Inventing Anna has captivated viewers since it premiered on Netflix on Feb. 11. But who are the real Vivian, Rachel, Neff and Kacy? New York magazine writer Jessica Pressler and Vanity Fair staffer Rachel Williams both wrote articles about the events leading up to the arrest of Anna Delvey (Sorokin). But there’s a lot more to the story.
Inventing Anna tells the tale of Anna Delvey (Sorokin), a woman who claimed to be a German heiress with over $60 million in her bank accounts. She was able to con the New York social scene, including banks, financial groups, and her friends.
The mini-series, which has nine episodes, starts by saying “this whole story is completely true. Except for all the parts that are totally made up.”
Jessica Pressler (Vivian)
Pressler is the journalist who first broke the Anna Delvey story and also helped produce the mini-series. In 2018, she wrote an article for New York magazine called “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People,” and it exposed all of Delvey’s schemes.
The article ended up making the fake German heiress famous. It explored how she scammed banks out of money, traveled for free and even stole a private jet. Her article includes interviews with Anna’s friends, enemies, and even Delvey, from behind the walls of prison.
Since the show aired, Jessica Pressler has dished on what’s true and what’s not. Though the character Vivian is based on Pressler, the journalist says everything in the show should be taken with a grain of salt.
“The character is very loosely based on me, just to be clear,” Pressler told InStyle. “There are aspects of me in there. I’m sure there are aspects of Shonda [Rhimes]. I’m sure there are aspects of Anna Chlumsky in there… I think that probably some of the writers who worked on the episodes [are in there].”
For example, while Jessica Pressler was pregnant while writing the story, she didn’t go into labor at the newsroom.
Rachel Williams (Rachel)
Rachel Williams was one of the first people to become friends with Anna when she landed in New York. At the time, Williams was a photo assistant for Vanity Fair, and later helped the police capture Anna Delvey.
During a Moroccan vacation, Anna’s credit card got declined, and Williams was forced to put the $62,000 bill on her work credit card, which got her in trouble with the magazine. Anna never paid her back, despite promising a wire transfer, and the two women had a falling out until 2017 when Williams helped the police arrest her.
Because of her connection to the Anna Delvey story, Rachel Williams was able to get a $300,000 book deal with Simon and Schuster. In 2019, she published My Friend Anna, which tells her side of the story.
Since the Netflix show premiered, Rachel Williams has criticized the streaming service for how they allowed Anna to profit from the show. Netflix reportedly paid the con woman $320,000 for the rights to her story. She was allowed to keep a portion of her money, and the rest went to pay for her lawyer and her victims.
Williams said, “People have never loved grift stories as much as they do today, and media companies are competing to give viewers what they want. In the case of Anna Sorokin, Netflix moved so quickly that their involvement influenced the nature of the very story they intended to dramatize.”
She added, “Because of Netflix, Anna emerged from behind bars financially net positive, with legions of followers and a level of notoriety from which she’ll presumably continue to profit.”
Neff Davis (Neff)
Like Rachel Williams, Neff Davis was also a friend of Anna’s. The two met while Anna was staying at the 11 Howard Hotel where Neff worked as a concierge. Anna would tip Davis $100 bills for restaurant recommendations and sometimes work alongside her in the lobby.
Their friendship was short, and Neff Davis only learned about Anna’s crimes when Jessica Pressler called her after Delvey’s arrest. In an interview with Vanity Fair, Davis said that she’s not mad at Anna for lying to her.
She said, “But I’m not mad at it because it’s like, if you’re doing a crime, you can’t tell people. You know what I mean? If you’re robbing a bank, you’re not gonna tap me on the shoulder and say, ‘Hey, I’m about to go rob a bank.’ I don’t have any hate towards that, but I really did wish she had used that powerful mind for good. Because it’s like, she didn’t have to do it that way. She would’ve made it in New York just by being Anna.”
Kacy Duke (Kacy)
Kacy Duke is a personal trainer who was hired by Anna Delvey and portrayed by Laverne Cox in Inventing Anna. According to Duke, she became aware of Anna’s lies after the horrible Moroccan trip. Duke had to leave early because of food poisoning. But Duke agreed to buy Anna a plane ticket home because Anna’s cards were declined.
The “German heiress,” then tried to stay at Duke’s apartment. It wasn’t until her trial that Kacy Duke learned the whole truth about Anna and her schemes.
According to Duke, Anna reached out to her via Instagram after her arrest and asked if she wanted to get together. The personal trainer declined but gave Anna some advice. She said, “I said, ‘You have newfound fame here. Use it more wisely. You’re smart. Make better choices.’ And that’s how we left it.”
Anna Delvey was found guilty of larceny in 2019 and sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison. She was released in 2021 and is currently in ICE custody for violating her visa.