Brooke Magnanti is Belle de Jour
The weekend’s most bizarre story is that British cancer specialist Dr. Brooke Magnanti has revealed that she is “Belle de Jour,” the pseudonymous blogger who managed to get several bestselling books and a television movie out of having paid her way through graduate school as a high priced prostitute. Jon Ungoed-Thomas for The 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. A month ago she revealed her secret to her colleagues at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health, who were “amazingly kind and supportive”. She was preparing to tell her parents this weekend.
Magnanti said she was working on a doctoral study for the department of forensic pathology of Sheffield University in 2003 when she took up prostitution. “I was getting ready to submit my thesis. I saved up a bit of money. I thought, I’ll just move to London, because that’s where the jobs are, and I’ll see what happens.
“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 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?”
Apparently, threats that an ex-boyfriend (whether of the paid or unpaid variety is unclear) would reveal her secret forced her hand.
She claims to have earned £300 a night, which I find baffling on a number of levels. And says that her blog “will continue for a bit — I’d like her to have a happy ending.” Which is an amusing double entendre, whether intentional or otherwise.
Her “Secret Diary of a Call Girl” blog was controversial, since it depicted prostitution as glamorous. Since the blogger was pseudonymous,many speculated that it was a work of fiction, with some claiming the author was a man. Presuming Magnanti’s claim to authorship is genuine, it’ll be interesting to see what the reactions are.