The Real 'Inventing Anna' Journalist, Jessica Pressler, Inspired Another Huge Hollywood Movie

- Inventing Anna -
The Real 'Inventing Anna' Journalist, Jessica Pressler, Inspired Another Huge Hollywood Movie

As Shonda Rhimes so creatively reminds viewers at the start of each Inventing Anna episode, everything in this show is true... except the parts that are made up.

Most of fraudster Anna Delvey's (real name Anna Sorokin) story is pulled from the in-depth 2018 New York Magazine article "Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track Of It" by Jessica Pressler, the journalist who seemingly inspired Vivian in Inventing Anna. Vivian is a Manhattan magazine writer (played by Anna Chlumsky) who is seeking career redemption. Given how large a role Vivian's need to repair the damage done to her career by one badly fact-checked story plays in the show, it feels like the stuff of Hollywood. But get this: Vivian's near career-ending article is exactly like one Pressler wrote in 2014.

As any journalist will tell you, the idea of sending a story out into the world only to discover a major error after publication is enough to give you hives. That's why Vivian's big reveal that a snippet about a teen stock market whiz in a larger article about reasons to love New York almost tanked her career is total nightmare fuel for a writer. As Vivian tells Anna's attorney, Todd, she saw the teen's bank statement, she did her due diligence in terms of fact-checking as best as she could, and even warned her editors she had a feeling that the teen's story was fishy. In the end, her editors not only ran the story, they changed the headline to make it more clickable and failed to properly fact-check the sources in the process.

The end result is Vivian losing out on a prestigious on-air gig and being banished to writing nothing but fluff pieces. Now, it's unclear how much of Pressler's real life informed this portion of the story, but the parallels between her career and Vivian's are undeniable.

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In 2014, Pressler wrote an article entitled "Reasons to Love New York" for New York Magazine, in which she interviewed Stuyvesant High School senior Mohammed Islam. Rumors had been circulating around New York that the teen had already made $72 million trading stocks, so Pressler interviewed him for the list. As the journalist noted in her article, the teen had already been named one of the most successful people under 20 by Business Insider, and when she met with him he allegedly presented her with a bank statement confirming he had an account in the eight-figure range.

Then just days after the story went viral, Islam confirmed to the Observer that the entire story was fabricated. The only stock market trading the teen had done was a simulation in a club at his school, and he certainly didn't have $72 million in his bank account. As a result, Pressler lost out on a job at Bloomberg News, and ended up staying put at the New Yorker.

After having a job offer rescinded and dealing with her reputation being torn apart by media outlets and social media, no one could have blamed Pressler if she had decided to change careers. Instead, she moved forward with an eye toward crafting well-researched stories and in-depth profiles that ended up capturing the zeitgeist. Before the Delvey article, Pressler wrote "The Hustlers at Scores" in 2015. That article went on to inspire the movie Hustlers, starring Jennifer Lopez.

By the time 2018 rolled around, she was once again all over the news thanks to her Delvey article, but this time, she was being praised for her investigative journalism. These days, she's a special correspondent for Vanity Fair, and if you Google her name, the 2014 teen stock market drama is definitely not the defining story of her career — so both Vivian and Pressler can rest easy knowing their legacies are safe.

Images: David Giesbrech/Netflix; Nicole Rivelli/Netflix

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