It is deeply unsettling to learn that the person that you have come to know and call a friend is nothing more than an illusion. When Rachel DeLoache Williams went on what she thought was an all-expenses-paid vacation with her friends, Anna, Casey, and Jesse, to Morocco, she did not expect that this trip would lead to the unraveling of her friendship with Anna Delvey. The book My Friend Anna: The True Story of a Fake Heiress is the astonishing story of the modern-day con-woman who fooled her friends, celebrities, hotels, and international banks into thinking that she was the wealthy daughter of a German billionaire. While the story of the conman is nothing new, the glamour of this scam and the fact that Anna is a young woman, make this story noteworthy. Without giving too many of the details of the book away, do read on to find out more about My Friend Anna.
Born into a middle-class family, Rachel DeLoache Williams moved from East Tennessee to NYC after college to pursue a career in writing and photography. After a slew of internships, she was fortunate enough to land a job at the magazine publication Vanity Fair. As an outgoing young woman, Rachel frequented NYC’s night club scene with friends. Anna Delvey was a name that Rachel had heard of and a face that she had seen occasionally through Instagram as the young women shared a few friends in common. One night out, their paths finally crossed, and the two women hit it off. Following up on their night out, Rachel, Anna, and another friend went out to lunch where Anna offered to pay.
Rachel and Anna soon became good friends. Rachel notes that Anna was quirky, outgoing, and bold—a real character and quite the opposite of Rachel. While Rachel was brought up to tend to others and make them feel comfortable, Anna was often careless with her words and actions. As their friendship grew, Anna became increasingly generous, inviting Rachel to participate in her $300 private gym sessions and paying for nice dinners. While Rachel offered to split the bill on occasion when she could afford it, it was usually Anna who sponsored their NYC escapades.
Rachel was close with Anna, but still found her to be a somewhat peculiar character. Although she was rumored to be a German heiress, she lacked the refinement or manners that one would usually associate with this status. Although she talked about her family on occasion, other than her attitudes towards family members (not a tight-knit bunch), she was reluctant to bring up the specifics. On top of this, Anna also had a bizarre living situation – she was staying in a hotel for 29 days a month, moving out for one day in compliance with hotel regulations, and traveling on occasion from the U.S. to Europe in compliance with her ESTA visa. In short, she didn’t really seem to have a home.
It was not until the trip to Morocco that Rachel began to suspect that Anna was hiding something significant. Although Anna promised to pay for the plane tickets, her card was declined on booking, so Rachel picked up the tab. Although Anna promised to pay for excursions, cars, and meals, again her card was repeatedly rejected. Finally, the straw that broke the Moroccan camel’s back was when the hotel bill (that Anna promised to cover) went unpaid by Anna. Under pressure by hotel staff to accept a form of payment for the charge, Rachel, our hapless narrator, sacrificed her card for a ‘pre-authorization’ hold for $30,000.
Owing friends money is hardly a pleasant situation, but Anna’s exorbitant spending and meek attempts to wire Rachel the funds drove to the collapse of the friendship. For two months, Rachel sent Anna calls and texts about reimbursement only to receive legitimate-seeming-though-also-tenuous excuses as to why the payment was delayed. It was not, actually, until Rachel’s aunt Jenny cautiously raised the idea that Anna could be a con artist that Rachel even suspected that something sinister was occurring.
The book My Friend Anna is ‘fabulous’ in a Hollywood sort of way, but tragic when you consider the people she hurt and betrayed and the businesses that she stole from. From Rachel’s perspective, you will learn more (but frankly not much) about this mysterious “German Heiress” and the extent of her cons. The story is sensational, but may frustrate you at times, especially in the second half (i.e. after the trip to Morocco). Regardless, I quite enjoyed it! If anything about the above sounded interesting do Check. It. Out!
P.S. The story of Anna Delvey is set to premiere on Netflix this year (2020) under the title “Inventing Anna” – I, for one, will certainly be watching!