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.

brooke-magnanti-photoHer 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.

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.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Rick Almeida says:

    The Times piece claims she earned £300 per hour, the linked Daily Mail piece claims £300 per night.

    Out of curiosity, James, I wonder what you find baffling about either or both of those claims.

  2. James Joyner says:

    Out of curiosity, James, I wonder what you find baffling about either or both of those claims.

    Well, 300 pounds is roughly 500 dollars. It strikes me as unlikely that people who have that sort of money to spend for two hours with a woman need to spend that sort of money for companionship. And, while Magnanti is perfectly attractive, one presumes that 500 bucks would be at the upper end of the competitive market and command superior goods.

  3. JVB says:

    This is an author. She’s nothing more. It’s about publicity to sell books…period. Nothing she says should be taken seriously. She pulled one stunt off…this is another stunt she’s using to further another project.

  4. Triumph says:

    Well, 300 pounds is roughly 500 dollars.

    Trust me. For a good looking broad who isn’t a crack addict or a transvestite that’s a reasonable rate.

    The article said that she used the Barbarella agency–which is a pretty quality outfit.

    In some of the Vegas brothels, you can get a good dame for less–but anytime you go below the $200 mark, be prepared!

    You can sometime have good luck for a good price with a hot bird if she happens to be strung out or in need of a fix at the particular moment you make her acquaintance, but you better be protected! I don’t recommend it.

    As with everything else, you get what you pay for. Expect to pay if you want quality–or go to where the labor is cheap, like Thailand or Nam.

    One of the main problems with the London market these days is that it is saturated with gorgeous Russian broads who are probably there illegally and owe they pimp smuggling cash. It brings the prices down, which is nice; but for home-grown talent like Brooke, you’ll always be able to command a little extra.

    The fact that she is a PhD suggests that she is intelligent and a classy broad, which also ups the price.

  5. John Burgess says:

    James, while sex is certainly the principle product being bought here, an important part of the package is discretion. I once met a London call girl who charged between 200-1,000 pounds for an hour’s ‘leisure’, based on her guess at what the customer would bear. She was certainly good looking and I’ll assume her skill set was worth the price.

    What she had to offer was that she didn’t talk much about her clients. Some were Members of Parliament; a couple were Cabinet Ministers. A few were actors. All were married.

  6. Franklin says:

    This is an author. She’s nothing more.

    Nothing more? “Magnanti is a respected specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology.” With a PhD. Nothing indeed!

    But your point that she could be exaggerating and/or fabricating, etc. is certainly possible. Show us the proof.

    As for the morals, I don’t have any problem with hers if she hadn’t committed herself to anyone.

  7. Dantheman says:


    “It strikes me as unlikely that people who have that sort of money to spend for two hours with a woman need to spend that sort of money for companionship.”

    You need to get out more. Elliot Spitzer and David Vitter were both paying at least that. Remember that often you are also paying for someone who will be seen with you in public without everyone knowing she is a hooker.

  8. Anderson says:

    And for heaven’s sake, don’t forget the A-levels.

  9. I knew we could count on Triumph to add needed perspective to this important issue.

    Let’s say you’re a lonely middle-aged guy in a London hotel room.

    Let’s say you’re an American author on book tour.

    Let’s say you can afford the 300 pounds.

    What else are you going to do? Call your family, order ice cream from room service, raid the minibar and let the combination of Ambien and no-name Scotch carry you away?

    Only a loser would, you know, be that lame.

  10. Franklin — I read the London Times article where Dr. Magnati arranged for her identity to be revealed to one of her books’ bigger critics — the Times reporter/critic cited several pieces of evidence that strongly supported Magnati’s claims of being Belle, including a cryptic post that she requested to see on the blog that showed up that day and several chunks of information that allowed the critic to follow-up on the money trail that had previously been a stonewall.

    If those were the “keys”, the identification seems solid.