Thursday, January 14, 2010

Belle de Jour IS Beautiful!

Once again proving why she remains an award winning writer, the incomparable Belle de Jour has just posted a very moving blog entry about real beauty that EVER female (and man, for that matter) should read.

It’s no secret that I LOVE Belle de Jour – her wit, intelligence and humor along with her personal courage and insight continue to be very inspirational to me.

Her current blog posting is a perfect example of what makes this remarkable woman so very compelling. She exposes her life in such a profound way that readers will remember what they've read long after they’ve left her blog and the Internet.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with her, Belle de Jour had been the nom de plume of a celebrated British erotic author, who was also a London call girl for two years.

Last year, Belle revealed her true identity is Dr. Brooke Magnanti, of Bristol, England, a noted scientist. She disclosed her identity in a voluntary interview with the London Sunday Times. Brooke’s specialist areas are developmental neurotoxicology and cancer epidemiology. She has a PhD in informatics, epidemiology and forensic science and is now working at the Bristol Initiative for Research of Child Health. She is currently part of a team researching the potential effects on babies of their mothers' exposure to toxic chemicals.

But, from 2003 to late 2004, Brooke worked as a prostitute via a London escort agency; she started blogging as Belle de Jour — after the Buñuel film starring Catherine Deneuve as a well-to-do housewife who has sex for money because she’s bored — shortly into her career as a call girl, after an incident she thought funny enough to write down.

She charged £300 an hour for her services, of which she got £200. The average appointment lasted two hours; she saw clients two or three times a week, “sometimes less, sometimes a great deal more,” she has said.

I do not have the skills to adequately describe her latest post, so here it is in full. Read it here, or read it on Brooke’s blog, but whatever you do, just read it:

mercredi, janvier 13

Let me tell you about the best gift I ever received. And it's not a bit of sparkly jewellery, or a shiny car, or even a thoughtful trinket of affection.

I'm talking about my scars.

I had terrible acne as a teenager. By the age of 16 it was so bad a dermatologist said it was the worst she'd ever seen, which, ya know, is not super encouraging. At the hospital where I volunteered mothers pulled their children away from me, convinced I was plagued with something contagious. Strangers avoided making eye contact.

It was so bad I could not wash my face without bleeding. Many mornings I woke up stuck to the pillowcase. And oh yeah, it was only on my face. Not one blemish anywhere else on my body. To this day, I still never have seen a photo of anything like it - apart from some daguerrotypes of smallpox patients.

It was a very long, and very expensive, journey to improving my skin - remember, this all went down in America, where having a disfiguring condition you have no control over is not covered by health insurance, and duh, there's no NHS.

Long story short, a lot of Roaccutane and Dianette did for the acne. And more importantly, here's what I learned:

1. Beauty is fleeting. Thank fuck for that.

I had a narrow escape from being just another boring blonde - not to mention an early release from the cycle of self-hatred and frantic desperation that plagues many women as they age. Corollary 1a: The larger part of how people perceive you is how you present yourself.

2. People can be hurtful to strangers. That's their problem.

My best childhood mate had spina bifida. She walked on sticks and refused to use a wheelchair for reasons I only started to appreciate years later. Looking like a medical oddity gave me, for a very brief time, a very small taste of what she encounters every day of her life. It made me pity people who equate someone's appearance with their value as a person. This generalises magnificently to strangers judging you for, in fact, anything at all. Corollary 2a: The most vocal critics are often the most insecure.

3. Other people have things you don't. Big deal.

There is no such thing as the Most Beautiful Woman in the World (sorry Buttercup). Who cares? What is considered desirable is not especially worth getting hung up on. You may not be a six-foot Amazon so will never have legs up to your neck - but for all you know, that same supermodel would give her left arm to have your hair. This concept generalises to wealth, success, talent, and intelligence as well. Corollary 3a: Envy of other women's looks is a zero-sum game, and uses far too much time and energy to be bothered with.

4. Quality of love is not a function of attractiveness.

Elizabeth Taylor, for instance, has been married eight times. Beautiful people have dry spells and get their hearts broken like everyone else. The most worthwhile and loving relationships in my life all happened after my skin problems. And for what it's worth, I've been fortunate to date some pretty nice, smart (and attractive) men in my time. See Corollary 1a above.

5. Confidence doesn't come overnight.

It also doesn't happen in a vacuum; it requires nurturing. As with anything else worth having it's work. But let me tell you, it is so worth the work. A mate recently told me about a magazine 'happiness quiz' in which one of the questions was, "are you comfortable with your body, and do you exercise regularly?" If you can see why this should not have been a single question, you're on the way. Corollary 5a: Confidence happens when you let it happen. No one gives it to you, which is great, because it also means they can't take it from you.

6. When someone says I am beautiful, they really, really mean it.

There is something about knowing someone sees you, quirks and all, and likes what they see... something rare and kind of overwhelming (in a good way). 'Beautiful' is one of those words (a bit like 'awesome') that has lost meaning in being overused as a generic affirmative. We call all sorts of people beautiful in one sentence and tear them down in the next. I'm happy to be different enough that anyone who uses it to describe me sees more than just hair and makeup.


Wow. I am still blown away by this post. How many women do you know who would disclose this type of experience, especially in an era when a woman's physical looks too often trumps talent and character?

Brooke deserves more than kudos and our respect, she deserves to have her fans take a "look" at themselves in the honesty of her mirror, and consider making some deep changes.

As Belle de Jour, Brooke has written four books in addition to her always fabulous blog about her work in the sex industry. Her fifth book, Belle's Best Bits: A London Call Girl Reveals Her Favourite Adventures, will be widely available across the pond soon and at Amazon’s UK division.

Here is the description of the book, as provided by Orion Books:

“From the summer of 2003 Belle charted her day-to-day adventures on and off the field in a frank, funny and award-winning diaries. She was the first to reveal (among other things) how she became a working girl, what it feels like to do it for money, and where to buy the best knickers for the job. She also discusses her efforts to change from 'working girl' to working girl, whilst sneaking off to visit clients in her lunch hour. From debating the literary merits of Martin Amis with naked clients to smuggling whips into luxury hotels, this is a no-holds barred account of the high-class sex-trade, and an insight into the secret life of an extraordinary woman.”

Her other books are Belle de Jour’s Guide to Men, 2009; The Intimate Adventures of a London Call Girl, September 2005; The Further Adventures of a London Call Girl, May 2007; and Playing the Game, June 2009. There is not a ringer in the bunch – trust me!

Her writing has been so popular that it became the basis for the international hit TV series, Secret Diary of a Call Girl, starring Billie Piper. It can be seen on Showtime in the U.S., and the first two seasons are also available on DVD.

(Note: Since she disclosed her true identity, Brooke took part in a photo shoot for a promotional spot that will appear in the U.K. when the new season of the show premieres. I have included the photo she posted on her blog from that shoot at top here.)

— The Curator


  1. I have to say, I completely agree with you about Belle de Jour (should be still call her Belle or Brooke?) and I have been an avid fan of her column for years. In fact, she inspired me to write my own blog, about my experiences as a mistress, which is still very much at the begining stages. I would be honoured if you would take a look at it. And pass on any feedback or tips. If you read a post and think it's rubbish, then read no more!

    I do hope you like it tho.

    You can read it at:

  2. Dear Drowning:

    Thank you for such a kind post. I have read your blog and think you're definitely on track. I would only ask that you delve more into what you're feeling, as well as what you're doing. I think discussing what goes on in someone's mind, especially when they do unexpected things, adds a real depth. I'll be happy to add your blog to my main page. Let me know if you'd rather I didn't. Keep in touch, and KEEP WRITING!

  3. Wow, I'm honoured that you took the time to read it. A thousand thank yous! I will try and think about what you said about writing about feelings. I think, at the begining, it seems easier not to, I hope as the blog progresses, I will have the courage to put how I feel down on paper (or I guess, my laptop). If you feel that my blog is worth adding to your main page, that would be so wonderful.

    I do so hope we can keep in touch.

    Thank you again.

  4. Drowning:

    No problem, it's on my page. I can only imagine how difficult it would be to disclose your feelings about something so intimate. But, for readers that's what makes you (and all writers) understandable, to be able for readers to relate to you even if your choices are not their own.