She wears a dress by AKNVAS and a balaclava by & OTHER STORIES.

Anna DELVEY

Words: Elle Hunt

Photos: Josefina Santos

Styling: Jèss Monterde

One million followers and a criminal record.
What comes next for ANNA DELVEY?

Issue 52

, Influence

,
  • Words Elle Hunt
  • Photos Josefina Santos
  • Styling Jèss Monterde
  • Hair & Makeup Laura Pantoja

Sorokin wears a dress by AKNVAS and boots by SIMON MILLER.

( 1 ) Rikers Island has been described as the world’s largest penal colony, with an average daily population of 10,000 inmates. It has been ranked as one of the 10 worst correctional facilities in the US. In October 2019, the New York City Council voted to close the facility by 2026.

Anna Sorokin doesn’t like to be called a scammer. “I deeply despise that word,” she says. “It assumes intent to permanently defraud or deprive somebody, and that was just never the case. Obviously, I’m biased.”

It’s a Monday morning in January and Sorokin is speaking over Zoom from a friend’s farm in upstate New York where she has been staying since November. She takes her phone to the window: Outside, the ground is thick with snow. She is wearing what was known as her uniform back when she ran with fashion sets in Paris and New York—a hoodie and leggings in head-to-toe black. Today, however, she’s swapped heels for flip-flops, and on one ankle, there’s a monitor, tracking her location.

Sorokin—who is better known as Anna Delvey—was arrested in 2017 following years of maneuvering among artistic and upper-class circles in high-society New York. The case made Sorokin a media sensation and spawned Inventing Anna, the Shonda Rhimes Netflix series starring Julia Garner. At her trial in 2019, it was found that she had defrauded investors, realtors and personal acquaintances of $275,000 in service of her plan to establish the Anna Delvey Foundation, an elite members club and arts foundation in Manhattan. The ruse, prosecutors claimed, funded a lavish lifestyle of living in high-end hotels, dinners in expensive restaurants and now-infamous luxury vacations. 

She wears a suit by STELLA MCCARTNEY and a shirt by THE FRANKIE SHOP.

Having been convicted of eight of 10 charges against her, including attempted grand larceny and theft of a private jet, Sorokin served nearly four years in prison (including a 19-month stint at New York’s infamous Rikers Island) and a further 18 months in immigration detention, before being released on house arrest in October 2022.1

Sorokin explains that she had planned to return to New York City and move into a new apartment by now, but her move has been delayed by the landlord and a recent snowstorm. In her downtime, she has “finally” been making progress with a documentary about her life and is writing a book. Sorokin describes it as a “diary” and says she’s already in talks with publishers. “I feel more in control of the narrative,” she says.

Sorokin was born in a satellite town of Moscow in the last year of the Soviet Union and grew up in Germany. She started calling herself Delvey while working as an intern at Purple magazine in Paris between 2012 and 2013, and began defrauding people shortly after moving to New York in 2014. By the time her story went viral with articles in New York magazine and Vanity Fair in 2018, she was already in pre-trial detention. The latter of these was written by Rachel DeLoache Williams, Sorokin’s former friend who cooperated in the sting operation that led to her arrest. Williams, who describes Sorokin as “a magician of Manhattan,” claims that she was left to foot the $62,000 bill for an ill-fated trip to Morocco, which Sorokin promised, and failed, to pay back. (At trial, Sorokin was found not guilty of defrauding her former friend.)

( 1 ) Rikers Island has been described as the world’s largest penal colony, with an average daily population of 10,000 inmates. It has been ranked as one of the 10 worst correctional facilities in the US. In October 2019, the New York City Council voted to close the facility by 2026.

Sorokin wears a suit by AKNVAS and a top by CECILIE BAHNSEN.

She wears a dress by 3.1 PHILLIP LIM and boots by SIMON MILLER.

Sorokin wears a balaclava by & OTHER STORIES and sunglasses by RAY-BAN.

( 2 ) Also in attendance was Olivier Zahm, the founder and editor in chief of Purple , the fashion magazine where Sorokin had interned in Paris prior to moving to New York City.

In her piece for New York magazine, journalist Jessica Pressler revealed how Sorokin insinuated herself into high-society New York, allowing convenient rumors around the origin of her wealth to circulate (she was the daughter of an oil tycoon; her family was big in antiques in Germany) and using her connections to fly under the radar as she spent money she didn’t have—racking up a $30,000 debt at a hotel, dodging restaurant bills of hundreds of dollars, and spending thousands more on personal training. Eventually, when she had burned through friends, their goodwill and their credit, she was arrested. Pressler presented Sorokin’s story as a parable of modern-day Manhattan, where “money is more powerful than ever… [but] almost always comes with strings attached.”

Sorokin is dismissive of that narrative, suggesting that it caters “to the general public’s perception” of New York and denies that she was especially profligate (though “no money is worth going to jail [for],” she adds). “I haven’t made the smartest decisions, but people only focus on the bad stuff—I’ve also paid so many bills.” (Delvey was known as a generous tipper: Pressler reported that hotel staff used to fight to serve her, knowing that they would be slipped a $100 bill.)

Sorokin adds that she was never trying to hide—since she wasn’t a permanent legal resident, she was always vulnerable to deportation. “I just know that I never had any intent to permanently defraud anybody of anything, and nobody can tell me that I did,” she says. She also insists that her intentions with the Anna Delvey Foundation were sincere: “I went about it in, unfortunately, the wrong ways—but it doesn’t make me the criminal of the century.”

Her idea for the foundation might have been viable—Sorokin points out that the building on Park Avenue South she’d been working to secure as her HQ has since been leased to Swedish photographic organization Fotografiska—but the way she went about it was undeniably criminal. In her trial, she was found to have faked wire transfers, made fraudulent checks and reportedly posed, by email, as a financial advisor working for her family (though Sorokin denies ever claiming to be an heiress). In the past, Sorokin has been both unrepentant of her crimes and impatient with any suggestion that she should be, but today she is neither defensive nor apologetic. “It is what it is; I can’t complain,” she shrugs. 

She is, however, increasingly ready to move on. This May marks five years since her sentencing, she points out: “I think it’s really up to me—to do something else with my life and prove people wrong,” she says. “I don’t want to be the sad person in my 50s, still talking about when I went to trial. It’s just not that interesting to me, personally. I’ve processed it, and I’m fine moving on with my life.” The real question is whether she will be allowed to. 

Before Sorokin had even been released from prison, her fame had been cemented with Inventing Anna: Netflix’s splashy adaptation of Pressler’s article. The 9-part miniseries ran with the morality-tale element of Pressler’s article, playing up the glamour of Sorokin’s con, introducing an entirely fictional plotline about unethical journalism and taking creative license with certain details (the trailer for the series admits that “This story is completely true. Except for the parts that are totally made up”). Sorokin was paid $320,000 to consult on the series, part of which went toward restitution and fees, and met with Garner while she was in prison, but says she has not seen the series beyond the odd clip. Its portrayal of her seems “so earnest,” she says, grimacing; she sees herself as more sarcastic. “I’d just find it cringe… Maybe one day, but I feel like there’s always something better to watch.”

Prison, at least, prevented Sorokin from engaging too deeply with her public image. Her limited internet access “was kind of a blessing,” she says. “What would I have done—Google myself? At that time, there was nothing good written about me, ever. It would have just been really damaging.” Having hired a publicity team, however, Sorokin did give interviews from prison and posted to Instagram—mostly promoting sales of her pencil sketches which riffed on her socialite-scammer image with titles like Trial is the new sextape and You’re not who you pretend to be, either. An exhibition titled Free Anna Delvey in Manhattan in March 2022, while Sorokin was still incarcerated, had works listed for $10,000. Artnews declared her subsequent show, Allegedly, her “biggest scam of all”; she went on to launch a collection of NFTs.

Sorokin now has more than a million followers on Instagram but hasn’t posted since September 2022—she is still not permitted to use social media, as a condition of her release. Though her artworks remain available for sale online, priced from $250 to $25,000, she no longer relates to the defiant image they presented, but adds that she found the door wide open had she wanted to run with it. “So much was being thrown my way,” she says, incredulous—from offers of “fake heiress” merchandise to a “house arrest dating show.”

Instead, Sorokin has lately been turning down interviews and taking stock. Having accumulated a certain degree of influence, she is now considering how she wants to spend it. “I’m trying to go about it with a different approach because there’s not much value to being written about by all these tabloids on a regular basis.”

“I don’t want to be the sad person in my 50s, still talking about when I went to trial. It’s just not that interesting.”

Being under house arrest and fighting deportation hasn’t held Sorokin back from trying to change her narrative. Last May she launched a podcast, The Anna Delvey Show, interviewing public figures such as journalist Taylor Lorenz and the writer Natasha Stagg. Last September, she held an event on the rooftop of her apartment during New York Fashion Week to promote designer Shao Yang and launch OutLaw Agency—her “pop-up” partnership with fashion publicist Kelly Cutrone. The show was attended by everyone from The New York Times’ fashion critic, Vanessa Friedman, to the Real House-wives’ Leah McSweeney. The celebrity-gossip Instagram account Deuxmoi sold merchandise and soft-serve ice cream outside.2 

Sorokin says she and Cutrone have received many offers of work for their PR agency, but that they are still figuring out their goals. In the meantime, Cutrone, who also lives upstate, has been driving Sorokin back to the city for her weekly check-ins with the authorities, required as a condition of her release. She also regularly exchanges texts with actor and author Julia Fox, whose recent rise Sorokin sees as a model for how to cement fleeting fame. 

But she says she is looking beyond celebrity and her ambitions with the Anna Delvey Foundation: “I can’t really just go back to doing an arts club, having been through what I’ve been through… I feel like I have more interesting and more important things to say and do.” Prison changed her, she explains, saying that she is considering going into law, or even politics. “My whole experience of the criminal justice system was so wild and arbitrary… It’s so full of mistakes and inconsistencies, and so badly managed.” Whenever she starts to feel sorry for herself she says she looks up women she met in prison who are still there. “The mass incarceration of the 1%” would make prison reform “much faster,” she adds, laughing.

Whatever she decides on doing, her public profile—which has only grown since her conviction—won’t hurt. But as Sorokin seeks to capitalize on her infamy, she disdains those she sees to be doing the same—such as Williams, her friend-turned-accuser, who expanded on her viral Vanity Fair article with a bestselling book, My Friend Anna. Williams is now suing Netflix for defamation over her depiction in Inventing Anna, claiming in the lawsuit that the show portrays her as “sponging off” Sorokin and is further “blurring the boundaries between fact and fiction.”

Sorokin says she was recently subpoenaed for the Netflix suit. “Rachel is still trying to get more money out of this whole thing—it just seems like it’s never-ending, and she’s never moving on… I wouldn’t want that to be me.” She sounds somewhere between gleeful and triumphant. 

“Like, at least I’m the main character.”

( 2 ) Also in attendance was Olivier Zahm, the founder and editor in chief of Purple , the fashion magazine where Sorokin had interned in Paris prior to moving to New York City.

Sorokin wears a dress by TIBI and sneakers by NIKE.

ISSUE 52

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