Author of Mattress Actress, Annika Cleeve (not her real name), claims to be a former sex worker and international call girl who put herself through university. But the math just doesn’t add up.
This was suppose to be an article about a ‘tell-all book’ written by a former sex worker who went to university and married the man of her dreams. I was thinking along the lines of a ‘Pretty Woman’ story angle. But I get suspicious of anyone who gives deliberately vague answers to routine questions such as: “What did you study at university?”
A pretty benign question I would have thought, particularly when the person you’re interviewing is claiming to hold a doctorate. But according to Annika Cleeve, even revealing the subject area could unmask her true identity to the world.
“I’ve got a Masters. I’ve got a Doctorate and about three Bachelors in various sciences and humanities, and I just work and write at the moment,” Annika Cleeve told Australian Women Online.
When pressed on the issue of her education in a follow-up email, Annika wrote: “I have a couple of bach of arts & Science, my masters is in forensics I do have a d behind my name but I try to keep that elusive.”
Well I did the math and it just isn’t possible to complete three bachelor degrees, a masters and a doctorate in the time frame she gave me – and because she won’t reveal her true identity, there’s no way of fact checking her story.
Annika said she’s 40 now and according to her book she entered university as a mature age student in her mid-twenties. She said she left the sex industry after completing her masters about 10 years ago. If she completed her masters about 10 years ago she would have had enough time to do a doctorate. But what about the three bachelor degrees she claims to have completed? When would she have had time to do these I wonder? Furthermore, at the time she claims to have been studying as an undergraduate at university she was raising a daughter on her own and working in a brothel and then as an international call girl.
When I asked her what industry she is working in now, Annika replied, “In the law” which could mean just about anything – and there goes my second story angle from hooker to ‘insert profession here’.
If (and it’s a big ‘if’) she is working “in the law” I can well understand why she wouldn’t want any of her colleagues to know she once worked as a prostitute. But come on Annika, give me something I can use here or this article is going to be awfully short.
In the five years I’ve been interviewing women, this is the first time I’ve ever had to really press someone who is promoting a book, a website or a business, for some straight answers.
So I asked Annika to please explain and this is what she said:
“Because I’ve got a daughter who’s twenty. It’s one thing for me to show all my cards and show no shame in my history. But at the same time, my history will open the door to her history and I’m trying to keep that as protected as possible. There’s a lot of things in the book that have been changed and names have been changed so that people can’t figure out exactly who I am – and that’s really just to safeguard my kids because I’ve got a 20 year old and a 15 year old.”
As a mother myself, I can well understand her desire to protect her children’s privacy, both of whom she would have conceived before exiting the sex industry, which was about 10 years ago. But you can’t have it both ways lady. You can’t publish a memoir, want it to be a best-seller, hit the publicity trail and then expect no-one to ask any questions about the details of your life.
Before I proceed any further, let it be known that I am not accusing Annika Cleeve of telling lies. She has covered her tracks too well for an underfunded website like this one to follow her digital footprint, for the purpose of discovering her true identity and bringing the truth to light. So at this stage, I’m only willing to state on the record that she has shown a predilection for stretching the truth in her book and in media interviews.
She has also contradicted herself. For example, she told The Daily Examiner: “By the age of 25, I owned five houses. I wasn’t married and I didn’t have a boyfriend. That’s the upside. If you play your cards right and you’re a professional, the upside would be financially satisfying.”
But there is no mention of this anywhere in her book. The only house she ever mentioned owning is a house she purchased in Perth for $77,000. All of the other properties she lived in were rented.
It’s not that I don’t think her book is well worth reading because it is. Mattress Actress is well written and takes the reader on a fascinating journey through the underbelly of Australia’s sex industry during the 1980s and 90s. Annika Cleeve also has some fascinating insights about sex and it’s place in our society, as demonstrated by her piece No more vanilla: how the internet killed the call girl published last month on Crikey.com.au
But all my journalistic instincts are telling me this woman isn’t everything she claims to be. For me, this makes her far more fascinating than the picture she paints in Mattress Actress. Questions such as these come to mind: Why did she do it? What does she hope to get out of it? How did she think she was going to get away with it?
So why didn’t Crikey.com.au and other websites Annika Cleeve has sought publicity from, find inconsistencies in her story? I can only offer an educated guess here but I think they heard the words ‘sex worker’ and nothing more. Who cares about the facts when you have a sex story! Sex sells. Sex Sells. Sex Sells.
I have to admit that her determination to see Mattress Actress rise to the top of every best-seller list is remarkable. Most people publish a book, do some media interviews, then cross their fingers and hope for the best. Not this lady.
Annika Cleeve has taken to social media with gusto and woe betide the journalist who misses a deadline for publication after interviewing her.
Usually the people I interview are happy to wait until I am able to fit their story into my writing schedule. But Annika wanted a specific date and when I missed a deadline, she’s was on the phone and sending me an email, wanting to know the why, when and what for. But to be fair, she does this with a great deal of charm.
Even her publisher moves too slow for this gal. She called me yesterday to tell me that she had negotiated the contract to stock her book in Target stores herself, which gives you some idea of how determined she is to succeed. But then again, this could be just another example of her predilection for stretching the truth. On the internet you can say just about anything and get away with it until someone starts asking the wrong questions.
Updated 10:49pm 6 December: I did send an email to Annika Cleeve last night with the url link to this post. I also gave her publisher the heads up today. I have not received a response from either Annika or her publisher. However, Annika did take the time to Unfollow @AusWomenOnline on Twitter and I guess this says something.
For more information about Mattress Actress by Annika Cleeve visit her website: annikacleeve.com
Maureen Allert says
Read the book did not ring true for me (that is why I checked out this page). Full of holes and do not believe for one moment she has a string of letters after her name. In saying that however, she sucked us into buying her book and we read it and paid for it so good marketing!
I also just started reading this book and straight up I am calling bullsh** … something isnt sitting right with me and as others have mentioned – things dont add up. Like she says, she works in the industry of selling fantasy, and it appears she is selling us her own.
The only thing that’s not in dispute is that she’s a tenacious self-marketer. Her writing certainly doesn’t seem at the level one would expect from someone who holds a doctorate (which doesn’t put a ‘d’ behind your name, incidentally). Her claims are extremely vague and impossible to substantiate; she tells media that her book was “at #1 in Australia for four weeks” but makes no mention of which list she’s referring to. It certainly isn’t a list with any clout, in which case her claims are nothing more than spin and won’t influence anyone who knows anything about the industry. Similarly, marketing materials now indicate that the book is to be “converted to an Australian TV series”. Odd language aside, the lack of any specific detail is enough to make anyone skeptical. The whole thing feels like a lot of puffery to me. It would certainly be interesting to look a little deeper.