She started blogging about her sexual exploits early in her career under the name Belle de Jour, an alias inspired by a character in a Luis Buñuel film. In the film, a bored housewife played by French icon Catherine Deneuve turns to prostitution to explore her sexual fantasies.
The British press created a long and varied list of possible suspects for the London-based Belle de Jour. Some even believed Belle was actually a man, speculating that Toby Young, the author of How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, was writing secretly under her name. Other suspects included Lisa Hilton, a British journalist based in America, and Rowan Pelling, the former editor of the Erotic Review.
Magnanti says it feels good to step out from behind the curtain of secrecy.
It feels so much better on this side. Not to have to tell lies, hide things from the people I care about. To be able to defend what my experience of sex work is like to all the skeptics and doubters.
"Anonymity had a purpose then. It will always have a reason to exist, for writers whose work is too damaging or too controversial to put their names on. But for me, it became important to acknowledge that aspect of my life and my personality to the world at large," she wrote.
She then signed off with, "I am a woman. I lived in London. I was a call girl."