Netflix's 'Inventing Anna' is based on the true story of Anna Delvey, but it adds some new details i...

Inventing Anna Is A True Story... Except When It's Not

The show is honest about taking creative liberties.


Inventing Anna has a core concept in common with its subject matter: It can be difficult to tell the truth from the fiction. The Netflix series chronicles the rise and fall of New York City socialite Anna Delvey, but with such a puzzling figure, the show had to imagine some of its own details to fill in the blanks. With a story filled with lies, cons, and half-truths, viewers probably find themselves wondering how real Inventing Anna actually is. It’s obviously based on a true story, but the show doesn’t hide the fact that it took some creative liberties.

The important details of Delvey’s scams in Inventing Anna are lifted straight from the article that made her a sensation: Jessica Pressler’s 2018 New York Magazine profile. Since the main interview subject in that profile was Anna’s friend Neff, who went into specifics about the socialite’s lavish stay at the 11 Howard hotel, it’s no wonder the most true-to-life details in Inventing Anna come in Episode 5: the Neff episode. Arriving midway through the series, the fifth episode brings pretty much every detail in Pressler’s article to life, centering on Anna’s stay at the renamed 12 George and her budding friendship with the concierge in question, Neff.

Other details about Anna’s fraudulent social climbing in the series are also based in fact. According to Pressler’s article, Delvey did indeed con her way into booking a private jet to Omaha, and she did have grand plans to turn the Church Missions House into her artsy social club, the Anna Delvey Foundation. However, since details about her past are still murky, the series had to conjecture about her early days in New York.

One of the show’s main creations is Chase, Anna’s smooth-talking tech-bro boyfriend. According to the New York Magazine profile, Delvey indeed dated a “futurist” who talked up the app he was developing while at fancy dinner parties with her, but those are the only concrete details about this mystery ex. Chase definitely plays a bigger role in the show than the cryptic couple of sentences about him in the profile, so it makes sense that the scenes involving Chase are mostly imagined.


Other characters from early on in the Inventing Anna story are also mainly invented for the series, based on incredibly sparse details about Delvey’s come-up. Anna’s original bestie Val is likely the show’s take on art collector Michael Xufu Huang, one of Delvey’s first connections in the elite art scene. And while there are brief mentions of Delvey conning rich friends with shopping schemes, Anna’s initial mentor, Nora Radford, also appears to be pretty much entirely created just for the series.

Then there’s the matter of Vivian Kent, the reporter in Inventing Anna based on Pressler. Many of Vivian’s trials and tribulations in reporting Anna’s story are clearly dramatized to make the framing device in the series work. Pressler did write about her fear that having her baby would derail her work life in a 2016 blog post — a sentiment Vivian strongly shares in the show — but the timeline was shifted so that Vivian is pregnant while interviewing Anna in 2018.

Since Delvey’s fall from grace was so widely covered and scrutinized, Inventing Anna becomes more based on actual, reported facts as it goes on. The show’s own creations are mainly in the first several episodes of the series, as well as in the Vivian storyline.

Of course, the show makes sure to cover its tracks. Each episode starts with the disclaimer, “This whole story is completely true. Except for all of the parts that are totally made up.” But if we’ve learned anything from Delvey, sometimes the lies are even more entertaining than the truth.

Inventing Anna is streaming on Netflix.