Miss Cleo, Famed Fortuneteller, Dead at 53 Years Old

Miss Cleo
Miss Cleo
Photo by C. Stiles

Nine years before she died, Miss Cleo revealed in an interview with New Times her prediction that the three words she is most known for will one day wind up on her tombstone: "Call me now!" TMZ reported this morning that the inimitable self-proclaimed television psychic has died in hospice care in Palm Beach County after suffering from colon cancer. She was 53 years old.

Miss Cleo claimed to be a "devoted Shango Shaman" from Jamaica for over 20 years. Profiled by New Times in 2002, it became clear she wasn't always who she said she was. Despite her signature heavy Caribbean accent, Youree Harris was born on August 12, 1962, at Los Angeles County Hospital. Her mother, Alisa Teresa Hopis, lived in West Venice. Her father, David Harris, was from Texas. Harris attended a private Catholic girls' academy in Alhambra, California. Classmates told New Times they didn't remember her having an accent at the time.

Miss Cleo, the character with her tarot cards and promised three-to-five-minute readings, was introduced in 1999. She became a nationally popular figure in the 1990s and early 2000s, working for the Fort Lauderdale-based Psychic Readers Network. South Florida, a hotbed for telemarketing companies and boiler schemes, was a natural spot for Harris's promoters, Steven Feder and Peter Stotz. They ran the business out of a tenth-floor office on Sunrise Boulevard. 

In 2002, New Times found that more than 20 websites Harris appeared on lead to four main sites offering free three-minute tarot readings, a $19.95 membership to join "Miss Cleo's Elite Circle of Friends," and an online shop that sold Cleo-related items. 

Her claims of free psychic readings and her questionable billing practices attracted the ire of hundreds of consumers. In 2002, the federal government charged her promoters with deceptive practices. They settled. Harris was never charged.

In a followup interview in 2007, Harris explained her new passion for the spoken word. She even released a spoken-word album called Convicted for My Beliefs

Later, she provided the voice for Auntie Poulet in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City and did advertisements for Uncle Mel's, a Plantation auto dealership.

"She's a superstar," said Mel Dubin, owner of the dealership. "She knows what she's doing. I never got into any predictions with her, but she's a very spiritual lady."

In 2014, she spoke about her experiences in the documentary, Hotline.


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