Reinventing Anna: do we need a podcast from the ‘Soho grifter’?

reinventing anna: do we need a podcast from the ‘soho grifter’?

Photograph: John Carucci/AP

Just as it’s always 5 o’clock somewhere, it is always scam season in America. And like clockwork, a certain slice of mid-2010s scammers du jour is back. First, there was the Vanity Fair profile of Caroline Calloway, perennial phoenix of millennial internet fascination, ahead of her new memoir, saucily titled Scammer. And now Anna Delvey, the “Soho grifter” turned convicted fraudster turned subject of the hit Netflix series Inventing Anna, has launched her own podcast.

The Anna Delvey Show, which premiered on Tuesday, is Delvey’s latest attempt to parlay her notoriety as a scammer of the rich and powerful – her exploits as a fake heiress who courted investors for her namesake social club was the subject of a viral 2018 New York Magazine story – into a business. Or, perhaps more accurately, a career as a celebrity – the podcast comes on the back of the announcement of her first pop single and news that she was developing a reality TV series based at her East Village apartment, where she is being held under house arrest by Immigration Customs and Enforcement (Ice) for overstaying her visa.

That show, tentatively titled Delvey’s Dinner Club, has yet to premiere or, as far as we know, go into production, though Delvey has teased such “dream guests” as Madonna, Elon Musk, the secretary of homeland security, Alejandro Mayorkas, and disgraced crypto bro/fellow house arrestee Sam Bankman-Fried. In the meantime, like many an entrepreneurial celebrity, Delvey has turned to the relatively DIY, quick-turnaround personality marketing that is podcasting. The Anna Delvey Show, produced by podcast company Audio Up, shores up Delvey’s attempt to remain in the spotlight and showcases what famous people she can book for, as she puts it, “honest, unfiltered conversations that will question traditional notions of right and wrong”.

It’s convenient framing for a woman who served several years in prison for grand larceny (as well as a slew of other financial crimes) for bilking more than $200,000 from investors, banks and friends. And in typical fashion, Delvey, the faux glamorous, German heiress alter ego of the Russian woman named Anna Sorokin, leans into her image as a misunderstood downtown pariah-cum-striver. The podcast opens with the sound of a prepaid jail call, overlaid with Delvey’s abrasive, region-less European accent: “You might recognize my name as a character in a Netflix series, but now you get to meet the real me. On this show, I will dive into the concept of rules and talk to the people who make or break them.” Those people will allegedly come from the world of art, politics, fashion, tech and finance, etc, and purportedly include such celebrities as Julia Fox, the playwright Jeremy O Harris and Emily Ratajkowski.

reinventing anna: do we need a podcast from the ‘soho grifter’?

Anna Delvey in court. Photograph: Richard Drew/AP

The “real” Delvey is a curiously deferential podcast host, though quick to joke about house arrest (“I should have a kid while I’m home arresting right now”) and equate her predicament to the more universal trials of ambitious women. The first two episodes, each over an hour long, are entirely composed of interviews with the comedian Whitney Cummings and the New York-based musician Julia Cumming. In both, Delvey asks what she says will be her signature question: “Have you ever been arrested?” And in both, she fades almost completely into the background, laughing easily and asking about biographical details or blunt questions meant to, I assume, suggest a leftist political consciousness (“What’s your take on the class structure in New York, and especially in the music industry?” she asks Cumming).

It’s all pretty light fare – talk about blonde privilege and criticism of her notably fried hair in the media, questions about OnlyFans and gender pay gaps, mentions of her ankle monitor and the walking treadmill she uses in her room for exercise. At one point, she jokes that she’d rather be under house arrest than be a journalist. There’s an overall sheen of very fitting 2010s girlboss thinking, the kind that undergirded the misfire of a Netflix series – that Delvey’s forgery and deceit were the result of too-grand ambition in a hopeless place; that scamming was a morally neutral tool for transcending class; that she was vilified in the media because she was a woman. “You just check every box for people to be able to villainize you,” says Cummings at one point, and Delvey hums in agreement. “I think we should as a society we should redefine what criminal actually means, like felony or misdemeanor, all the different concepts,” she says at another point.

Both guests express interest in what, exactly, the host is trying to get out of the podcasting business, or these conversations about “rules”. Like her TV counterpart, Delvey remains mostly a cipher, professing to show the “real” her while revealing few actual details. (That someone repeatedly graffitied her door with the word “scammer” is the closest we get to some type of emotional friction, and ultimately supports Delvey’s vague sense of persecution.) “I thought it would be an interesting way to not even tell my story” but ask questions, Delvey says toward the end of the second episode, “these indirect ways to talk about myself through different people.” In other words, the cycle continues.

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