her exposure as a con artist, Anna has posted photos of herself on Instagram (she has one million followers), hired a videographer to document her new life, and sold rights to her story to Netflix (earning $320,000), and is currently selling her drawings online. Anna has simply exchanged one good story with another.
Often we feel the need to give ourselves our own narration instead of leaving it up to others to give us one of their own.
Had Anna told her story as it actually was who could have been interested in her? Who would have been interested in a nondescript person from a nondescript town in Russian with a nondescript family and equally nondescript educational background.
We are the stories we tell.
Sources and Related: Inventing Anna: Who is Anna Delvey’s rumoured real boyfriend behind character Chase Sikorski? + “Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It” by Jessica Pressler + A dream database | Hunter Lee Soik on youtube + theannadelvey Instagram + How Purple Magazine Intern-Turned-Scam Artist Anna Delvey Turned Contemporary Art Into the Perfect Tool for Fraud + Want To Change Your Life? Change Your Narrative. Here’s How +