The Real Story of Donovan Lamb and Vivian Kent from Inventing Anna

Donovan Lamb (Real Name: Mohammed Islam) is a 17-year-old high schooler who falsely claimed to have made $72 million from stock trading in an interview with Vivian Kent (Real Name: Jessica Pressler).

The whole scandal played out back in 2014 and nearly wrecked Pressler’s career but she was able to rejig things and eventually bounce back with the article that spurned Inventing Anna, the hit Netflix series. Pressler and Islam are portrayed as two fictional characters, Kent and Lamb respectively, in Inventing Anna.

Is Donovan Lamb Real? Who is Donovan Lamb in Real Life?

Donovan Lamb is real. The real-life Donovan Lamb is named Mohammed Islam. The background information on Islam shows that he is a native of Queens, New York. He is very intelligent and as such, was able to get into an elite school known as Stuyvesant High School in New York.

This is one of the most prestigious public schools in the United States and is very hard to get into. Mohammed Islam was also 17 years old as of 2014 meaning that he was born around 1997. He was brought up by his parents and has a sister who is two years younger than him.

Donovan Lamb and Vivian Kent
Jessica Pressler v. Vivian Kent Image Source

The Real Life Vivian Kent is an Award-Winning Journalist – Jessica Pressler

Vivian Kent is one of the characters in Inventing Anna which is based on a real-life person. The real-life Vivian Kent is Jessica Pressler, a well-known American journalist. Pressler is a native of Marble Head Massachusetts and was born around 1977/1978. This means that she is presently 47 or 46 years old.

Jessica Pressler holds a Bachelor of Arts degree from Temple University and started her career in the early 2000s. Her first ports of call were Philadelphia Magazine and Daily Intel Blog. She then spent 13 years as a contributory editor for New York Magazine i.e. from 2007 to 2020.

Pressler has also done some freelancing work for the New York Times, Allure, and GQ but her most notable works and stories were for New York Magazine. One of them was the story on Donovan Lamb/Mohammed Islam which seriously threatened her career.

Vivian Kent Conducted an Interview with Donovan Lamb in 2014 Where he Made Sensational Claims

Jessica Pressler and Mohammed Islam crossed paths with each other in 2014. At that time, Islam was a 17-year-old high school senior and was deep into finance. He bought stocks on a simulated market and made lots of “money” from it. Pressler, on the other hand, was a high-flying journalist for New York Magazine. She interviewed and profiled Wall Street executives, political figures, etc.

At some point, a friend of Islam’s dad who saw how skilled he was at the simulated stock market put the young lad in touch with Pressler. During the discussion between the two, Islam claimed that he made so much money from stock trading, and at some point, the figure, $72 million, tumbled out.

Pressler was so impressed with how intelligent Islam was at the stock market and decided to add him to an article she was compiling about reasons to love New York. She placed him 12th on the list and published a story that claimed that a 17-year-old had made $72 million from the stock market.

The Claims Turned Out to Be False and Caused a Major Scandal for Pressler

As you can imagine, the thought of a 17-year-old making $72 million from the stock market was mind-blowing and many publications republished Pressler’s story with even more sensational headlines. It created a small frenzy but as the whole thing was going on, some discerning minds pointed out that Islam’s claims were simply impossible. They turned the heat on the young man and he later came clean.

Mohammed Islam admitted that he was quite good at stimulating stock trading but he did not make any such money in real life. He revealed that his parents were quite disappointed in him and weren’t speaking to him and that his dad also threatened to disown him. He then sincerely apologized to his schoolmates for the whole trouble.

The whole scandal did serious damage to the journalistic reputation of Jessica Pressler and New York Magazine. Media organizations are supposed to have fact checkers scrutinize a story before it was published but this was obviously not the case here and so Pressler suffered some consequences for it.

Bloomberg, a reputable financial publication rescinded the offer they earlier made her to join their investigative journalism unit. Luckily for Pressler, her employers decided to keep her on and so she was saved. She took the whole thing in stride and didn’t agonize over it much.

Donovan Lamb and Vivian Kent
Mohammed Islam (right) with a friend named Damir in 2014 Image Source

Jessica Pressler Wrote the Article Which Inspired the Hit Netflix Series Inventing Anna

The whole Mohammed Islam $72 million debacle may have done harm to Jessica Pressler’s career but she refused to stay down. She continued to put her best feet forward and with time her quality shone through as usual. In December 2015, she published a story about strippers who scam their patrons out of money. It was so good that she received award nods for it.

The story was also snapped up by Hollywood and made into the 2019 film, Hustlers. The movie was headlined by Jennifer Lopez and a fictionalized version of Pressler named Elizabeth appeared.

Jessica Pressler further redeemed herself when she published a story titled Maybe She Had So Much Money She Just Lost Track Of It in May 2018. The story covered the sensational activities of an ordinary young lady Anna Sorokin who was able to con the New York affluent crowd into believing that she was some sort of stranded heiress. Using this ruse, Anna got people to pay her bills and basically scammed them.

The story was so good that Hollywood came calling once more for Pressler. It was later made into 2022 hit Netflix series, Inventing Anna. The series was watched by millions of households in the U.S. and beyond

Her Embarrassing Episode with Mohammed Islam is Captured in the Series

Jessica Pressler is fictionalized as the journalist Vivian Kent in Inventing Anna. She is not just a footnote in the series but also a major part of the story. As such, her distressful episode with Mohammed Islam is referred to though the young man doesn’t actually appear. Mohammed Islam’s name is changed to Donovan Lamb and the whole backlash that the article caused is captured. The objective was to show how Pressler that was unraveling a scammer was once scammed herself.

Of course, the real-life Vivian Kent got over the whole thing. Jessica Pressler is now a special correspondent for Vanity Fair. She is also billed as a producer on Inventing Anna and has a book to her name.

Where is Mohammed Islam aka Donovan Lamb Now?

While Jessica Pressler has completely redeemed herself and remains part of the spotlight, the situation of Mohammed Islam is not known. He dropped out of public consciousness after he was found out and this remains the situation to date.

There is however ground to believe that he would be thriving. He is quite intelligent which is how he got into his exclusive high school in the first place. There is also the fact that he has the acumen for finance. He also revealed back then that he had applied to colleges. At the very least, Islam would be a college-educated fellow now working on Wall Street or other finance-related ventures. He may also be married with kids. 


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