The anatomy of a girlboss scammer

The fraudulent feminist and fashion icon that is Anna Delvey

If you know about the story of Anna Sorokin, better known under the alias Anna Delvey, you probably have an opinion on her.

Her instagram comment section, full of people who either admire her or hate her, is jumping from “#DeportAnna” to “#FreeAnna.”

The Russian-German con artist and fraudster rose to fame in 2019 for going on trial after not only defrauding banks, financial institutions, and hotels by pretending to be a German heiress, but tricking New York high society into believing her scam.

After her story was made public by journalist Jessica Pressler in the New York magazine, she became an overnight sensation.

This fame also culminated into the hit Netflix series, Inventing Anna, based on the events surrounding her scamming activities and her trial.

Not only did people wonder how she got away with her crimes for so long, but they lusted after her opulent demands — some as tone-deaf as asking her defense council to hire a wardrobe stylist for her during the oh-so-famous trial.

From her designer-styled courtroom attire to her angelic and innocent-looking expression, people loved the idea of Anna Delvey because she embodied what some of us wish we could do: scam the elites.

Delvey knew what she was doing. Coupled with the fact that she coped with the stress of unpaid debts by continuing to live a life of luxury, her antics even made some of us think we must be too conservative in our side-hustles.

She did what the rest of us — trapped in a capitalist economy — choose not to do based on rationality: living in a fantasy world, where money is never a problem.

Although she was found guilty of attempted grand larceny, larceny in the second degree, and theft of services, many refuse to see her as a criminal. Instead she’s perceived as an embodiment of class struggle — she grabbed the American Dream in a chokehold, all without connections.

After all, the reason why she was able to keep up with the character of Anna Delvey for so long was the ease with which she navigated the world of the one per cent, just by knowing what to say, how to dress, who to hang out with, and where to be.

Her story pulled back the curtain of how the rich do not become successful based on natural selection but more so on the basis of whether or not one can “fit the part.”

 

Faking Old Money

She confirmed what many hypothesized about the elite: that it’s all a facade of appearances.

Delvey became one of them by seeing past what a regular person perceives wealth to be. Instead, she isolated a persona of the rich white chick that buys her t-shirts from The Row just because she can, not because it looks expensive. She saw the nonchalance and aloofness behind the rich — if you have that much money, might as well show it and don luxurious brands for people to respect you. And that’s how Anna acted.

This explains why so many of the people she scammed were embarrassed: how can a 20-something con woman with no degree and no connections screw us, big men of Wall Street in suits?

I would say, props to her for breaking through another glass ceiling.

As the character of Neff, a friend of Anna, in Inventing Anna said it best: “You are the real fucking deal.”

But not everyone could have pulled off such an act and still make a career as a #girlboss after serving her sentence.

We could easily compare Anna Delvey to the case of Elizabeth Holmes, who also was the muse of a fictional TV show, The Dropout.

Holmes was an entrepreneur in the biotechnology industry who scammed her investors into thinking her revolutionary method of blood testing could detect a person’s complete health profile, which turned out to be false.

Both of these scammers dropped out of college and were trying to pursue something bigger than themselves in fields dominated by men.

What differentiates Delvey from Holmes though, is that the victims of Delvey’s crimes were the common enemy of the average middle-class millennial: the rich.

On top of that, Delvey’s rich-girl-from-Europe-who-doesn’t-give-a-fuck style saves her from a comparison to Holmes, who claims to draw inspiration from Steve Jobs by wearing the same black turtleneck everyday.

Delvey tried to pass as an elite to scam them out of their money; Holmes tried to pass as a business tech mogul to scam the middle-class by making them trust her technology for their health.

In classic scammer fashion, both women changed their appearance, demeanor, and for Holmes, her voice, to fit their bigger agenda.

In the end, both women created characters; except Delvey’s was likable enough to grant her the respect and icon status that many grant her.

 

Collage by Catherine Reynolds

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