While the Netflix scammer drama Inventing Anna is challenging the network’s other huckster adventure, The Tinder Swindler, for the title of most popular series, one of Anna Sorokin’s real-life victims says the show is making the convicted “SoHo Grifter” into a hero, while she gets played for a sucker all over again.
Rachel Williams is the former Vanity Fair editor who was besties with Sorokin (A.K.A. Anna Delvey), until the conwoman tried to steal $62,000 from Williams for a Moroccan getaway. Sorokin was acquitted of that offense—and American Express let Williams off the hook for the charge—but she was convicted on eight other counts, including second-degree grand larceny, theft of services, and first-degree attempted grand larceny. Although Williams wrote the book My Friend Anna about her experience, Netflix reportedly saw fit to pay Sorokin $320,000 for her life story.
Now that Williams (portrayed by Scandal star Katie Lowes in the series) has watched some of the show, she can’t believe what she’s seeing.
“I think promoting this whole narrative and celebrating a sociopathic, narcissistic, proven criminal is wrong,” she tells Vanity Fair. “Having had a front-row seat to [the Anna circus] for far too long, I’ve studied the way a con works more than anybody needs to. You watch the spectacle, but you’re not paying attention to what’s being marketed.”
Even before watching a moment of the series, Williams had cause for alarm when she read the Netflix description, which called her character “a natural-born follower whose blind worship of Anna almost destroys her job, her credit, and her life.” The company added, “But while her relationship with Anna is her greatest regret, the woman she becomes because of Anna may be Anna’s greatest creation.”
“To say a woman is someone else’s creation is counter to a feminist narrative,” Williams fired back. “I looked at it and I was like, Really? That’s where you’re going to go with this? So I had some unease, but nobody thinks that someone is going to be reckless with facts, especially when the character is given my name. To me, it’s not making a statement but convoluting truth in a way that’s dangerous.”
Williams admits she’s only been “skimming” the series because she’s “not sure I have the stomach for it,” but she does take particular issue with a few of the show’s more notable departures from reality.
“I don’t want to get lost in the weeds of what is right versus what isn’t right,” Williams tells VF. “But I obviously was not laid off at Vanity Fair for this. I was not complicit [in] helping my friend defraud my employer. But the second I sit down to defend myself—especially because there’s now this false narrative about me and about the broader story—then I’m just feeding into this picking-sides-ism, when this isn’t something that is actually two-sided.”
As for why she’s been depicted unkindly, Williams believes producer Shonda Rhimes and the rest of the Inventing Anna team were perhaps even more credulous and more under Sorokin’s thrall than she ever was:
“Everyone talks about Anna’s star power—they were so clearly taken with this subject that they began to empathize with her. If you think about it, what do con artists do? They tell stories. Stories have so much power when it comes to creating belief. So everybody has bought into this fantastical narrative that has become so devoid of fact but still has the illusion of truth. The facts are boring, I guess, but they’re important.”
Williams’ own version of the story was optioned by Lena Dunham, but that project dried up and the rights reverted to Williams. Meanwhile, Sorokin’s fellow slime, Tinder Swindler Simon Leviev, has found himself an LA talent agent and is looking to host a dating show.
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