Belle de Jour (writer)
Brooke Magnanti, 7 June 2010
5 November 1975
New Port Richey, Florida, USA
|Pen name||Belle de Jour, Taro|
|Notable work(s)||The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl|
Brooke Magnanti (born 5 November 1975) is an American born naturalised British research scientist, blogger, and writer, who, until her identity was revealed in November 2009, was known by the pen name Belle de Jour. While completing her doctoral studies, between 2003 and 2004, Magnanti supplemented her income by working as a London call girl known by the working name Taro. Her diary, published as the anonymous blog Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl, became increasingly popular as speculation surrounded the identity of Belle de Jour. Remaining anonymous, Magnanti went on to have her experiences published as The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl in 2005 and The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl in 2006. Her first two books were UK top 10 best-sellers in the nonfiction hardback and nonfiction paperback lists.
In 2007 Belle's blogs and books were adapted into a television programme, Secret Diary of a Call Girl starring Billie Piper as Belle, with the real name Hannah Baxter. In November 2009, fearing her real identity was about to come out, Magnanti revealed her real name and occupation as a child health scientist.
- 1 Early life
- 2 Identity
- 3 Career
- 4 Personal life
- 5 Bibliography
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
Born in the United States of Italian American father and Jewish American mother, Magnanti was born and grew up in Clearwater, Florida. She graduated from the private Clearwater Central Catholic High School where she was named a National Merit Scholar in 1992.
She entered university at the age of 16, going on to receive a B.S. in 1996 from Florida State University. Relocating to the United Kingdom, Magnanti studied for a master's degree in genetic epidemiology and Ph.D. in forensic science from the University of Sheffield in England. The Ph.D. thesis was submitted in 2003 and her doctorate awarded in 2004.
Her pseudonym recalls the 1928 novel Belle de jour by Joseph Kessel and the 1967 film of the same name starring Catherine Deneuve, directed by Luis Buñuel. In the film, "Belle de Jour" is an expression translating literally as "daytime beauty", as Deneuve's character frequented the brothel during the daytime, when her husband was absent from home. The expression is a pun on the French phrase "belle de nuit", which translates as "lady of the night", i.e. a prostitute.
The weblog Belle de Jour: Diary of a London call girl first appeared in October 2003 and won the Guardian newspaper's Best British Weblog 2003, in the second year of the award's existence. There was speculation in the media for several years as to the real identity of the author, whether Belle really was a call girl. Guesses as to who Belle was ranged from Rowan Pelling to Toby Young according to The Telegraph. Book contracts, copyright, and author payment were handled not under a real name but by the company Bizrealm Limited in order to maintain anonymity. In 2004 The Sunday Times featured a front-page headline incorrectly identifying Sarah Champion as the author of the blog based on erroneous textual analysis by Don Foster.
According to The Guardian a fellow British blogger guessed her identity in 2003 but kept it secret. He made a page on his blog containing the googlewhack of Belle de Jour and Brooke Magnanti that allowed him to see if anyone googled the two names. In 2009 he identified IP addresses originating from Associated Newspapers that had accessed the page at which point he contacted Magnanti to alert her. Around the same time tabloid reporters had been escorted from the hospital where she worked for breaking into her office.
Revelation of identity
On 15 November 2009, The Sunday Times revealed in an interview that the author's real name is Brooke Magnanti, who was 34 years of age at the time. The Guardian's Paul Gallagher described it as the revelation of "one of the best kept literary secrets of the decade". The Daily Telegraph's Stephen Adams said it had been "the new millennium's equivalent of the 1980s' search for the golden hare". Such was the nature of the secret, Magnanti's work colleagues did not know until one month before she went public, her publishers had been unaware of her true identity until the previous week and her parents found out on that weekend. After signing her first book deal and starting writing articles for newspapers, only two other people were aware of her identity, her agent Patrick Walsh and her accountant, who handled the financial transactions via a shell corporation. Magnanti commented that she had thought a former boyfriend was on the verge of outing her, and later reported him to the police for threats and harassment against her and her partner.
Writing on her blog on the day of the revelation, Magnanti stated:
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 sceptics 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
A spokesperson for Bristol University stated, "This aspect of Dr Magnanti's past is not relevant to her current role at the university", while her publisher said, "It's a courageous decision for Belle de Jour to come forward with her true identity and we support her decision to do so".
Diary of a London Call Girl
Magnanti says she worked for 14 months as a £300-an-hour prostitute for a London escort agency from 2003, after submitting her PhD thesis. She did so due to lack of funds before her viva voce at the University of Sheffield in 2003.
She had previously been a science blogger using her real name and started blogging about sex work under a pseudonym. Diary of a London Call Girl was voted Blog of the Year by The Guardian newspaper in 2003. Awards judge Bruce Sterling called it "Archly transgressive, anonymous hooker is definitely manipulating the blog medium, word by word, sentence by sentence far more effectively than any of her competitors ... She is in a league by herself as a blogger." Shortly after receiving the award she signed with literary agency Conville and Walsh who negotiated a publishing deal with Weidenfeld & Nicolson.
Reviews of the books compared her writing to the works of Martin Amis and Nick Hornby, and she frequently quotes from the poems of Philip Larkin. Themes of the blog and books focus on isolation and personae. "Solitude as much as sex propels these books ... Belle's prickly disbelief in any lasting togetherness picks up an almost existential heft." She writes in Playing the Game "it's not all about the sex - never has been - it's about the heart of darkness."
Magnanti's publisher, Orion Books, printed her first two books as part of its "Non Fiction/Memoir" line. Her third book was classified as fiction and represents a fictional continuation from the first two. Her books have been published in the UK, US, Portugal, Spain, Slovenia, France, Netherlands, Sweden, Germany, Italy, Czech Republic, Romania, Russia, and China.
From November 2005 until May 2006, Magnanti contributed a regular column in The Sunday Telegraph. Since her identity had been revealed she has written about UK libel laws and their effect on science for the Guardian's website Comment Is Free.
On 25 February 2010 Magnanti appeared on the BBC political affairs programme This Week to discuss the subject of sex education. She is also an occasional guest on The Book Show broadcast on Sky Arts and has spoken at a number of venues including The Sunday Times Oxford Literary Festival in conversation with India Knight. She has also spoken on internet and forensic identity as part of the Bristol Festival of Ideas and was a guest on the Stephen Fry 2011 series Fry's Planet Word.
In 2011 Magnanti closed down the Belle de Jour blog and started to use the original url as her official website instead. She continued blogging at her two blogs The Sex Myth and The Gyst Of It. The former deals with social and political topics related to sexuality, whereas the latter deals with all things related to yeast (=gyst), primarily recipes and food preparation.
In 2012 Magnanti was selected as ambassador for the Inverness Whisky Festival. In the latter half of the year Magnanti, along with Tobias Hill, acted as a judge for Fleeting Magazine's Six-Word Short Story Prize. She was interviewed by the magazine in May, where she described her penchant for 'things that ferment'. She was interviewed on Hardtalk on the BBC in October.
Since 2012 she has been contributing blogger to The Daily Telegraph.
Magnanti's PhD thesis, awarded from the University of Sheffield Department of Forensic Pathology, was entitled Macrobioinformatics: the application of informatics methods to records of human remains. It was submitted in September 2003 and the degree was awarded in 2004. After moving to London and while blogging as Belle de Jour she also worked as a computer programmer in cheminformatics at InforSense. She blogged about this career at Cosmas.
Magnanti went on to work as a biostatistician in the Newcastle University Paediatric and Lifecourse Epidemiology Research Group (PLERG), researching a possible link between the occurrence of thyroid cancer in under-25s in NE England and radioiodine fallout exposure from Chernobyl in Ukraine. The paper concludes that while the sustained rise in thyroid carcinoma in Cumbria could be consistent with the fallout patterns, the rising trends in Durham and Northumberland cannot be attributed to this exposure, and there may be other factors influencing the increase.
After her pseudonymous publishing career Magnanti was identified to be working as a research associate in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health (BIRCH), part of Bristol University's Centre for Nanoscience and Quantum Information. Specifically she was part of the EU-funded Henvinet consortium, researching the policies for assessing the risks of developmental neuropathology from exposure to organophosphates. She collaborated on several EU project policy documents regarding human developmental risks of environmental exposure to chlorpyrifos, phthalates, and DecaBDE and HBCD.
In 2011 Brooke Magnanti published a statistical re-analysis criticising the Lilith Report on Lap Dancing and Striptease in the Borough of Camden, a study which had found that sexual crimes have increased after the opening of four lap dancing venues in the area. Magnanti concluded in her paper that the study had significant methodological errors. Furthermore, according to Magnanti's paper, in the decade since lap dancing became legal Camden has seen fewer recorded rapes than other comparable boroughs of London, even those with fewer strip clubs or none. Summaries of the findings were printed in several regional and national papers such as the Guardian and the Camden New Journal.
The Sex Myth
In early 2012, Magnanti published a nonfiction popular science book under her real name entitled The Sex Myth. It covered topics in sexuality studies and sociological research in the effects of adult entertainment and sex work.
Reviewing for The Observer Catherine Hakim wrote "Magnanti offers a pretty sharp analysis of sexual politics: who fabricates the myths and why, the role of both rightwing and leftwing media in building up moral panics, the vast sums obtained by the pressure groups that profit from them, and, more recently, too, by the pharmaceutical companies that plan to profit from newly invented sexual diseases."
It drew less favourable reviews from radical feminists such as Julie Bindel, whose writing was extensively criticised in the book and who stated "I disagree with just about everything she has to say".
Secret Diary of a Call Girl
A television series loosely based on the first book was in development with Channel 4 in the UK, but eventually aired on ITV2 as Secret Diary of a Call Girl. The first series aired from 27 September 2007 to 15 November 2007 starring Billie Piper as Hannah Baxter (Belle). It is now being shown in the US on Showtime. Magnanti met Piper in the course of preparing for the role but maintained her pseudonymity. A half-hour TV programme covering a meeting and conversation between the two was broadcast on ITV2 on 25 January 2010. The second series commenced broadcasting in the UK on ITV2 on 11 September 2008.
The third series began broadcasting in the UK and North America in January 2010. The fourth and final series started broadcasting in the UK on ITV2 in February 2011.
In June 2011, an ex-boyfriend issued a libel writ against The Sunday Times for a claim of defamation caused by his mention in the paper. The writ, filed by Flight Lieutenant Owen Morris of RAF Lossiemouth, claimed that following her outing, he was identified as her former boyfriend and therefore mentions of his harassment in the articles had been damaging even though they did not mention him by name. The Sunday Times printed an apology in February 2012, followed by The Week who agreed to pay damages.
Writing as Belle de Jour
- Belle de Jour (2006). The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 336. ISBN 978-0-297-85128-8.
- Belle de Jour (2006). Belle De Jour: Diary of an Unlikely Call Girl. Grand Central Publishing. p. 304. ISBN 0-446-57725-1.
- Belle de Jour (2005). The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. p. 294. ISBN 978-0-297-84782-3.
Writing as Dr Brooke Magnanti
Selected scientific works
- Saunders, Margaret; Magnanti, Brooke; Carreira, Sara; Yang, Aileen; Calamandrei, Gemma; Koppe, Janna; von Krauss, Martin; Keune, Hans; Bartonova, Alena; Keune, Hans; Bartonova, Alena (2012). "Chlorpyrifos and neurodevelopmental effects: a literature review and expert elicitation on research and policy". Environmental Health 11 (S5): S5. doi:10.1186/1476-069X-11-S1-S5.
- Magnanti, Brooke; Dorak, M. Tevfik; Parker, Louise; Craft, Alan W.; James, Peter W.; McNally, Richard J. Q. (2008). "Sex-specific incidence and temporal trends in solid tumours in young people from Northern England, 1968-2005". BMC Cancer 8 (89): 89. doi:10.1186/1471-2407-8-89.
- Magnanti, Brooke; Dorak, M. Tevfik; Parker, Louise; Craft, Alan W.; James, Peter W.; McNally, Richard J. Q. (2008). "Sex-specific patterns and trends in the incidence of hematologic malignancies in 0-24 year olds from Northern England, 1968-2005". haematologica 93 (9): 1438–1440. doi:10.3324/haematol.12919.
- Magnanti, Brooke; Dorak, M. Tevfik; Parker, Louise; Craft, Alan W.; James, Peter W.; McNally, Richard J. Q. (2008). "Geographical analysis of thyroid cancer in young people from northern England: Evidence for a sustained excess in females in Cumbria". European Journal of Cancer 45 (9): 1624–1629. doi:10.1016/j.ejca.2008.12.024.
- Magnanti, Brooke; Nicholls, A.; Sayle, R. (2003). David Arnold and Alan Chalmers and Franco Niccolucci, ed. "Multi-Platform Skeletal Visualisation and Reproduction in Stereolithography". 4th International Symposium on Virtual Reality, Archaeology and Intelligent Cultural Heritage. Brighton, United Kingdom: Eurographics Association. pp. 89–92. doi:10.2312/VAST/VAST03/089-092.
- Brooke Leigh Magnanti (2011). "The Gyst of It: Autumn Sweeties". Retrieved 24 November 2011.
- India Knight (15 November 2009). "I'm Belle de Jour". The Sunday Times (London: Times Newspapers). Archived from the original on 15 November 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
- "New Escort and PhD Babe". Archive.org.
- Hannah Betts (13 April 2012). "Brooke Magnanti: Sex for money, why not?". Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 31 December 2012.
- Brooke Leigh Magnanti (2003). "Macrobioinformatics: the Application of Informatics Methods to Records of Human Remains". University of Sheffield. Retrieved 7 January 2010.
- "Belle de Jour October 2003 archive". Archived from the original on 22 November 2010. Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- "Bizrealm Limited listing companies house archive". Retrieved 12 December 2010.
- Champion, Sarah (21 March 2004). "I was branded a call-girl blogger". The Observer (UK). Archived from the original on 24 June 2006. Retrieved 20 June 2006.
- Addley, Esther (18 November 2009). "I guessed Belle de Jour's identity, blogger reveals". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 22 November 2009. Retrieved 18 November 2009.
- Magnanti, Brooke (28 March 2010). "Life without the mask of Belle de Jour". The Times (London: Times Newspapers). Retrieved 15 December 2010.
- Gallagher, Paul (15 November 2009). "Scientist announces that she is call girl and blogger Belle de Jour". The Guardian (London). Archived from the original on 13 April 2010. Retrieved 28 March 2010.
- "Belle de Jour lifts her veil". CBC News. 15 November 2009. Archived from the original on 19 November 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
- Ryan Hagen: A Few Questions for Belle de Jour, Call Girl and Scientist - Freakonomics blog. Retrieved 21 November 2009
- Arifa Akbar (16 November 2009). "Exposed: The most intimate secret of erotic blogger". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 16 November 2009.
- "Belle de Jour drops her anonymity". BBC. 15 November 2009. Archived from the original on 16 November 2009. Retrieved 15 November 2009.
- Rayner, Gordon (15 December 2010). "Belle de Jour calls in police after ex-boyfriend's internet rant". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 15 December 2010.
- Waldman, Simon (18 December 2003). "British Blog Awards 2003". The Guardian (UK). Archived from the original on 7 November 2007. Retrieved 21 November 2007.
- "The Bookseller rights report brief article". Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- Guest, Katy (21 January 2005). "A tomboy in stilettos". The Independent (London). Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- Tonkin, Boyd (10 November 2008). "Kiss & tell: The twilight world of tart-lit". The Independent (London). Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "Diary of a London Call Girl". Archived from the original on 22 November 2010. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "The Intimate Adventures Of A London Call Girl". Orion Books. Retrieved 21 November 2007.[dead link]
- "Belle de Jour - Diary of a London Call Girl". Retrieved 23 June 2008.
- Magnanti, Brooke (11 March 2010). "Libel tourism is a public health risk". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- Magnanti, Brooke (1 April 2010). "Simon Singh and the threat to science". The Guardian (UK). Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "The This Week Guest Gallery 2010". BBC News. undated. Retrieved 9 June 2010.
- "Belle de Jour on The Book Show". Retrieved 2 December 2010.
- "Belle de Jour in conversation with India Knight". BBC News. 2 March 2010. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
- "Identity and Identification". Retrieved 2 December 2010.
- http://belledejour-uk.blogspot.com/. Retrieved 22 January 2012
- http://news.stv.tv/scotland/302897-whisky-festival-appeals-to-trendy-audience/. Retrieved 8 April 2012
- http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/programmes/hardtalk/9756960.stm. Retrieved 6 October 2012
- "Macrobioinformatics: the application of informatics methods to records of human remains". British Library. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
- "Wayback archive of www.eyesopen.com". OpenEye Scientific Software. Archived from the original on 7 September 2005. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "Wayback archive of Cosmas cheminformatics blog". Archived from the original on 3 August 2004. Retrieved 28 December 2010.
- "Paediatric and Lifecourse Epidemiology Research Group (PLERG) group page". Newcastle University. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
- Geographical analysis of thyroid cancer in young people from northern England: evidence for a sustained excess in females in Cumbria. PubMed. PMID 19179067.
- "HENVINET project page". Norwegian Institute for Air Research. Retrieved 2 December 2010.
- Rowan Hooper (20 November 2009). "Belle de Jour: On science and prostitution". New Scientist.
- Chlorpyrifos and neurodevelopmental effects: a literature review and expert elicitation on research and policy.
- Policy relevant results from an expert elicitation on the health risks of phthalates.
- Policy relevant Results from an Expert Elicitation on the Human Health Risks of Decabromo-diphenyl ether (decaBDE) and Hexabromocyclododecane (HBCD).
- Lilith Report on Lap Dancing and Striptease in the Borough of Camden retrieved 5 August 2011
- Magnanti, Brooke. The impact of adult entertainment on rape statistics in Camden: a reanalysis (Report). http://www.scribd.com/doc/47185652/Green-Paper-Camden-Lilith-rape-stats. Retrieved 20 January 2011.
- Lloyd, Kristina (22 February 2011). "Why doesn't Jacqui Smith take a relaxed view of pornography". Guardian (UK). Retrieved 15 August 2011.
- Welham, Jamie (3 February 2011). "Lilith Project rape-lap dance link is flawed says Brooke Magnanti". London: Camden New Journal. Retrieved 6 February 2011.
- The Sex Myth: Observer review. guardian.co.uk, 2012-15-4. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- Belle de Jour v Julie Bindel. guardian.co.uk, 2012-12-05. Retrieved 6 December 2012.
- Radio Times, 23–29 January 2010
- "My Week - Dr Brooke Magnanti". The Big Issue]. 16 May 2012. Retrieved 5 March 2013.
- "VICE LITTLE EARNER RAF officer sues for pounds 100,000".
- Limbrick, Sarah (22 June 2011). "Belle de Jour ex in Sunday Times 100 k libel claim". The Press Gazette (London). Retrieved 23 June 2011.
- "Flight Lieutenant Owen Morris - apology", The Sunday Times, 26 February 2012
- "", Press Gazette, 3 May 2012
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Brooke Magnanti.|
- Belle de Jour: Diary of a London Call Girl
- Secret Diary of a Call Girl at itv.com
- Belle de Jour's page, Conville and Walsh literary agents
- On the Construct of Identity - Talk by Brooke Magnanti at the Westminster Skeptics on 7 June 2010 (ipadio audio)
- Belle de Jour on the Book Show - Interview of Brooke Magnanti at Sky Arts (video)