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U.K. scientist unmasked as call girl Belle de Jour

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - A former prostitute whose memoirs were turned into the TV series "Secret Diary of a Call Girl" has revealed her true identity -- Brooke Magnanti, a British research scientist.

Magnanti told British newspaper The Sunday Times that she wrote under the pen name Belle de Jour to describe the encounters she had as a high-class call girl while she was earning money as she wrote her PhD.

She detailed her secret life in a blog from 2003 which then led to a best-selling book, "The Intimate Adventures of a London call Girl" in 2005, and sparked two more books, as well as a TV series starring Billie Piper that is shown in about 25 countries.

Despite many attempts to discover her true identity and questions over whether her memoirs were genuine, Belle de Jour remained anonymous, until Magnanti, 34, finally decided it was time to unmask herself saying anonymity had become "no fun."

"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 skeptics and doubters," she wrote on her blog on Sunday.

"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 ... but for me it became important to acknowledge that aspect of my life and my personality to the world at large."

Magnanti, who lives in Bristol in southwest England, is a research scientist who works as a specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology at St Michael's Hospital in Bristol, employed by the University of Bristol.

She said she worked as a 300 pounds ($500) an hour prostitute for 14 months for an escort agency in 2003 but had no regrets about that time. She said she felt worse "about my writing than I ever have about sex for money."

A statement on the website of Britain's Orion Books, which published Belle de Jour's novels, 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."

"We have published her since 2005 and we are looking forward to continuing that relationship," said the publisher, adding that Belle would not be giving any further interviews.

A spokesman for her employer, the University of Bristol, told the Sunday Times: "This aspect of her past bears no relevance to her current role at the university."

(Writing by Belinda Goldsmith, Editing by Miral Fahmy)

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