Inventing Anna’s Real-Life Neff on Befriending a Con Artist: “The Bitch Was Good”

In 2018, Neffatari “Neff” Davis received a strange D.M. from journalist Jessica Pressler. The New York magazine reporter (and later, V.F. special correspondent) told Davis she was investigating Davis’s close friend, Anna.

Davis didn’t know who she was talking about.

A year earlier, while Davis was working as a concierge at the luxury 11 Howard hotel, she had met an Anna Delvey—a mysterious woman who styled herself as a German heiress and tipped Davis $100 bills for recommendations for local restaurants. Delvey (whose actual name, Davis would learn from Pressler, was Anna Sorokin) stayed at the hotel for months, and took a shine to the 25-year-old concierge—so much so that she would sometimes sit with Davis in the lobby and work alongside her during the entirety of the concierge’s shift. But when Sorokin eventually left the hotel, she also disappeared from the forefront of Davis’s mind.

“It’s not that I had forgot about her, but we had so many different, crazy guests and famous guests at the hotel that, when Anna left, I was just like, Oh, that was a cool friend. I wonder what happened to her?” Davis tells Vanity Fair by phone Wednesday. “I felt like she maybe went back to Germany or Paris or something.”

So once Davis figured out who Pressler was investigating—“I was like, Oh, yeah, Anna was my bitch’”—she wanted to know what the mysterious heiress had been up to.

“Jessica was like, ‘Oh, yeah, she’s in Rikers,’” says Davis, “That’s how I found out Anna was in jail. My mind was blown.”

Sorokin had been arrested the previous October on a smattering of charges after conning banks, hotels, and various associates out of more than $200,000. (Sorokin was later convicted on eight charges, including second-degree grand larceny, theft of services, and first-degree attempted grand larceny, and sentenced to four to eight years in prison.) But Davis had been too busy at her new job—managing a Starbucks in the Diamond District—to catch the news.

Davis shared her recollections of the mysterious heiress with Pressler, helping piece together Sorokin’s audacious scam for what would prove to be a bombshell New York magazine feature. And when Shonda Rhimes bought the rights to the piece for a Netflix series called Inventing Anna, the producer also bought the rights to Davis’s story and made Davis, an aspiring filmmaker, a paid consultant on the series, as well as a main character (played by Alexis Floyd).

On the heels of Inventing Anna’s premiere, Davis describes her strange relationship with Anna, her whirlwind experience joining Shondaland, the Oscar-winning actor who she says tried to buy her life rights, and why it might finally be time to walk away from the Delvey scandal.

Vanity Fair: I want to talk about your work consulting on the series, but first, can you take me back through the last three and a half years of your life since you talked to Jessica?

Neffatari Davis: It’s a lot different from what the show shows. They made up a lot of stuff to kind of speed up [the timeline]. I had already left 11 Howard when Jessica interviewed me—she interviewed me about seven months after I quit. I was just so tired of being in Soho and dealing with rude guests.  So at the time Jessica interviewed me, I was a manager at Starbucks.

So you hadn’t followed the news of Anna’s indictment or arrest?

No. I’m like in my own world, living in Harlem at the time, going to the the Diamond District for work. Starbucks is one of those jobs where you live by the siren. You don’t have time to be looking at anything—you’re dealing with crazy people that want their crack cocaine, which is their coffee at 5 A.M. I’m working from 5 A.M. to like 3 P.M., and then I’m working on film stuff. So I had no idea that the New York Post had wrote anything about her and that she was a scammer until Jessica DMed me.

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