Shonda Rhimes is going to get me to April and springtime in North America. Sarah’s got you covered later today on Bridgerton season two which is coming in March. But before that, another Shondaland production, Inventing Anna, drops on Netflix on February 11.
Inventing Anna is the first series that Shonda has created herself since Scandal. It’s based on the real-life story of Anna Sorokin aka Anna Delvey and adapted from Jessica Pressler’s piece on the fake heiress who scammed New York society that was published in 2018. I just re-read it this weekend after the trailer for the show came out a few days ago and if you haven’t already, I highly recommend as homework before the series begins. Jessica Pressler, you’ll note, also reported on Hustlers and that article became the film.
How did Anna do it? Well, how did Elizabeth Holmes do it? How did Adam and Rebekah Neumann (WeWork) do it? This is more than just being good at lying, it’s lie management. It’s lie and stress management. Or, maybe, it’s lying without stress management. You ever use a fake ID when you were a kid to get into a bar? Maybe the TikTok generation doesn’t do this anymore but this was a thing back in my day and I remember the f-cking stress, the cold sweat hitting my back, during those ten seconds waiting to see if the fake ID could get me through. There have been times when I’ve had that cold sweat on the back feeling even when I’m not lying. Like when I’d RSVP for an event and make it to the front of the line to check in with the door person and their clipboard and they’re looking to find my name. Those were the times when I was still going to every film festival party in Cannes and at TIFF, as a gossip columnist writing about the celebrities who’d be there – and my anxiety was about whether or not they’d know about my blog and what I was writing and not give me access and it would be embarrassing to be turned away in front of all the people waiting outside trying to talk their way in.
Is that switch turned off in the Anna Sorokins and the Elizabeth Holmeses of the world? Of course their lies took them to big highs – a privileged lifestyle, unlimited access to the most exclusive experiences, people believing you’re someone that they have to know – but for a regular person with a conscience, those highs would be accompanied by deep lows. At least they would for me. I’d be too busy worrying about being caught to actually enjoy the gains from my lies.
Anna’s fraud was extreme. But there are small frauds that happen every day, all around us, especially on social media. Did you watch Singles Inferno? The breakout star of Singles Inferno is Song Ji-a, who wore head-to-toe designer labels on the show from Chanel to Dior to Louis Vuitton, like every single outfit was luxury. Or so it seemed. Turns out a lot of clothing and accessories were knock-offs and she’s now had to apologise for misleading the audience. What’s also interesting is the difference in reaction to her being exposed for her counterfeit fashion. In the west, it’s probably not enough to get you cancelled. In Korea though, the fact that she misrepresented herself through her wardrobe is much more offensive.
This is obviously not to say that what Ji-a did is even in the same neighbourhood of Anna Sorokin’s scams. Anna’s lies hurt a lot of people. Friends of hers went into debt because of her f-cksh-t. But she did create an illusion. Through smoke and mirrors and, yes, sometimes Instagram, she led people to believe she was someone she wasn’t. And a lot of people wanted to believe that illusion. As Jessica Pressler wrote:
“Anna looked at the soul of New York and recognized that if you distract people with shiny objects, with large wads of cash, with the indicia of wealth, if you show them the money, they will be virtually unable to see anything else. And the thing was: It was so easy.”
Maybe that’s what’s so unsettling. Not that Anna Sorokin conned so many people – because there are new con artists creating themselves all the time – but that the world is set up for their cons to actually work.
Anna Sorokin was released from prison last February and was promptly back on Instagram. It was reported that she changed her name. A month later she was detained by American immigration authorities and according to ABC they’re considering deporting her. She’s trying to stay in the US though as she insists she never had bad intentions. She insists that she was trying to build a members’ club and may have made mistakes along the way but that she never meant any harm. And that now she wants to “rewrite” her story. Just look at Shonda’s tweet about the trailer:
Totally fabulous… or totally fake? The fact that “fabulous” is one of the options tells you the celebrity potential here. And the controversy that will follow.
“Anna Delvey is a masterpiece, bitches”. Jessica Pressler was so right. It was SO EASY.
Yours in gossip,