Miss Cleo comes out

The queen of late-night infomercial psychics tells us what you might not predict: She’s a lesbian.

BY Greg Hernandez

September 25 2006 12:00 AM ET

She’s
known for the catchphrase “The cards never
lie,” and now Miss Cleo, the controversial
former infomercial psychic, is finally telling some
truths—about herself.

From the late
1990s through 2002, the woman whose real name is Youree
Dell Cleomili Harris was a late-night staple who, in a thick
Jamaican accent, urged viewers to dial a
charge-by-the-minute 900 number to have their fortunes
read.

What those
viewers didn’t know, and what some members of her own
family still don’t know, is that Miss Cleo is a
lesbian. Four years after the infomercials were pulled
from the air under a cloud of various lawsuits and
federal and state investigations, Harris says she has been
inspired to come out publicly by a teenage godson.

“He and I
started talking when he was concerned about coming out. He
was 16. When he made the decision I told him
I’d be there to support him 100%, and he
embraced [coming out] wholeheartedly,” Harris says.
“It’s a different vibe than when I was
his age, being raised Catholic in an all-girls
boarding school. But he was afraid of nothing, and I
thought, I can’t be a hypocrite. This boy is
going to force me to put my money where my mouth
is.”

On the late-night
infomercials, Miss Cleo said she was a mystical shaman
from Jamaica. Doubt was cast on that claim when a Florida
newspaper reported that she had been born in Los
Angeles. But Harris simply says, “I am who I
say I am,” and insists she has Jamaican roots. She
says she’s actually not a psychic but more of a
spiritual counselor or spiritual adviser.

“I’m more a shaman, an elder in a community
who has visions and gives direction to people in their
village. My clients and my students are my village. I
take care of this community. If you sit down at my table,
you have to take away a lesson and not just learn what
is going to happen tomorrow. I also perform
weddings—both gay and straight marriages—and
house cleansings and blessings.”

Wearing her
trademark headdress, colorful robes, and chunky jewelry on
the infomercials, Harris also helped hawk a Web-based
psychic consultation service, a line of at-home tarot
products, apparel, and even an online dating service.
It was all part of a business empire constructed by
wealthy South Florida businessman Steven Feder and his
cousin Peter Stolz, and the key to their empire was Miss
Cleo.

She is sure that
coming out will be quite liberating, but she still has
some trepidation. “The reason it’s scary is
because in my personal experience, black cultures
throughout the world have a more difficult time
accepting homosexuality in their family. I have family
members who will be shocked; they don’t know. I
have some family members who are very close to me, and
they do know. But I’ve been afraid of the wrath, of
the exile. When I came out to a number of friends in
the late ’80s I had a number of friends who
turned their backs on me and walked away. That was
really intense. I really believed they were my

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