Miss Cleo has left the building
Miss Cleo. Remember her? If you are old enough to remember the 90s then I’m sure you saw one or two of her “Psychic Hotline” commercials. You know, those strangely mesmerizing ads featuring people who claimed to have universe spanning mental powers. These psychics claimed that they could communicate with a deceased relative, give love advice or even tell you what to wear for that job interview – for the right price. Yep, those “1-800” numbers seemed to be all over television and other media at the time.
One of the most famous phone psychics of all time was Miss Cleo. Let’s find out who Miss Cleo really was and what she was really about.
Youree Dell Harris played the character of Miss Cleo, and was the face (and voice) of ubiquitous Psychic Readers Network commercials in the late 1990s. Ms. Harris first entered the pop culture zeitgeist in the late ’90s, arriving with a humble set of tools built for late-night TV audiences: a deck of tarot cards, a skeptical facial expression, and an oft-uttered catchphrase — “Call me now!” She also had a heavy Jamaican-inspired accent, which made the commercials even more fun to watch, in my opinion. But the fact is the accent was fake. Miss Harris was born and raised in Los Angeles.
“That’s what me thought”
“That’s what me thought” was one of Miss Cleo’s catch phrases when she was “reading” a customer’s destiny. She was so flamboyant and over-the-top, with her brightly colored costumes and candles, that she became an instant hit with her commercials. She managed to spawn quite a few spoofs during her time on late-night television and that led to more than a few business opportunities. She even sold a book, Keepin’ It Real: A Practical Guide for Spiritual Living.
But with fame came curiosity. Especially about Miss Harris’ past. In 2002, various media outlets ran reports of investigations about her that revealed lots and lots of different aliases she used. There were also reports from former colleagues and customers who claimed that she had cheated them out of money. There was even an investigation about her claimed Jamaican background, which is when people found out who she really was.
Also in 2002, Miss Cleo’s companies — the Psychic Readers Network and Access Resource Services — were investigated by and became the subject of a federal lawsuit. The companies were sued and were forced to relinquish over five hundred million dollars in customer fees. The companies had to agree to stop selling their services over the phone and they also had to pay a five million dollar fine.
Eventually, the commercials came to an end, along with the Psychic Network. But people never stopped loving those “Miss Cleo commercials” and the person herself. Miss Harris remained a popular personality, performing at various events and radio shows.
“I get a lot of love”
In an interview with The Advocate in 2006, she came out as lesbian. When asked about her enduring popularity once, she stated “People give me mad love, sweetheart,” she said. “They’ll say: ‘Do you see anything? Where do we find you? When are you coming back? We miss you.’ I get a lot of love.”
Youree Dell Harris, aka Miss Cleo, died on July 26, 2016, in Palm Beach, FL due to cancer. She was 53.