If there’s one thing you should know about me, it’s that I have truly been living for America’s favorite scammer: Anna Delvey. Last year felt like The Year of The Scam when story after story fed the news cycle about people getting screwed over by con artists, but none were so captivating as the story of the broke millennial who managed to scam New York’s elite, and one Vanity Fair photo editor, out of all of their money, one happy hour and lavish vacation at a time. An icon, truly.
For those of you who are unfamiliar with Anna Delvey’s story, then may I just say, what a magical place must be the rock you live under. Do you also consider your home to be an enchanted tower where your only means of exiting is via the 40-foot-long braid you grew from your own head? Because I’m seriously at a loss as to how you could have missed the SCAM TO END ALL SCAMS. But fine, mole people, I suppose I’ll humor you. Anna Delvey aka Anna Sorokin posed as a German heiress and managed to infiltrate her way into Manhattan’s elite social scene before conning her friends and business partners out of a cool $275,000. Since her trial and sentencing last year (she’s currently sending selfies from Rikers Island, where she’ll be for the next 4-12 years serving time for her fraud), her story has continued to fuel the news cycle and also my will to live. More recently, My Friend Anna, a tell-all book written by Rachel Deloache Williams, one of Anna’s former friends and victims, was published over the summer. And now, friends, it gets even better, because Netflix released casting details about the series they are producing based on the fake heiress’ life.
The show, entitled Inventing Anna, is based off of Jessica Pressler’s original damning 2018 New York Magazine article “How Anna Delvey Tricked New York’s Party People” and will focus on the relationship between Anna and a journalist who attempts to get to the truth about Anna amidst her trial. Who will take on the small screen adaptation of such a sordid and twisted tale, you ask? MOTHERF*CKING SHONDA RHIMES, THAT’S WHO. That’s right, the woman who has been treating my fragile emotional state like an Auntie Ann’s pretzel that she can twist and manipulate to her liking through 16 seasons of watching the absolute tomfoolery that occurs at a little place called Seattle Grace Hospital, will be taking on the story of Anna Delvey. I honestly could not think of a better person to tackle this monumental task. If there’s one thing Shonda Rhimes thrives off of, it’s messy drama, and nothing is messier than a broke millennial with an apparent aversion to hairbrushes taking New York’s richest for all they’re worth.
Netflix just released the cast list for the series, and it is everything I hoped it would be and more. Julia Garner, who just won an Emmy for her role in Ozark, will play Anna herself. In a press release, Netflix describes the role of Anna as “a young woman in her mid-20s with a hard-to-place European accent who takes New York by storm. Either a brilliant businesswoman or a scammer extraordinaire, Anna in turn inspires loyalty, compassion, contempt, and obsession—all while leaving behind an emotional body count.” AN EMOTIONAL BODY COUNT. Well, at least Shonda won’t be able to kill off any of Anna’s friends and family members. For once. RIP MCSTEAMY—I’ll never forgive you for for that one, Shonda!
Next up, we’ve got Anna Chlumsky from My Girl and Veep fame, who will play the journalist (aka Vivian) investigating Anna throughout her trial. Apparently Vivian hopes that Anna’s story will be the thing that revives her career, but the more she investigates Anna, the more attached she becomes. So basically she’s me. Anna Chlumsky will be playing the role of me. Can’t wait to watch the scene where she skips out on a happy hour and other basic human interaction to scroll through Anna’s IG feed for 20 hours straight!
Other cast members include Laverne Cox, who will play Kacy Duke, a celebrity trainer and life coach who gets sucked into Anna’s inner circle; Katie Lowes of Scandal fame, who will play Anna’s friend Rachel (aka the author of My Friend Anna); and Alexis Floyd, who’s set to play the role of Neff, the concierge who worked at the Soho hotel Anna frequented (on someone else’s dime). Earlier this year, news broke that Lena Dunham was also working on an adaptation of the Anna Delvey story for HBO, but there have been no updates since the summer.
While there is no date set for the series premiere at this time, we’re told it will probably air sometime in 2020. The series is slated for 10 episodes, which lets me know that I’ll need to clear my schedule for at least double that: 10 hours to watch the show, and another 10 to unpack wtf I just watched and see if there’s any way to incorporate Anna’s tactics into my next Ship date. I’ve got some credit card debt I need paid off. Until then, start clearing your schedules now, because it ! is ! happening !
Images: Getty Images
I don’t know a ton about many influencers. I follow a lot of meme accounts and people I know, plus a few of the obvious ones (Kayla Itsines, Chiara Ferragni, Flavia Charallo, etc.). This is to say that I regularly don’t get the hype about a lot of these people. Talking and writing about their drama feels like waking up from a multi-year coma. Caroline Calloway is one such case. She has a lot of followers, and frankly, I didn’t understand why. She has the feed of pretty much any girl you went to college with who doesn’t care about her Instagram aesthetic—but the girl you went to college with would have at most 800 followers. Caroline has almost 800,000.
I first learned who she was in January of this year, when she was likened to a female Billy McFarland. Now, that I could get into. Right at the height of the Fyre Fest documentaries, as Anna Delvey was gearing up for trial, I had a thirst for more scams. So yeah, I was interested to read about an influencer who shirked a book deal, owed her publisher over a hundred grand, and then tried to charge $165/head for a series of workshops that promised participants vegan, non-dairy, gluten-free salads and ended with them being asked to bring a bag lunch. That was my introduction to Caroline.
After a series of cancellations that garnered national attention, Caroline did eventually hold her workshops, which she cheekily called “The Scam”. Anna Iovine described it to Vice as basically a creative writing workshop with white wine (that was purchased from nearby liquor stores while the event was going on), plus a meet-and-greet and photo opp. Hardly a one-of-a-kind event, but not exactly Fyre Festival. Since then, she mostly remained out of the news until earlier this week, when Caroline herself revealed on her Instagram that there was going to be an essay about her published in The Cut, written by none other than her own ex-best friend and former ghost writer, Natalie Beach.
For those who haven’t been following Caroline since the beginning, she and Natalie met their sophomore year of college, and quickly started working together. Once Caroline started her Instagram, Natalie ghost wrote her captions, and later, tried to help ghost write her memoir. I gather, mostly from Instagram comments and general internet chatter, that Natalie’s presence and existence was known to Caroline’s followers. While Caroline grew her account that, at its height, boasted over 800,000 followers (today she’s rocking with 786k), she was the face and Natalie was the voice. Or at least, Natalie helped craft it. Caroline even references Natalie in some of her old captions. The new part that was perhaps not known (certainly not to Caroline’s publishers, at least) was that Natalie was also the one crafting Caroline’s memoir, and that that memoir was more fiction than nonfiction.
So when news came out that Natalie would be telling her own story in The Cut, there was a freakout among Caroline Calloway stans, grifter enthusiasts, and Calloway herself. She started posting about the article about a week before, naturally apprehensive about what would be written about her. The day before the essay was released, she detailed a conversation with a NY Mag fact checker in (where else?) the captions of one of her posts.
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I just got off the phone with a fact checker from New York Magazine. She said that the article will come out today or tomorrow and that she can’t tell me who the editor is because she’s “not at liberty to say.” I didn’t even know that was a question I wasn’t allowed to ask. Right now I feel afraid. I am afraid of being judged for memories that I still haven’t forgiven myself for. I am afraid of being hated. I am afraid of feeling shame. This phone call lasted 45 minutes and it was awful. Her asking me about the most shameful ways I have hurt others and me repeating over and over again, “If Natalie remembers it, it must be true.” I don’t have a lot of memories from the four years I was increasingly addicted to Adderall. I know amphetamine abuse doesn’t cause memory loss. But memories are formed while you are sleeping and sleeping is the one thing I didn’t do during that time. My normal waking day was 72 hours. Like, I just had two periods of darkness during the normal day I would be awake. But I do know this: I had no concept during that time of how my actions affected others. Nothing I do or say or create now that I’m no longer addicted to Adderall will ever fix that. I am still learning how to live with this truth. The worst part wasn’t reliving my lowest moments with a stranger or knowing that these stories are about to be made very public any minute now. It was this question: “Natalie says the last time you saw each other you met up for lunch with the man she is going to marry and you were late.” I didn’t know she was engaged. I never thought I would find out like this, from a nymag fact-checker on the phone, before Natalie publishes an article about me. “If Natalie remembers it, it must be true.”
Caroline seemed nervous, preparing everyone for the worst. What would be revealed about her? The article dropped, and frankly? None of it surprises me. You should definitely read the whole thing, but basically, it reads like any tale of an unbalanced friendship: the charismatic, good-looking friend takes advantage of the shy, average-looking friend. Caroline cries over a gift Natalie gives her (#YalePlates), then one day mysteriously claims they were stolen. She locks Natalie out of their Airbnb on a trip to Amsterdam when she thought Natalie would be having a one night stand. In short, she acts like a pretty crappy friend, all while benefitting off of Natalie’s work. But the interesting part, though? From Natalie’s account, none of her involvement was coerced. There was never a point where Natalie wanted to quit and Caroline begged her to stay.
What’s happening right now is a small-grade sh*t storm between everyone who’s read The Cut article and Caroline, who is alternating between supporting Natalie and defending herself on Instagram. “If Natalie says it, it musts be true,” she repeats on refrain in the caption of a photo detailing her conversation with NY Mag’s fact checker. At this point, she hasn’t tried to deny Natalie’s accusations—she was apparently addicted to Adderall at the time and would stay up for 72-hour stretches, which she says probably impacted her memory. She also put the link to The Cut article in her bio, directing her followers right to it rather than trying to obscure it. These are either the actions of a true friend who’s remorseful for her actions and trying to make amends, or a very good PR maneuver. Or just someone who’s acting on pure emotion without a strategy. It’s hard to tell.
Natalie, for her part, doesn’t come out of this unscathed. The Cut readers are coming for in the comments section over her writing, her looks, and her inability to extract herself from what was clearly, to us outsiders with no personal investment, a toxic relationship. Caroline takes aim in particular at her for recounting a moment where Caroline may have been suicidal—Natalie recalls that Caroline forbade her from ghost writing any more of her memoir, threatening suicide if she continued. She posted a text conversation with either a NY Mag fact checker or editor about this line.
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TW: Suicide. I’ve never talked about the chapters of my life when I struggled with suicide on the internet before today and I didn’t want you to find out like this. But now you know. I’ve only read two lines of Natalie’s article so far—my plan is to read it for the first time tomorrow with my therapist. But my manager texted me this line of hers: “It’s been surreal watching this unfold from my desk job in Los Angeles, but I’m not surprised she’s taken an essay of mine that didn’t exist yet and turned it into a narrative for herself.” I wrote about Natalie’s upcoming article because I guessed that by using my access to the largest audience of people interested in Caroline Calloway—an audience only I have access to—I could ramp up anticipation. I hope impressions are through the fucking roof. Every boost helps. But ultimately I talked about what Natalie’s article meant to ME on this Instagram account because this is a space where I tell stories about ME. That’s the whole schtick here. I write about my life—and if I can make my art and express myself AND help my friends, I do. I don’t resent Natalie for revealing that I was suicidal in her essay. It’s not black or white. Both of these things are true: I wish people hadn’t found out like this AND Natalie’s stories deserve to be told. It must have been so hard for Natalie to have a friend who cared more about getting high than supporting her and didn’t really care about staying alive at all! I only found out about this line because @christinareaddd pointed it out to me. She’s sitting with me in my apartment right now with @p_izza220 . “So?” I said after she had finished reading it. “Yeah, um, the first thing that jumped out at me is that heard you on the phone with the fact-checking lady and this was the only thing you wanted clarified, but they didn’t fix it.” I knew she meant the suicide thing. She had been sitting next to me on the floor as I talked on the phone. Most of it had been: “If Natalie remembers it, it must be true.” And then: “Hold on. The thing about suicide…” I looked away from Christina as I said it. The lady from The Cut was nice and said she understands and she’d pass my message along.
She said: “I don’t resent Natalie for revealing that I was suicidal in her essay. It’s not black or white. Both of these things are true: I wish people hadn’t found out like this AND Natalie’s stories deserve to be told.”
On its face, it’s f*cked up to reveal that someone struggled with suicidal thoughts—regardless of whether or not that person was your friend. But that’s not a full picture. Even on Caroline’s own Instagram, the comments on the post are quick to point out the oversimplification of this statement.
“Girl, I’m sure that time was genuinely really hard for you,” wrote one commenter, “but that line in the article wasn’t about you being suicidal and doesn’t imply that you were actually going to take your life. It’s pretty clearly a shocking example of something you did that was manipulative and abusive, which you did in order to get Natalie and the publishers to give you want you wanted but wouldn’t for for.”
One commenter took it a step further. “You seem to imply that Natalie is the one who told your secret, that you were at one point suicidal. Except that you already put it in your own Instagram when the book deal fell through. You wrote in your revised proposal, that is pictured on your feed and has been for a while, that you were thinking of suicide because of an abusive friend. While having some secrets spilled is not fun, are they really secrets when you posted about it already?”
To sum it up, the gist of what’s happening here is two women who formed a friendship with a vastly unequal power dynamic had a falling out, and that fallout is playing out on the public stage. At press time, Caroline has yet to read The Cut article, but she posted on Instagram that she would be reading with her therapist and writing some sort of response.
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I feel like that photo of Meghan Markle’s father at a FedEx just before her wedding. Unfortunately I am not Meghan Markle in this similie, but her toxic sociopathic father! Is this what you came here for, new followers? He staged those photos and I took this selfie for my Instagram. Does that make me toxic? Is this proof that I have no control over my storytelling on Instagram? Is there a difference between “can’t stop” writing about myself on Instagram because I’m addicted to it and “won’t stop” because I find meaning in it and I refuse to quite just because other people don’t like the things I create or me? I honestly don’t know. I feel really weird right now. I just walked into a FedEx in downtown Manhattan and googled myself so I could print out a copy of Natalie’s article to read for the first time today with my therapist. I mean WHAT? this is an odd day. When I pulled up the news results for me I saw that this story had already been picked up by Jezebel, Business Insider, Cosmo… Even the New Haven Register. Last night my name was trending at third on Twitter in the United States. I don’t know what today will hold. It’s barely 11 AM. But I’ve already been awake for hours. I got up at the crack of dawn to go to pilates, spin class, and the sauna. Someone gave me wise advice last night and said: Whatever you do tomorrow, EXERCIZE. That one hour will affect the other 23 hours of your day. So I made it two hours because I wanted to push myself and now my mind is feeling loose and light and bright. After therapy’s done I’ll beginning writing my response to her essay. I have some things to say.
Caroline Calloway has been lumped in with some serious fraudsters, but is that really an accurate depiction? Parts of Natalie’s story seemed like they could have been ripped straight out of My Friend Anna, Rachel DeLoache Williams’ memoir of her friendship with the infamous Soho grifter (the wealth inequity, the meek friend captivated like a moth to a flame by the confident friend’s glow and entitlement, the buckling of the friendship on an international trip). Still, to call her a straight-up Anna Delvey is a bit of an oversimplification. There’s the obvious detail that Caroline didn’t exactly defraud anyone to the tune of millions of dollars—yes, she spent hundreds of thousands of what was supposed to be her book advance, though she said that she’s working out a deal with the publisher to pay that back. But when her tour was clearly a fail, she issued refunds, even to people who had already attended the New York events. She did deceive her followers and publisher by claiming she happened upon Instagram fame on a lark, when in reality she implemented a clear strategy, and bought followers, in order to gain an initial Instagram presence. And her characterization in The Cut essay, plus the way she’s spiraling on social media now, don’t exactly help defend against claims that she is manipulative.
I’m not on Caroline’s side—I’m not on anyone’s side, really. She’s a rich white girl who got a book deal even though she apparently couldn’t write, and earned a reputation as a scammer when she couldn’t even scam. Even Natalie admits in her essay that if Caroline is a scammer, her first mark is herself. As much as I want to call Caroline the next millennial grifter icon, I think this is just the story of a sh*tty rich friend who may have narcissistic qualities. Part of the reason this back-and-forth is so captivating is that we’ve probably all been the Natalie to someone’s Caroline. But, just like I don’t understand Caroline’s following, I also don’t understand why this is that big a deal. I guess because it whets our appetite for 2019’s favorite pastimes: fraudsters, influencers, and general messiness. But if you remove the Instagram followers and the book deal, it’s a pretty ordinary story about a pretty ordinary happening—that is, two friends having a blowout and going no-contact. I can’t blame The Cut for capitalizing on it (in fact, I’m a little salty I couldn’t do it), but I can question what the hell is going on in all of our lives (mine included) that we are so invested in this.
In 2019, it’s old news that we love a good scamming story. But among the “stars” of this year’s scamming news cycle—Anna Delvey, Billy McFarland, and Elizabeth Holmes, to name a few—there’s one clear similarity. They’re all millennial scammers. Now, our generation has been accused of a lot of things: we’re lazy and entitled, we ruin whole industries, and we simply cannot get enough of avocado toast. But maybe we’ve been dancing around the most damning accusation of all. As stories pile up of outrageous con artists born between 1981 and 1996, I have to ask: are millennials the scammer generation?
If we are, I can hardly say it’s surprising. Growing up, I saw a lot of promises about “the right path” be shattered. Our parents told us that college degrees were non-negotiable if we wanted to get ahead in life (no matter how much debt we incurred), while dropouts like Zuckerberg, Spiegel, and Holmes dominated the landscape of professional success. Then Instagram, and the subsequent world of influencers was born, and the idea of blindly taking the expected steps through life began to seem not just uninspired, but downright stupid. Both types of self-made success—from Silicon Valley CEO to future Bachelor contestants—preached the same ethos. If you work 20 hours a day, abandon everything else in your life, and operate with complete confidence in yourself and your ideas, you will find success.
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I was told by a former business partner that I “lacked work ethic and didn’t know the good opportunity I had in front of me.’ I left anyways because I knew deep down in my heart that SERVITUDE NOT MONEY needed to be my sole focus. Under my breath I said, “WATCH ME.” I logged onto FB to find that I was accidentally included on a group message that a former client (whom I REALLY LIKED) wrote to her husband and son saying,“ OMG Paradise?!!! Hasn’t she taken enough of a beating already? ?” It HURT to know that my co-workers, clients, “friends”, OH AND ENTIRE FUCKING NATION judged me. But I knew that one moment in my life wasn’t going to define me nor keep me from the bright future and impact I was going to make in this world. I thought to myself, “WATCH ME GET THROUGH THIS.” My family was worried, my friends were concerned. I was even hospitalized last November because of the DEBILITATING EFFECTS OF ANXIETY AND FEAR I was facing with the upcoming season of The Bachelor. I had zero income, zero savings and now a $12,000 hospital bill that I chose to ignore because I couldn’t emotionally “deal” and it was sent to collections DAMAGING my credit. No money, no savings, no more good credit. Fear crept it and emotionally I was breaking under the pressure. I wrote down affirmations all over my house on post-it notes that when read made me focus on the SUCCESS I WOULD EARN by focusing on language and actions that made me feel empowered. And then I applied them. See, when others were talking and judging I was working because I knew the bigger picture. So, the next time someone tries to cast doubt on your dreams. Smile to them and think to yourself, “Watch me Mother Fucker.” And then go and get to work. xx
Of course, the path of betting on yourself and taking risks is made a lot easier if you have a trust fund to fall back on—and many millennial success stories did. For those of us too stupid to invent our own companies, too ugly to make it on Instagram, or too poor to consider either option, there was the post-recession job market. There, the cutthroat competition (even for internships!) and the increasingly insane demands of office jobs (be available on Slack 24/7! Be prepared to take over anyone else’s job at any time!) made the glittering vision of those “working for themselves” all the more appealing. And when we’re treated to a constant feed of photos of their glamorous lives, and Twitter updates on their successes, frustration builds.
Enter: the scammer. Like every millennial, they were inundated with images of extraordinary success and luxury, and the message that if they just worked hard enough or really believed in themselves, anything was possible. So, our millennial scammers said to themselves: why couldn’t that be me? They dreamed big: McFarland pitched Fyre Fest; Holmes pitched Theranos; and Delvey pitched, well, herself, as a larger-than-life heiress, and to a lesser degree, a $50m private club on Park Avenue. They ensured that the idea looked good: McFarland unrolled his Insta-model ad campaign; Holmes filled her board with incredibly high-profile businessmen; and Delvey lived in designer clothes and luxury hotels. And whenever they were questioned on details, they pivoted the conversation back to the big picture: an end game so attractive that listeners wanted, desperately, to believe it.
While scammers have always existed, what’s really striking about millennial scammers is how grandiose their visions are, and the extent to which they seem to believe their own lies. If people continue to make millions off Instagram—even though we’ve been shown time and time again how much of Instagram is fake—then it makes sense that millennial scammers assume they can cash in big, even if there’s no reality to back up their vision. People are uninterested in, say, the actual science behind improved diagnostic testing, or the exact location of a music festival’s toilets. Those details would never have attracted the millions they raised—only the fully-formed, visually appealing outcome would. In our image-obsessed culture, with the constant refrain of “if you didn’t post a picture, did it even really happen,” we’re essentially begging to be scammed by grifters like these.
Until we begin to mend the rift between image and reality that social media has created, and the concept of the self-made billionaire is unpacked, we should expect more millennial con artists pitching us beautiful lies. Because we grew up in such a broken economic system, where following the expected steps didn’t get us the results we were promised, it was attractive to believe that anyone could transform into an overnight success. But these millennial scammers have proven that until we start valuing expertise and honesty at the same level as we do a good aesthetic, we’re not providing new opportunities to anyone but those willing to lie their way to the top. Right now, the path to Silicon Valley or Instagram success demands a “fake it ‘til you make it” approach. So really, the question shouldn’t be “why are there so many millennial scammers”. It should be “why aren’t there more?”
Images: @coachkrystal_; @betches / Instagram
This week, The Cut published a profile on Lena Dunham. The piece is being hailed as a refreshing look at female pain, and an illuminating profile on someone from whom we all assumed we’d heard more than enough. While the piece was indeed less insufferable than I feared it would be, one piece of information included was enough to ruin my day. Lena Dunham has a deal with HBO to create a series on fake German heiress (and real Russian scammer) Anna Delvey. You may have missed that tidbit in the extremely long profile, but yes, a Lena Dunham show about Anna Delvey is supposedly in the works.
In case you don’t remember Delvey’s story, here’s a quick refresher. Delvey broke into the NYC socialite scene after a Parisian fashion internship. With vague claims about wire transfers and generational wealth, she scammed her way into almost $300,000 in unpaid bills for her luxurious lifestyle. She even made up a fake financial adviser, whom she then killed off when people grew suspicious. Last we heard from her, she was somehow Instagramming from Riker’s Island. In other words, a baller through and through.
Me to Anna Delvey:
Lena Dunham, last we heard from her, was making a show called Camping, of which no one I know has been able to stomach more than one episode. And yes, we all watched all of Girls, but very few of us felt ultimately good about it. As far as careers go, Lena Dunham’s has aged about as well as the box of Chinese takeout I ordered on Saturday night that’s still sitting in my fridge. Seeing as Anna Delvey’s story of scamming has been a bright spot of joy in an otherwise bleak news cycle, I’m not thrilled about the prospects of a Lena Dunham show about Anna Delvey. Like, ruin Williamsburg all you want, but when you come for my scammers? That’s where I draw the line.
The good news is that Lena isn’t the only person who’s been given the opportunity to translate Delvey’s scamming stories to the screen—we’ve known for a while now that Shonda Rhimes was also tapped to create a series for Netflix about her. Now, when I heard Shonda Rhimes was making her own Delvey show, I was thrilled. Rhimes’ handle on sexy, fast-paced drama is exactly what Delvey’s story needs. We need secret love affairs, high-fashion montages, and constant overlapping power plays. What we do not need is mournful shots of Delvey on the toilet while a Belle & Sebastian song plays.
The silver lining here? Whatever it looks like, the Lena Dunham show about Anna Delvey can’t possibly be as bad and/or offensive as her adaptation of a Syrian refugee’s story will be. Cheers to that.
If you love scams, cults, conspiracies, and true crime, listen to Not Another True Crime Podcast! New episodes out now.
Images: Getty Images; Giphy (1)
Even though being at work today feels like coming in on a Saturday, I actually have some good news. We have a new addition to the summer of scamming: Yvonne Bannigan. Accused of stealing over $50,000, the 25-year-old former Vogue staffer has confirmed what we all suspected. Low-level employees at fashion magazines are America’s next criminal class not to be trusted. (Remember that Anna Delvey also started out at Purple.) Honestly, if The Devil Wears Prada was any indication, the world of fashion is a high-stress environment. I’m not surprised a few people snapped. And by snapped, I of course mean started rampantly using other people’s money as their own. Let’s dig in to this story.
Yvonne Bannigan, 25, is the former assistant of Vogue creative director and—*Tyra voice*—living legend Grace Coddington. While snagging that job is impressive, Bannigan wasn’t really on anyone’s radar until her arrest in April. And she wasn’t on my radar until I discovered her in a scammer withdrawal-induced Google search. Anyway, Yvonne Bannigan was charged with stealing over $50,000 from Coddington, with further allegations that she stole Coddington’s property and sold it on the online consignment store TheRealReal. You know, the site we told you to go on to get designer clothes for cheap. (A recommendation I stand by if the site is selling Coddington-level goods, FYI.) These sales allegedly netted a $9,000 commission for Bannigan. The other allegedly stolen $50K is just in charges to Coddington’s credit card.
Sadly, unlike with Anna Delvey, no one seems to know how Yvonne Bannigan allegedly spent that $50K. We already know we have a second fashion-mag scammer, but did they both use the money for shopping sprees and hotel suites? Did they go to the same parties and nod at each other in scammer-to-scammer recognition? Do they both wear Supreme??? These are the important questions, people.
Also sadly, Bannigan has not commented (on Instagram or otherwise) on the charges. While Anna Delvey is still spouting an alarming amount of nonsense, Bannigan seems uninterested in preserving any kind of reputation. Her lawyer has commented that this is all a “misunderstanding,” which TBH was my line every time my parents were unhappy with my credit card charges too. How does one “misunderstand” $50,000?? That’s what I want to know.
So, why do we keep getting scammers like Delvey and Bannigan? For one, I am convinced fashion magazines are breeding grounds for evil, as discussed. But there’s also the fact that any young girl thrown into a highly moneyed, fashionable world like Vogue will feel pressure to keep up. And in a country where student loans can haunt you into old age, and the president’s economic world views can be summed up as “I’ve never paid taxes and don’t intend to start,” things like “working hard” and “honest money” don’t really seem like viable ways to get ahead. If you’re still not getting the zeitgeist here, go watch The Bling Ring and maybe Ingrid Goes West a few more times. It’ll start to click, I promise. In the meantime, I’ll be here in my Not Not A Grifter tee hunting for leftover Coddington pieces on TheRealReal. Don’t @ me, I didn’t steal them!
Images: Giphy (3)
About two weeks ago, I had the best week of my life. No, I didn’t get a raise or a boyfriend or a puppy or anything like that. In fact, nothing of significance happened to me personally. What did happen, though, was the news breaking about Anna Delvey, fake socialite and scammer extraordinaire. As a person who follows internet scams and multilevel marketing companies with the diligence of a fictional retired FBI detective trying to solve that one case that’s eluded him his entire career, the Anna Delvey story was my Christmas. I’m not a scammer, but I love scams. Anna Delvey was and is fascinating to me. This 25-year-old girl was able to (allegedly) scam high-end hotels, businesses, and her rich friends out of a collective $275,000 by sheer audacity and a little fraud. Okay, a lot of fraud. Allegedly. Whatever. So you can imagine the level of absolute glee and excitement I felt last night at the gym when, scrolling through my Instagram instead of doing another rep of tricep dips, I noticed that the one and only Anna Delvey posted an Instagram. From Rikers.
Of course I immediately screenshotted Anna Delvey’s Instagram and promptly sent it to all my friends. And here it is below, in all its glory:
There is so much to unpack here. Firstly, Anna changed her Instagram handle. When I first followed her, when the article in The Cut first came out, her handle was @annadlvv. Now, it’s @theannadelvey. This girl knows they’re gonna make a Lifetime movie about her, and she is fucking prepped.
So we’ve got a selfie of Anna and her friend Neff, who you’ll remember from The Cut article worked at 11 Howard, with some animal face filter. The caption, which didn’t make it into my screenshot but you can see if you head to the Instagram, is “Thelma & Louise”. Thelma & Louise is a movie about two female friends who are on the run from the law, so again, clearly Anna does not take her incarceration very seriously. This is all compounded by the fact that this Instagram is geotagged FROM RIKERS ISLAND PRISON.
I have a lot of questions, mainly, you can Instagram from prison now?? If so, maybe I should plan my stay—I could use the mandated gym time.
I’m kidding, OBVIOUSLY. I am pretty shocked that Rikers Island even has a geotag on Instagram (I’d think they would block that shit from all satellites like Area 51 or something), and I’m even more shocked that Anna is shamelessly uploading a selfie from prison. To be fair, some commenters are pointing out that Neff might have gotten Anna’s password and uploaded it on her behalf, so it’s possible Anna is not surreptitiously Instagramming from the prison bathroom like this is Orange is the New Black.
But still, you’d think that someone who’s currently being charged with a felony would try to lay low and not attract attention to him or herself. Apparently not. To me, the fact that Anna Delvey posted an Instagram while still incarcerated underscores what she said in The Cut: that she sees prison as “this sociological experiment”. And isn’t that the exact quality needed in someone to pull of a scam of this caliber—complete disregard for the consequences of one’s actions and the law in general, and a total lack of shame?
One thing is clear: this isn’t the last we’ll see of Anna Delvey, and I have a feeling she’s not done scamming. Not by a long shot.
Images: Getty Images; theannadelvey / Instagram
Fans of Gossip Girl and/or The Bling Ring, you are in luck. Over the past few months, the story of the first big “scammin’ for the ‘Gram” con artist has come out, and it is wild. I’m already excited for the movie. Here’s the story. On the surface, Anna Delvey (born Sorokin, age 27) is basically everyone you follow on Instagram. She was rich, she always dressed in designer clothes, and she frequented restaurants whose entrées cost more than your rent. She also happened to be a massive fucking fraud (allegedly), and is currently in jail on charges of alleged grand larceny and theft of services. So, how did this complete rando casually adopt the lifestyle of a Kardashian? (No, this is not a how-to guide. Note the part where she’s in jail.) Let’s take a look. The Cut did an amazing job reporting on it, and you should definitely read the complete story, but if you don’t have time to read it all right now but don’t want to sound stupid at happy hour when literally everyone is talking about it, here’s our shorter breakdown for you to read first.
What Did Anna Delvey Do?
What’s sad/brilliant is how fucking easy it all sounds. Anna shows up with her “ambiguously accented” English, giant Céline sunnies, and a seemingly endless supply of cash. Naturally, people fall all over themselves to befriend this assumed trust fund baby. They spend a few months enjoying extravagant gifts, dinners, and weekend getaways—until Anna’s credit card “stops working,” and someone needs to cover the bill.
In total, Anna allegedly scammed an estimated $275,000, including at least $50,000 in unpaid NYC hotel fees alone. Am I appalled for the individuals Delvey ripped off? Absolutely. Am I the tiniest bit impressed at her innate gift for spending money like a billionaire? Um, yeah. The list of Delvey’s purchases—not including the thousands on airfare, hotels, and decadent vacations—covers a $3,500 private jet rental, multiple Tesla rentals, $4,500 personal training sessions, Gucci sandals, Alexander Wang leggings, Supreme hoodies, $800 highlights, $400 eyelash extensions, cryotherapy, multiple iPhones, and a case of 1975 Dom Perignon. Wait, is this my Pinterest page or someone’s rap sheet? V confusing.
Actual footage of Delvey walking through her hotel lobby:
So, Who TF Was This Girl?
As for the origin story of Anna Delvey, we know she grew up in Russia, went to school in Germany/London, and then got an internship in Paris at Purple magazine. As I assume happens to most people who intern at fashion magazines in Paris, this is where Anna took a turn into becoming a horrible person. The next few years of her life are hazy, but basically she emerges into New York’s social scene. By 2013, she was a Fashion Week regular, attended “all the best parties,” hosted celebrity dinners with random guests like Macaulay Culkin and Martin Shkreli, and was, as one acquaintance put it, part of “the 200 or so people you see everywhere.” Delvey was reportedly not, as you might expect, “superhot…or super-charming; she wasn’t even very nice.” All that mattered was that she was in the right places, wearing the right clothes, and appearing to spend the right amount of money.
Why Did No One Stop Her?
The big question, obviously, is how she kept the alleged scam up so long. At the rate she was burning money, the fact that she didn’t have the capital to back it up definitely should have come up sooner. And the reason it didn’t is definitely not because she had an airtight story or was particularly good at lying. To begin with, this girl was claiming to be a German heiress without really speaking German. As this Independent article points out (a little too gleefully IMO—we get it, Americans are dumb), “a quick quiz in German could have cleared it all up very speedily.” But honestly, no one who was around Delvey had any interest in finding out if her story was fake—people just wanted her to keep buying shit, trusting that the payment would eventually come through.
As for how she covered it when payment didn’t come through—which was often—Delvey allegedly claimed unsuccessful wire transfers from a (nonexistent) trust fund in Germany. She also reportedly fabricated a financial adviser named Peter W. Hennecke who corresponded on her behalf when she attempted to get a loan of $25 to $35 million from various banks. The phone number associated with Hennecke was found to be a burner from a supermarket, his email was an AOL account, and when people started asking questions, Delvey literally pretended Hennecke had died. I cannot make this up. Ultimately, her debts caught up to her, and she was arrested outside rehab facility Passages in Malibu. How very Lohan of her.
What’s She Doing Now?
As mentioned, Delvey is currently in jail, a turn of events she’s taken surprisingly well. “People seem to think it’s horrible,” Delvey says about literal prison, “but I see it as like, this sociological experiment.” Many quotes from Delvey’s time in jail give me pause, like when she marvels over her cellmates’ accounts of identity theft (“I didn’t realize it was so easy”), and the tidbit that “the murderers were the most interesting to her.”
Essentially, this girl is troubled—a fact equally on display in her still-existing Instagram account, which features terrible selfies interspersed with pictures of literally blank white space. Also, most of the comments on these pictures are from clearly fake accounts, with 5-10 posting the same comment verbatim within minutes. This is not the Instagram account of someone who is okay.
If there’s a lesson to learn here, it’s that owning designer athleisure and keeping a stack of $100 bills handy is a great way to convince people you have a trust fund. Seriously though, it’s an extreme example of how the Instagram existence we crave is more often than not an illusion, specifically designed to blind people with displays of money while obscuring the reality underneath. Maybe if we were less desperate to make our lives LOOK wealthy and fabulous, we wouldn’t be so eager to believe someone like Delvey, who displayed more than a few red flags. And maybe we could stop breeding criminals whose primary goal is to spend more money on bottle service and sweatpants from Supreme. Just a thought.
Images: Giphy (5)