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|Secret Diary of a Call Girl character|
|First appearance||Episode 1.1|
|Last appearance||Episode 4.8|
|Created by||Lucy Prebble
Brooke Magnanti (source material)
|Portrayed by||Billie Piper|
|Aliases||Belle de Jour
|Occupation||Independent escort, writer|
Hannah Baxter is the lead semi-fictional character and protagonist of the British ITV2 television series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Hannah secretly has a double life as a high-class call girl as her alter ego Belle, for which she acknowledges and comments directly to the audience, throughout each episode. The character Hannah Baxter is based on the real life published memoirs of former London call girl Dr Brooke Magnanti, who is better known by her pseudonym, Belle de Jour. The character Hannah/Belle is portrayed by actress Billie Piper.
|“||It's more than the obvious danger of walking into a room with a man you don't know. There's the danger of two carefully constructed lives crashing into each other.||”|
Hannah is portrayed as a very wise, confident, intelligent, and at times, an outspoken or cheeky character. Although a university graduate with a degree in English Literature, Hannah chooses a career as a call girl for the sake of the money, for which she reveals that she makes a yearly turnover of £105,000 (though, she claims, it takes £20,000 "to be Belle"). She further claims her career is ideal since she is "fundamentally lazy", in control, and also because she genuinely enjoys the pleasures of sex (in a video blog she reveals with some degree of satisfaction that she lost her virginity to her 40-year-old chemistry teacher). Open minded and truly a professional when it comes to her role as a high end prostitute, Hannah has gone as far as considering a breast augmentation to better appeal to clients, and will likely attempt a variety of fetishes and bedroom scenarios with them. Furthermore, Hannah wants to pride herself on her skills in the bedroom and her ability to size her male clients, such as predicting what kind of lifestyles they lead based on what their sexual interests are and the price, ratings, and styles of the hotels they pay for on "out calls".
It is demonstrated throughout the series that Hannah is very meticulous when it comes to organising her private life with her work, for which she keeps the two completely separate, and will go great measures to keep her occupation concealed from family and friends, which often means she relies on lying, such as telling others that her occupation is a legal night-time secretary. Despite Hannah's discretion and lengthy attempts to keep both worlds apart, the issue of secretly juggling both identities frequently reoccurs in the series, often resulting in negative inner turmoil for her and feelings of loneliness. Often Hannah deals with how much balance is placed on either her personal life or work, for which she is, usually, focused on work – leaving her personal life sometimes neglected, such as when she misses the birth of her sister's child. She claims that romantic relationships are typically avoided, since her profession merely complicates them, which is demonstrated in the second series where she develops a relationship with a man that ends badly.
Hannah is typically capable of separating her true self while donning her alter ego while working; however, there have been moments in the series where she's found it difficult, such as when she lets her guard down and reveals to a client in the first episode her real name, has intruding thoughts of family and relationships at times with clients, or when she develops a friendly relationship with a male client only to feel personally betrayed when he chooses to hire a different call girl. Despite the disappointments and emotional frustration that sometimes comes with Hannah's work, she is truly happy with her work, as demonstrated at several points throughout the series when she attempts to get a "normal job".
As a call girl, Hannah believes her looks are important, explaining that "if I'm not in good shape, then neither is my career". On the show there are visual differences between her and her alter ego Belle, for which she maintains a girl next door image in her real life, and an elaborate sultry one as Belle, which usually includes provocative clothing and impeccable makeup application.
Actress Billie Piper herself commented on the difficulties of Hannah's wardrobe as Belle since Piper was pregnant during the filming of series two. Piper described Hannah's usual attire worn, explaining, "I wear tight clothes in this show, so it's obvious [her pregnancy]." The crew decided to shoot using ulterior angles, to disguise her baby bump, with Piper noting, "We were shooting around my torso, basically." For the nude scenes, body doubles were employed. In addition, Hannah's wardrobe changed frequently, including the use of accessories such as shawls being worn, or on occasion, an entirely loose-fitting outfit.
The first season serves as an introduction to Hannah's double life as Belle, her variety of clients, rules, and methods of juggling her separate worlds while trying to please her clients, and her sometimes unsuccessful attempts to remain connected to her best friend, Ben (Iddo Goldberg), and family, who are not aware of what she does for a living.
Eventually, after a couple of incidents where Hannah becomes troubled with work and suffers the burden of secrecy by having no one to talk to, she reveals to Ben what she does. Although Ben is disappointed and angered that she has been deceiving him, he accepts Hannah's choices, counsels her on matters of work, and even joins a foursome with her and a married couple who are her clients. It becomes apparent that Hannah and Ben – who used to be in a romantic relationship two years ago – still may have more than simply platonic affection for one another.
Towards the end of the season Hannah is offered a role as a courtesan, which she is initially enthusiastic about, but eventually walks away from – despite the luxury – because of the lack of excitement. Instead of returning to her agent Stephanie (Cherie Lunghi), Hannah chooses to go independent, with the support from Ben.
For the second season Hannah deals with the challenge of mentoring young escort wannabe Bambi (Ashley Madekwe), while entering against her better judgment a blossoming romance with a man called Alex (Callum Blue), who is unaware what Hannah does for a living. Though Hannah is happy with Alex, and the pair care deeply for one another, their relationship surprisingly does not crumble after Alex discovers Hannah's secret life. However, when given the ultimatum between him and her work, Hannah eventually is caught returning to sex for money, despite earlier promises to him that she would abandon her life as Belle.
With the support of Ben and Bambi, Hannah writes and publishes a memoir of her adventures and life as London call girl at the end of the series, where she – under disguise – remarks to an interviewer on television that she had once been in love, referring to Alex.
In the third season, Hannah prepares to publish her next novel, for which her first from the previous season was a success. Her publisher, Duncan, encourages her to choose more outlandish clients, with even more odd sexual fetishes, to make an even better story for her next book. Meanwhile, Hannah's sister Jackie decides to crash at Hannah's flat after a fall out with her husband, potentially interfering with Hannah's life as Belle.
As the third season progresses, she becomes involved with her publisher. She tries to deny these feelings and a longing for a relationship, but after he claims to accepts her life as Belle, despite her claim to have been with one thousand and thirty six men, she decides to give it a go (albeit slowly).
During Bambi's wedding, Bambi reveals that she has slept with Duncan who called himself Richard. Hannah confronts Duncan who says that as she sleeps with other men, he can sleep with other women and they never said they were exclusive. Hannah angrily replies that it's her job, it's different, and he said he accepted that. Hannah then breaks up with him. As a form of revenge, she writes the last chapter of her book about him, a man addicted to using escorts, and sends it to everyone at the publishing house.
She then accepts an offer from Stephanie to spend two weeks in Mauritius with a client. As she is getting on the plane, Ben calls her and says he wants them to be a couple, as he fully accepts her for what she is and always has. He tells her to go off, see the world, have adventures, but come back to him.
When she returns from Mauritius, Hannah has purchased her own townhouse, remarking: "every London girl's dream – my own front door". However, her happiness is marred when Stephanie is imprisoned, resulting in her daughter Poppy having to stay with Hannah for an indefinite amount of time. Hannah also, has to take on Stephanie's role as madam of the business whilst she is away, and continues to be an escort, whilst being in a relationship with Ben. A client, Harry, takes a strong liking to Belle and his predatory, aggressive nature appeals to her. He tells her frequently that she should leave Ben for him as he can fully satisfy her. Ben eventually admits that Belle's career is damaging their relationship and he gives her an ultimatum. In the series finale she realises she cannot leave her job and that Ben deserves a more genuine relationship. Belle breaks up with Ben and walks off into the night, avoiding Harry as she goes and deciding to move on with her life.
- Director: Fraser MacDonald. Writer: Lucy Prebble (2008-09-11). "2.1". Secret Diary of a Call Girl. Series 2. Episode 1. ITV2.
- Series 01, Episode 07
- "Showtime : Video : Full Episodes". Sho.com. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- Martin, Nicole (1 September 2008). "Billie Piper: playing prostitute Belle de Jour while pregnant was hard". The Daily Telegraph (London). Retrieved 4 May 2010.
- [dead link]
- "Body double to fill in for pregnant Billie Piper as she reprises racy call girl role". Daily Mail (London). 16 May 2008.
- "Showtime : Video : Full Episodes". Sho.com. Retrieved 30 November 2013.
- Belle (character) at the Internet Movie Database
- Secret Diary of a Call Girl at itv.com
- Secret Diary of a Call Girl at Showtime