Journalist Rachel DeLoache Williams has criticized the “shocking” portrayal of herself inInventing Anna.
The new Netflix series, which was released on Friday (11 February), chronicles the rise and fall of scammer Anna Delvey (aka Anna Sorokin) who is played by Ozarks star Julia Garner.
Inventing Anna tells the true story of Sorokin, a twenty-something socialite who was convicted of fraud and grand larceny after she fraudulent friends and big banks out of hundreds and thousands of dollars by posing as a rich heiress.
Sorokin’s story was told in an explosive 2018 exposé by Jessica Pressler for nyc magazine. The article forms the basis of Inventing Annawith Anna Chlumsky playing a lightly fictionalized version of Pressler, renamed Vivian Kent.
Williams first appears in episode six of the series, played by Katie Lowes, as the show goes on to document a disastrous holiday that the real-life Williams went on with Sorokin in 2017.
Williams was a photojournalist at Vanity Fair when she struck up a friendship with Sorokin.
The journalist wrote in detail about her Marrakesh trip in a 2018 article for Vanity Fair titled “My Bright-Lights Misadventure with a Magician of Manhattan” and in a 2019 book titled My Friend Anna. The rights to Williams’ story have been bought by HBO with Girls star Lena Dunham attached to the project.
Writing about Netflix’s Inventing Anna for Time Magazine in a piece published on Thursday (10 February), Williams clarified that she “was not involved with the show”.
Williams wrote: “I learned at the same time as the rest of the world that it would feature Katie Lowes as a character named ‘Rachel,’ described by Netflix in the following terms: ‘A natural-born follower whose blind worship of Anna almost destroys her job, her credit, and her life.
“’But while her relationship with Anna is her greatest regret, the woman she becomes because of Anna may be Anna’s greatest creation.’”
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Williams explained that she “expected there would be times when the dramatization of my experience would make me uncomfortable” and added she “understood that stepping into the spotlight came with certain risks”.
“I would only have so much control over how I was portrayed,” she wrote. Williams said, however, that “this Netflix description felt shocking.”
The journalist went on to quote one section of her character’s description – “the woman she becomes because of Anna” – and stated that these “seven little words that in one fell swoop stripped me of my agency, accomplishments, and truth”.
“Were we meant to believe that the woman I had become was not on account of the parents who raised me, the love I shared with family and friends, my own efforts or personal growth, but because of Anna?” Williams wrote.
Elsewhere in the piece, she criticized the media portrayal of the real-life Sorokin through “strangely convivial interviews in which she tried to pass off criminal behavior as a form of high art”.
As is written in Williams’ Vanity Fair piece and is reflected in Inventing Anna, the journalist was pressured into footing the bill for the lavish holiday when Sorokin said she was experiencing trouble with her bank. She assured Williams that she would be fully reimbursed.
Williams charged approximately $62,000 (£45,688) to her accounts in relation to the Morocco trip under the false pretence that she would receive the money back. She only ever received $5,000 (£3,685) reimbursement from Sorokin.
At her trial in 2019, Sorokin was found guilty of swindling more than $200,000 (£147,000) from hotels, banks and other institutions. She scammed further sums of money from associates and friends.
You can read more about what exactly is fact and what is fiction in Inventing Anna here.
George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.