We all remember Miss Cleo from the ’90s. Her commercials to give everyone a “free tarot reading” were played nonstop. Eventually, reports began to surface that the psychic was a fraud and that she wasn’t even Jamaican.
The hotline Cleo (real name: Youree Dell Harris) worked with, Psychic Readers Network, was accused of taking $1 billion from customers. Calls to the network could last up to an hour which would result in $300 bills for customers.
Cleo has stayed out of the public eye, but she’s in the upcoming documentary, “Hotline” produced and directed by Brooklyn filmmaker, Tony Shaff. Vice caught up with the former TV personality to find out where she has been all these years and how she got into telling people’s fortunes in the first place.
On how she got started in working for hotlines:
“I was a very well-known psychic in the United States on a hotline for two years out in public, and about two to three years just on the hotline itself.”
“I come from a family of spooky people. I don’t know how else to say it. I come from a family of Obeah—which is another word for voodoo. My teacher was Haitian, [a mambo] born in Port-au-Prince, and I studied under her for some 30 years and then became a mambo myself. So they refer to me as psychic—because the word voodoo scares just about everybody. So they told me, ‘No, no, no, we can’t use that word; we’re going to call you a psychic.’ I said, ‘But I’m not a psychic!'”
On how much money she really made:
“I’m going to quote you a number from the FBI. They were pulling down—[using] my face, my talent—$24 million a month, for two years straight. For the first 30-minute infomercial I did for them, I made $1,750 for the two and a half days on set. I had a bad contract. But everybody else thought I had more money than God, and my response to that usually was, ‘Well, God is a poor son of a b-tch.'”
On her “Jamaican” accent:
“The people I used to work for didn’t want people to know that I was an accomplished playwright. They didn’t want people to know anything. They wanted people to think I just came fresh from Jamaica.
So I had some Jamaican people who were angry with me, saying that I was a bad representative of theirs. I’ve always said, ‘it’s not my company.'”
On why she still speaks with an accent:
“Look, I’m old and I’m tired; my speech is loose. My kids are always like, ‘Mom, you get worse every day.’ I have a niece who is an attorney for the state of Florida, and we’ll go out somewhere, and she’ll say, ‘Mama, they can’t understand you; speak English… Your English is, you know… hurting.'”
What do you think of Miss Cleo’s story? Should she have been blamed for taking all of the money?
Read the entire story here.
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