#Art + Culture

Jessica Pressler: The Real Journalist Behind Vivian Kent Whose Work Inspired ‘Inventing Anna’

Jessica Pressler, Who is Jessica Pressler ,Jessica Pressler
Jessica Pressler’s work recently adapted into a miniseries for OTT is creating global buzz. The American journalist was the one who painted a vivid picture of the woman behind the conwoman, Anna Sorokin, in 2018 through a fascinating feature for New York magazine. Her deep dive into all that went into the upkeep of a glittery scam that rocked New York high society is the basis of Inventing Anna. 

The Netflix series produced by Shonda Rhimes tracks, over nine episodes, how Sorokin, a young Russia-born woman, perched herself atop the class ladder and advanced herself into good money, allegedly through an elaborate fraud that involved wealth to the tune of $275,000. She was arrested in 2017 in the United States and continues to remain in custody today.

Inventing Anna stars Julia Garner as Sorokin but she is only a fantastic figure of myth. The real spotlight is on the journalist chasing her story. Anna Chlumsky plays the character of Vivian Kent, created after Pressler. More on the show here.

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As per her website, Pressler moved from Philadelphia to New York, where she currently resides in Queens. Her work has appeared in leading publications and she was nominated for the National Magazine Award in 2015. At the New York magazine, she formerly headed the news section Daily Intelligencer and now works as a staff writer.

Her work shows extensive coverage in the world of business and finance, including interactions with top names in New York. A 2015 story she did, titled ‘The Hustlers at Scores’, was adapted into the film Hustlers starring Jennifer Lopez in 2019.

Pressler came under significant scrutiny in 2014 after a report she did on a young man who allegedly made $72 million trading stocks was said to be untrue. Observer revealed that Pressler’s story on high school senior and ‘investment genius’ Mohammed Islam was all bogus, since the boy had “made the whole thing up.”

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Pressler’s Sorokin story for the magazine, published in May 2018, was titled ‘Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track of It.’ In it, Pressler gave a revelatory, rich insight (rather literally) into the aspirations, motivations and psyche that led Sorokin to do what she did, a breakaway from third-person narratives hot at the time.

“Over the course of our conversations, Anna never admitted any guilt…” Pressler wrote. “Sure, she said, she might have done a few things wrong. ‘But that doesn’t diminish the hundred things I did right’,” she added in one place, quoting Sorokin.

Talking to VulturePressler shed light on what the Netflix series got right about her time covering Sorokin. Vivian Kent is shown to be pregnant while reporting on the big story, something Pressler confirmed was true of herself too. “I was super pregnant while reporting that story and finished two weeks or so before I had a baby.”

Her resistance to doing a Wall Street #MeToo story, over the Sorokin saga, as commanded by her bosses at New York was also true to some degree. Pressler also lent clothes to Sorokin for her court trial, as portrayed on the show.

On the journalist’s character not being named after her, Pressler said, “I think it was always going to be not me. The show is fictionalised, and the character is a guide to this universe… Vivian is like an all-caps angry email of me, but there are things that are very real mixed into it.”