Production has begun on a documentary from nonfiction entertainment studio XTR about ’90s late-night TV psychic Youree Dell Harris, better known as "Miss Cleo," who rose to fame with commercials promising “the cards don’t lie.”
Deadline first reported the news about the biopic, which looks to chronicle her ascent and eventual downfall as the face of a billion-dollar fraud investigation in 2002.
“Claiming to be a shaman from Jamaica, Miss Cleo’s charisma and famous imperatives enabled the Psychic Readers Network, a pay-per-call service, to charge callers seeking answers over $1 billion for advice,” XTR said. “But in 2002 it all came crashing down when the Federal Trade Commission accused the network and its owners of deceptive advertising, billing, and collection practices, bringing Miss Cleo’s reign as queen of clairvoyance to a dramatic end.”
Harris came out in The Advocate as a lesbian in 2006 after being encouraged to do so by her godson. While she spoke about how coming out was liberating, she still had fears that she wouldn’t be accepted by friends and loved ones.
“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,” she said at the time. “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 friends.”
Harris died of cancer in 2016 at the age of 53.
Award-winning filmmaker Senain Kheshgi, who is helming the project, is reportedly interviewing individuals from throughout Harris’s past for the documentary.
“Youree Harris may have been an accomplice or perhaps a victim in the Psychic Readers Network fraud but she also had talent and personality, which for women doesn’t always translate into access or wealth,” Kheshgi said in a statement. “Her story is an example of how brown and Black women have historically been marginalized and exotified in society and popular culture. The enduring image of the dark, mystical woman still continues to perpetuate this stereotype. As a woman of color and a director who wants to explore stories from diverse perspectives, I am moved by how Youree found a way to navigate her life on her own terms.”
It’s a film that’s time has come, as co-executive producer India Wadsworth explained. “In an era that is hooked by the branding power of unlikely moguls like the Kardashians, where people desperately seek out personality validation in apps like Co-Star and The Pattern, I’m excited to explore this maze of a ’90s cultural icon’s life,” they said. “We couldn’t think of a better director than Senain to partner with to investigate the truth while exploring the journey of Miss Cleo’s many different lives.”
No release date for the film has been announced.