Showtime's Secret Diary of a Call Girl was based on a series of bestselling books by anonymous prostitute Belle de Jour. How hot is this? Turns out she's a well-regarded British scientist, Dr. Brooke Magnanti. She came out last night.

The actual identity of Belle de Jour was unknown to even her agent up until a week before she came out to the Sunday Times. Having worked at an agency, I can say: that's pretty incredible. I'm not even sure how that works. Did she have a literary agent liaison or something? Most authors would actually like one of those, anonymous or not.

The way the story's told, it sounds like Magnanti, who's "a respected specialist in developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology in a hospital research group in Bristol," was tired of not getting any credit for doing de Jour's work. She couldn't even go to her own book party. Eegh. Turns out she was working on her PhD and needed money to finish it, so she started turning tricks. She came out to her co-workers about a month ago, her agent about a week ago, and then the Times. Learn to hustle, kids:

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?" She found an escort agency and started her secret life. "I did have another job at one point, as a computer programmer, but I kept up with my other work because it was so much more enjoyable."

Naturally, critics are already incensed. Because where there's an entrepreneur, there's someone damning their cash flow: moral majority, emerge! From their comments:

Has our culture and sense of ethics and self worth really stooped so low that a woman in the 21st Century in the UK - healthy, educated, safe, well-fed, with supportive parents, emergency educational funds and low-interest loans available to her - would instead choose to get the money she wanted by having sex with strangers.

Whatever. I say, take the writing gigs where you can get them. Besides which, there are way more prolific whores in the world of writing when it comes to selling themselves off. See: Penn, Mark. The problem with anonymity is that it holds nobody accountable for the truth. Also, you don't get credit for being awesome. On the other hand, some people might raise objections to Dr. Magnanti's gig working at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health. Like her co-workers, right?

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.

Nope. Hell, they're probably jealous they didn't think of it first. Her agent's probably ecstatic. Super Awesome Adventures of a Mad Scientist Prostitute has Michael Bay's name written all over it. This gives the entire enterprise a whole new dimension. So what prompted Magnanti to come out? The haters, of course. Specifically, Sunday Times columnist India Knight, who penned the actual coming-out column after dissing on Belle de Jour for making prostitution sound awesome. There're all sorts of juicy anecdotes, like how she's going to be telling here mom sometime today—that'll be fun—and how much she got paid (300 pounds/hour), but my favorite part was this:

She wears little make-up and seems nervous; she is clutching a copy of Paul Auster's latest novel (and later chats to our photographer about the chapter on prostitutes in SuperFreakonomics and to me about Auster's wife, the writer Siri Hustvedt).

Damn. Everyone reads Paul Auster and Freakonomics. Like, everyone. The next time someone calls Steven Leavitt a whore, your can always chime in with the old "takes one to know" insight. In the mean time, secrets and fucking! They still pay well.