Belle de Jour lifts her veil

Research scientist penned call-girl blog

Last Updated: Sunday, November 15, 2009 | 4:51 PM ET

A former prostitute, whose anonymous blog was turned into the television series Secret Diary of a Call Girl, has revealed her identity.

Brooke Magnanti, a 34-year-old research scientist in Bristol, England, told the London Sunday Times that she spent 14 months working as a call girl with an escort agency from 2003 to late 2004 to support herself while finishing her doctorate.

She told the newspaper that she found the work "so much more enjoyable" than her shifts at another job as a computer programmer.

Magnanti kept her identity a secret when she started a blog describing her experiences in the guise of Belle de Jour, a London secretary who moonlights as a sex trade worker. And she remained silent when the blog formed the basis of three books and the Showtime TV series starring Billie Piper.

Speculation about Belle's identity has been rife, including the theory that she was a well-known writer because of the quality of her writing. Her blog and her books have been criticized for suggesting prostitution could be glamourous.

Until last week, not even her agent knew Belle's real name. A month ago she told her employers at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health where she is a child health researcher and they were supportive.

She told her parents on Saturday.

Last week, Magnanti contacted one of her severest critics, Sunday Times columnist, India Knight, saying she wanted to reveal her identity. She said she'd decided to unmask herself because she was afraid a former boyfriend would expose her.

A spokesman for Magnanti's employer, the University of Bristol, told the BBC that her past is not relevant to her current work and will not affect her employment.

Her publisher, Orion Books, said on its website that "It's a courageous decision for Belle de Jour to come forward with her true identity and we support her decision to do so. We have published her since 2005 and we are looking forward to continuing that relationship."

Magnanti said she wants to focus on her career as a scientist, but will continue her Belle de Jour blog for a while.

With files from The Associated Press

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