LONDON Nov. 16, 2009 -- The most celebrated high class hooker in the world has revealed herself to be a high class cancer scientist and says she is proud of the good old days.
Dr. Brooke Magnanti revealed herself this weekend in the Sunday Times saying that she is the real-life Belle du Jour, the $500 an hour London call girl whose life was documented in three books, a TV show and her ongoing blog.
Magnanti, who wrote "Secret Diary of a Call Girl," told the paper she turned to prostitution for more than a year while writing her Ph.D. thesis in 2003. While she reveled in her job and her nom de plume, she chafed at the anonymity of her story.
"Being anonymous is no fun. No jolly lunches to celebrate the book's success. I couldn't even go to my own launch party," she told the paper.
According to her interview with the Sunday Times, Magnanti decided to give up her anonymity so she would not have to keep the "massive secret" any longer. The interviewer also mentioned "an ex-boyfriend with a big mouth lurking in the background" who might have inspired her to beat others to the punch.
But now that she is as famous as Belle du Jour, Magnanti is asking people to keep their distance from her new workplace, the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health where she is a specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology.
"Please do not come to my workplace as this compromises the security of patients and staff. Thank you for understanding," she wrote today on her blog Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl.
She also took a moment on today's blog to answer what has apparently been a big question since her Sunday revelation: "Also, so much curiosity about my tax situation! Yes, I did pay taxes on sex work earnings."
Magnanti told the newspaper that she first outed herself to her co-workers a month ago, who were "amazingly kind and supportive." She then revealed her true identity to her agent a week before her interview, and did not get the nerve to tell her mother until this week.
Despite trepidations over telling her mother, Magnanti insists she is proud of her old profession and what she wrote about it.
"The people, the places, the actions and feelings are as true now as they were then, and I stand behind every word with pride," she says on her blog. "Thank you for reading and following my adventures."
Her adventures began when she left Scotland for London where she would write her Ph.D. thesis, but she found London more expensive than anticipated.
"The difference between living in the Highlands and living in London is massive. I hadn't really thought that one through," she told the Sunday Times.
"I started to think: what can I do that I can start doing straightaway, that doesn't require a great deal of training or investment to get started, that's cash in hand and that leaves me spare time to do my work in?"
Unable to find a professional job without a Ph.D. and unwilling to accumulate debt, she decided her answer was prostitution.
She found a London escort agency and charged £300 an hour for her services, £200 of which she kept for herself. During her time as a sex worker, she said she slept with "somewhere between dozens and hundreds" of men.
"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," she said.
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.
'Being Anonymous is No Fun'
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."