The Internet broke à la Kim K a few months ago when New York magazine published the exposé of one miss Anna Delvey. The tale of a young Russian woman who convinced an entire city that she was a fully-fledged New York socialite somehow caught people’s attention. But it wasn’t just the straight-out-of-a-Hollywood-film premise of the story that intrigued people, the realisation that perhaps Delvey was not too different from us was a stark reminder that we are living in the age of the scammer. After all, is Delvey’s self-curated lifestyle that much worse than us frantically applying the Valencia filter to our Instagram pictures?
For those who have not yet heard the tale of Anna Delvey (where have you been?) for several years she lived the life of a New York It Girl, operating under the guise of heiress to an anonymous German fortune. Never without a hundred-dollar bill or a Snapchat filter, Delvey rubbed shoulders with celebrities and frequented exclusive members-only clubs as much as you and I visit the local Wetherspoons. The same woman can now can be found donning a beige jumpsuit and chin-wagging with convicted criminals as the façade came crumbling down around her carefully filtered lifestyle, revealing a bounty of lies and fraud. Delvey is currently being held without bail at Rikers Island after pleading not to guilty to crimes including grand larceny and theft, all of which she allegedly committed in an attempt to lead the lifestyle she had selected for herself.
But Delvey is not alone in her attempts to create an alternate identity. She is just the latest in a whole stream of scammers who, using the internet as their instrument, have managed to convince us of their lies. In 2015 Australian wellness blogger Belle Gibson, who was revered for having cured her own brain tumour solely through her healthy diet, was revealed to never have even been diagnosed with cancer. Despite having hundreds of thousands of online followers and a book published by Penguin, Gibson turned out to be nothing more than a young woman searching for fame, filtering and captioning one picture at a time in order to reach it. Fellow Australian Essena O’Neill also briefly became a household name after an alleged ‘breakdown’ documented over social media went viral. The series of videos detailing her mental health struggles resulting from finding fame online were later exposed to be nothing more than a carefully orchestrated hoax to generate publicity.
If this wave of Instagram hoaxers weren’t enough to confirm that we are officially living in the age of the scammer; comedian Branden Miller has created an entire career out of his fictional persona, Joanne the Scammer. With an Instagram following approaching 2 million and a Twitter community of over 700,000, Miller’s character has the caught the attention of a number of celebrities including barometer of cool, Solange Knowles. A satirical response to the scamming generation, Miller uses Joanne as a vehicle to bring subjects of honesty, privilege and race into public discussion. Joanne’s face has been printed on t-shirts and shared across the Internet; the public’s love of Joanne acting as a reflection of the prevalence of versions of the character in the Internet Age.
But the conversation around scamming isn’t an entirely modern phenomenon. It’s difficult not to look at Anna Delvey and be reminded of Breakfast at Tiffany’s Holly Golightly. Created exactly 60 years ago, Capote’s protagonist appears remarkably similar to the scammers of 2018. Like Golightly, Delvey envisioned something greater for herself and went in search of it no matter what that meant. Donning a new name, and with it an entirely new identity, both women headed to perhaps the only place to reinvent yourself in such a way, New York City. But whilst Golightly is depicted as lovable and vulnerable for her ambitious lifestyle, Delvey has, perhaps rightly, been condemned for it. The methods Delvey resorted to in order to escape the drudgery of her previous life are of course reprehensible, but just like one of the most iconic characters of the 20th century, Delvey began simply as a young girl with big dreams. Who can blame young people today for their disillusion towards their own lives when they are constantly reminded of what they could have. The likes of Kendall Jenner and her friends are inescapable on social media, saturating Instagram timelines worldwide with images of yachts and flat stomachs and designer handbags. So, while Delvey undoubtedly went about her dreams in an unethical way, perhaps there is something to be admired in a young woman going after what she was taught that she should want.
Scamming is nothing new, Capote’s depiction of Holly Golightly is even said to have been inspired by his own mother, confirming that people faking their way to success long-proceeds the Instagram Age. However, it is undeniable that the internet has allowed the scammer to thrive more than ever before. As we carefully select the right filter and head to Facetune to blur out our blackheads we are not much more honest than the scammers who we are so quick to parody, shame and condemn. The reason the tale of Anna Delvey generated so much attention is not because of its salacious nature; but because she is one of us. Her story holds a mirror up to the dishonesty which breeds on social media today and if we can take one thing away from Delvey’s experiences it should be to reintroduce the value of honesty in our Instagram-obsessed world. So, go on, post the selfie with your split-ends or the photograph of your Aldi own-brand cheerios for breakfast, it’s for the greater good.
Originally published at https://www.havinganosey.com/blog/2018/8/10/why-anna-delvey-is-just-one-of-us-living-in-the-age-of-the-scammer