Miss Cleo, Famed Fortuneteller, Dead at 53 Years Old

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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Chuck Strouse is the former editor in chief of Miami New Times. He has shared two Pulitzer Prizes and won dozens of other awards. He is an honors graduate of Brown University and has worked at newspapers including the Miami Herald and Los Angeles Times.
Contact: Chuck Strouse
Jess Swanson is a staff writer at New Times. Born and raised in Miami, she graduated from the University of Miami’s School of Communication and wrote briefly for the student newspaper until realizing her true calling: pissing off fraternity brothers by reporting about their parties on her crime blog. Especially gifted in jumping rope and solving Rubik’s cubes, she also holds the title for longest stint as an unpaid intern in New Times history. She left the Magic City for New York to earn her master’s degree from Columbia University School of Journalism, where she spent a year profiling circumcised men who were trying to regrow their foreskins for a story that ultimately won the John Horgan Award for Critical Science Journalism. Terrified by pizza rats and arctic temperatures, she quickly returned to her natural habitat.
Contact: Jess Swanson