Belle de Jour unmasked

The secret sex-blogger and inspiration behind the hit ITV programme Secret Diary of A Call Girl has been named as Dr Brooke Magnanti – a 34-year old research scientist from Bristol

The secret sex-blogger and inspiration behind the hit ITV programme Secret Diary of A Call Girl has been named as Dr Brooke Magnanti – a 34-year old research scientist from Bristol.

Her identity has been one of the great literary mysteries of the decade after the publication of bestselling books about her secret life as a prostitute. This weekend,  The Sunday Times unmasked Dr Magnanti, after she contacted India Knight, the Sunday Times columnist, saying she wanted to reveal her identity.

According to the Sunday Times, Magnanti is a respected specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology in a hospital research group in Bristol.

Six years ago, in the final stages of her PhD thesis, she ran out of money and turned to prostitution through a London escort agency, charging £300 an hour. Already an experienced science blogger, she began writing about her experiences in a web diary that was adapted into books and a television drama starring Billie Piper.

The scientist, a petite 34-year-old, has no regrets about her 14 months as a prostitute. ‘I’ve felt worse about my writing than I ever have about sex for money,’ she said. Anonymity had become no fun, however: I couldn’t even go to my own book launch party.’

Until last week, not even her agent knew her real name. In the TV series, Belle was played by Billie Piper (pictured). Just one month ago, Belle revealed her identity to her colleagues at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health, who were ‘amazingly kind and supportive’. Magnanti told the paper she was working on a doctoral study for the department of forensic pathology of Sheffield University in 2003 when she took up prostitution.

‘I couldn’t find a professional job in my chosen field because I didn’t have my PhD yet. I didn’t have a lot of spare time on my hands because I was still making corrections and preparing for the viva; and I got through my savings a lot faster than I thought I would.’

When she could no longer afford her rent, she found an escort agency and started her secret life. ‘I did have another job at one point, as a computer programmer, but I kept up with my other work because it was so much more enjoyable.’

Her future lies in medical science, but she also has a literary streak. She has been writing a novel, and the Belle blog will continue for a bit, as she’d like her to have a happy ending.


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