Notorious fraudster Anna Delvey on her London dreams
Anna Delvey is fresh out of jail and has recently moved into a new apartment in West Chelsea. It’s the first home she’s ever had in New York City. Until her three-year spell in prison, she’d spent four years living it up in suites in five-star Manhattan hotels such as 11 Howard and The Standard – without paying for them.
Hence the move to a not-very-five-star prison cell. Now she’s adapting to life with neither hotel concierge on call nor prison guard. “I have to shop for tissues and toilet paper, so that’s new,” she says. “My parole officer told me I can’t live in a hotel because they need to make unannounced visits. So they gave me 10 days to find a place or they would have sent me to a shelter.
No room service there,” she giggles. Born Anna Sorokin in Moscow, she and her parents moved to the small town of Eschweiler, Germany, when she was 13. Now 30, she’s known to the world (or at least those parts of it seduced by the story of a high-society trickster) as Anna Delvey: Manhattan’s notorious ‘fake heiress’.
Her tale has been minutely chronicled by the New York Post and The New York Times, as well as on YouTube, Twitter and Instagram. But briefly the facts are these: Sorokin, whose father ran a logistics company (she denies reports that he was a truck driver) and whose mother was a housewife, moved to Paris in 2011. She changed her name and landed an internship with culture magazine Purple, making connections in the art world and feigning a gilded background.
Delvey was fined and sentenced to 4-12 years in prison (she served a little over three years, two of them prior to her trial) at a New York court in April 2019Credit: Eric T White Styling: Jenesee Utley
Armed with these, she moved to the Big Apple in 2013 and swiftly and expertly bit a chunk out of the fattest wallets in the city (as well as those of some rather more modestly paid friends, of which more later).
She used bad cheques, non-functioning credit cards and excuses to live in hotel suites and dine in top restaurants, and she almost clinched a multimillion-dollar loan to start a new private arts club called the Anna Delvey Foundation. The fast life caught up with her in 2017 when she was arrested in Los Angeles and imprisoned in the notorious Rikers Island jail (which has also hosted rapist Harvey Weinstein, rapper Tupac Shakur and John Lennon’s assassin, Mark Chapman). In 2019 she was found guilty of theft of services and grand larceny, having scammed more than £200,000 (GBP144,000) from banks and luxury hotels.
During her trial, prosecutors told how Delvey pretended she was the beneficiary of a trust fund based in Europe and worth about £60 million. As far as the name change goes, the woman herself says there is no difference between Anna Sorokin and Anna Delvey. “I’m the same person with different last names. I don’t have a split personality.
Both of them have a criminal record. It doesn’t really mean anything,” she says, sliding on her Celine sunglasses. Of her prison experience, she says, “I was an early adopter of lockdown.
I learnt to block off outside distractions. I can be in a room full of people and never hear what they say. I can really focus on my own thing.” Has she picked up any prison skills to take home? “You learn how to read people because you’re stuck around 40 females who are very devious.
It was an interesting sociological study.” Delvey was as devious as the best of them, and she has emerged as a very modern anti-heroine – one whose every move is now breathlessly recorded not least by her own Instagram account (128,000 followers and counting). Her amoral cavort through Manhattan society has been turned into a book, My Friend Anna, by Rachel DeLoache Williams.
The former Vanity Fair photo editor – who is no heiress – footed Delvey’s £62,000 (GBP45,000) bill at La Mamounia hotel in Morocco (Delvey was found not guilty in relation to that charge in court). Delvey has said that she’ll pay her back and that Williams knows where to find her, but given that Williams is also working with HBO on a Delvey-inspired series and stands to net £600,000 from her experience, she’s managed to make the best of the situation.
“I’ve done what I’ve done and I’m trying to deal with the consequences”Credit: Eric T White Styling: Jenesee Utley
Tights, GBP42, Wolford As for Delvey herself, she tells me, “I’ve done what I’ve done and I’m trying to deal with the consequences and channel this attention into something positive.” Although back in 2019, she got herself into hot water when, seemingly unrepentant, she told an undercover reporter for The New York Times, “I’d be lying to you and to everyone else and to myself if I said I was sorry for anything.” Now, she’s hoping to monetise her notoriety and is going about it with lashings of chutzpah.
She ran a blog, Anna Delvey Diaries, which, she says, “took a lot of focus because I wrote everything while I was in prison and the tablet that the state gives you is offline.” There, she published mock letters to Weinstein and a Rikers 101 guide for former president Donald Trump. Of her new fan base, she says, “I thought they’d be way more mean. I wake up to hundreds of comments and people trying to make sense of my behaviour.” This isn’t something Delvey herself attempts.
She has done her time and she isn’t wasting a second now she’s back in the free world. “So many people would love for me to fail and f- it all up and go back to jail. My desire to prove people wrong [is what gets me up in the morning].” As she speaks to me from a high-backed grey chair in her New York kitchen, it is clear that she has a lot going on, and it’s not just shopping for loo roll. “It’s been 30-something days and I’ve been filling [my time up] doing everything and seeing my parole officer.” ‘Everything’ includes, but is not limited to, her own book deal, a self-funded reality show called Anna Delvey TV and a fashion range called Correction Collection, which she’s working on with Paul Cupo from Hood by Air.
Olivier Zahm, Anna Delvey and Olga SorokinaCredit: Joe Schildhorn/BFA.com
Emma Corrin (Princess Diana in The Crown) will play a character inspired by her in a new West End production titled Anna X.
Last year, she made a £320,000 deal with Netflix for Inventing Anna, a television show also inspired by her life, starring Julia Garner. What does her parole officer make of all this? “I mean, I’m not doing anything illegal…” The minute we connect on Zoom, her videographer tells me I am being filmed for Anna Delvey TV, and sure enough, a camera crew in Delvey’s kitchen records our interview for her fans.
As for Inventing Anna, she says, “They made me a consultant, and I answered a bunch of questions for them. Julia [Garner] came to see me in prison – she did my accent [an exotic mid-Atlantic drawl] and she was really good at it. I didn’t know who she was.
They said, ‘It’s the girl from Ozark.’ I said, ‘Don’t tell me it’s the one who stole the bag of cash.’ And that was her.” Delvey, a German citizen, is currently fighting deportation from America, having overstayed her visa (“I have so much going on in New York, I’d be upset if I had to leave”). But rumour has it that if forced to leave the US, she’d call London home.
Anna Delvey with DJ Elle Dee Credit: Will Ragozzino/BFAnyc.com
“Watch out!” she warns. “I love the English and I have lots of British friends.
London is a bit like New York: you can always get something done.” Should she wash up on this side of the pond, she’ll head for a room at the Chiltern Firehouse, “of course”. “I’ve stayed there before. It’s kind of homey.” The hotel is owned by Andre Balazs, an acquaintance of Delvey’s. “‘Know’ is a strong word, but yeah, I do know him.” Where else will she be hanging out? “Oh my gosh, Annabel’s – does it still exist? I like to shop in London.”
In March she Instagrammed a photoshopped picture of the Duchess of Sussex wearing a Delvey Mail hoodie during her interview with Oprah. “True Queen,” she says, referring to Winfrey, not Markle. “It would not have been possible without her, she carried the whole thing.” I ask if, a la Meghan Markle, she would like to snag a royal? “No, an arts person, definitely. I know a lot of art people.
They just travel the whole time, so nobody is based anywhere these days. Or they used to, until Covid.” She should know: the story goes that she charmed high-flyers such as Balazs, entrepreneur Roo Rogers and real-estate magnate Aby Rosen with her in-depth knowledge of the global art scene. Delvey is clearly bright, witty, engaging and likeable.
She has a round, cherubic face, which glows (presumably thanks to the expensive serums she is reported to favour), and these days her auburn hair is freshly cut and tonged; her accent is an exotic mid-Atlantic drawl. She’s a very modern Becky Sharp, and like Thackeray’s leading lady, she appears endlessly resourceful and full of self-confidence. Couldn’t we all do with a little slice of her self-belief, I ask. “Definitely.
How do you expect anyone else to believe in you when you don’t even believe in yourself?” But she reminds me that, until everything came toppling down, “I also had all of these people around me telling me, ‘Oh yeah, that’s going to be great, that’s going to be awesome.'” Delvey finds the Anna X play, which she has only just been told about, intriguing. “It’s funny how they just helped themselves to my story. I guess it’s a compliment.” But she wants Corrin to visit her in New York. “I’ll take her to Rikers.
To the courthouse. To SoHo. Drinks will be on me,” she says, noting, “I feel great about her playing me – hopefully she’ll do a better job than I did.”
Anna Delvey at a Paris Fashion Week partyCredit: Joe Schildhorn/BFA.com
Should her parole officer allow her to travel to attend the premiere, Delvey would want to wear custom-made Alexander McQueen.
She’ll be giving Sarah Burton [creative director of the British fashion house] a call. “I love her. She used to show in Paris, and I went to a couple of them while I was still with Purple.” Delvey is fashion-literate, and runs to fetch her favourite Rick Owens clutch and a gold headpiece from Nicolas Ghesquiere’s last collection for Balenciaga, both returned to her after her release from prison. “I just love it; it’s just so pretty,” she says as she slides the headpiece into her hair.
Other than these prized possessions, she’s not bothered about getting any of her pre-incarceration wardrobe back. “I just want the new stuff. I need new everything!” she says. Even her prison uniform wasn’t so shabby. “I learnt how to make clothes and how to alter my uniform,” she says. “You just trace your body contours and alter it.
It’s actually pretty easy and I’m good at it. [Fellow prisoners] were trying to hire me for the service but I said no.” Her nickname behind bars was, of course, ‘princess’. I note that she once wrote, “My life is performance art,” and she responds, “Isn’t everything about performance?” Delvey’s role-playing started young, and you can blame it on The Sims, the millennial life-simulation video game. “I started playing when I was nine.
I would create a Sim and give them as much money as possible. I thought it was such a waste of time to actually make your Sim go to work. I would spend half an hour filling up their bank accounts with the cheat code [which enabled players to max-out their virtual bank account].
It’s a very f-d up game if you think about it.” Her apartment’s shelves also provide clues to her moral compass. She’s just unpacked a stack of books in which American Psycho author Bret Easton Ellis and slacker fiction novelist Ottessa Moshfegh feature heavily. Delvey’s ultimate goal continues to be to “make as much money as possible.” She’d also like to “reform the criminal justice system”, noting, “It’s funny how many Americans don’t know what’s happening.
They assume the way it’s set up works.” Delvey cites Kim Kardashian’s prison-reform work as inspiration. “It’s great that she chose to use her fame towards doing something good. She’d probably have more fun doing something else.” In truth, Delvey’s confected fame is not dissimilar to Kardashian’s rise on the shoulders of Instagram and reality TV.
New York is a city built on big dreams and nimble shortcuts, where only the boldest rise to the top. Delvey has just played them at their own game – and the American dream has always come with a side of collateral damage. When I ask if she has tips for anyone considering adopting a new identity, she laughs and says, “Just be yourself.”
MAIN AND FIRST IMAGE: Hair: Clara Leonard, using Bumble and bumble. Make-up: Ashleigh Ciucci at See Management, using Mac Cosmetics. Photography assistant: Joshua Garcia
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