Created by Shonda Rhimes, Netflix’s “Inventing Anna” makes it clear from the beginning that, though it’s based on true events, the drama series about how Anna “Delvey” Sorokin conned New York City’s elite isn’t entirely true.
However, the line between fact and fiction is thin when it comes to Anna’s actions and connections, including some of her most unbelievable and scandalous ones.
The fact that Russian-born Anna Sorokin (played by Ozark actress Julia Garner) claimed to be a German heiress named Anna Delvey and defrauded Manhattan’s elite is unbelievable enough, but some of her wildest escapades portrayed in Inventing Anna, like stealing a private jet and tricking banks into loaning her millions, are based in fact. However, one of the most interesting true aspects of Inventing Anna is how she knew the 2017 Fyre Festival scammer, Billy McFarland.
How Anna Knew Billy McFarland
In the fourth episode of Inventing Anna, we see Anna in a new place after she broke up with her boyfriend, Chase (who is fictional but believed to be based on Anna's alleged ex-boyfriend and tech entrepreneur Hunter Lee Soik), and stole philanthropist Nora Radford’s (who is believed to be fictional) credit card to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on designer clothes and accessories. Though we don’t get a full run-down of Anna’s new living situation, we meet a guy named Billy (Ben Rappaport) talking about how he’s planning an event in the Bahamas with rapper Ja Rule. Though he appears to be Anna’s roommate, he tells her that she’s “not supposed to be living here” after she complained that his partying was “out of control.”
Billy later reveals to Anna that his event is called Fyre Festival, confirming that he’s Billy McFarland (because the references to a party in the Bahamas with influencers and Ja Rule weren’t clear enough). It seems both too good to be true and like something you can’t make up when audiences realize that the two famous scammers were once roommates, but it’s fact.
According to Page Six, “Anna knew people on Billy’s team. She just asked to stay for a few days” at McFarland’s Soho loft that was the headquarters of his club/credit card company Magnises on Wooster Street. But “then she wouldn’t leave” and ended up living there for four months in 2013.
An insider source claims that Anna “hung out and went to the parties. She was there, just sitting there – all the time.”
The source also told Page Six that McFarland was a “polite and nonconfrontational” person who couldn’t bring himself to evict Anna. “He hinted, the staff hinted,” explains the source. “She had Balenciaga bags and clothes everywhere. The company wound up moving into a townhouse. That’s the only way they got her out!”
In short, Anna is the superior scammer because she scammed a fellow scammer into letting her crash at his business for free for a couple of months. You truly can’t make this up.
Were the Other Characters Real?
Anna isn’t the only main character in the show, as it also follows journalist Vivian Kent (Anna Chlumsky), who is working on an article to tell Anna’s story and discovers the depths of her scam along the way. Kent is based on New York Magazine contributing editor Jessica Pressler, who broke the story of Anna Delvey in a viral article in May 2018. Though her character was fictionalized for the show, Pressler served as a producer on Inventing Anna.
Other characters go beyond being inspired by real people and are entirely real. This includes Vanity Fair editor Rachel DeLoache Williams (played by Katie Lowes), defense lawyer Todd Spodek (played by Arian Moayed), hotel concierge Neffatari “Neff” Davis (played by Alexis Floyd), and personal trainer Kacy Duke (played by Laverne Cox). Of all the based-on-real-life characters, Neff is the only one who is still friends with Anna.
Inventing Anna tells the story of Anna “Delvey” Sorokin and how she managed to trick some of the richest people in Manhattan into believing she was a rich heiress, when in reality, she didn’t have a dime to her name. Though the story we see in Inventing Anna is fictionalized, some of the storylines are too crazy for one to make up, including how she knew Fyre Festival scammer Billy McFarland.
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