Miss Cleo: Wikis

  
  
  

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Miss Cleo
Born Youree Dell Harris
August 12, 1962 (1962-08-12) (age 47)
Los Angeles, California
Nationality American
Ethnicity Black (African descent)
Known for phone/TV psychic
Children Billy Harris (adopted)

Youree Dell Harris (born August 12, 1962 in Los Angeles, California),[1] better known as Miss Cleo, is a self-proclaimed psychic and shaman who achieved fame as a spokeswoman for a psychic pay-per-call service in the late 1990s and early 2000s. She reportedly earned $13.5 million in this capacity.[2] Harris currently offers private psychic consultations and other services through Wahgwaan Entertainment, based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

Harris has allegedly used numerous aliases throughout her career, including Cleomili Harris, Youree Perris, Cleo Harris, and other variations.[3]

Contents

Early life and career

In 1996, in Seattle, Washington, Harris (under the name Youree "Ree" Harris[4]) and her partner opened a production company which produced several of her plays.[3] She acted in her first project, an autobiographical play entitled Women Only: A Celebration of Love, Life and Healing. Her last project, Supper Club Cafe, was not successful and she "left town with a trail of debts and broken promises".[3] Reportedly, the "Miss Cleo" character Harris later used in commercials was based on a Jamaican character called Cleo that Harris performed in this play.

Instead of paying money owed to the people who had taken part in her productions, Harris "told her cast members she had bone cancer" and "her medical costs would prevent her from paying people immediately", but she wrote each actor and crew member a letter telling him or her how much money she owed them. The actors and crew were never paid.[3]

Psychic Readers Network

In the late 1990s, Harris began to work for the Psychic Friends Network under a variant of her middle name, Cleomili or Cleo. After working as a phone operator for over a year, she appeared as a television infomercial psychic in which she claimed she was originally from Jamaica. She was paid $1,700 for her first infomercial, followed by a flat fee for each commercial she appeared in thereafter.

The Psychic Readers Network is said to have coined the title "Miss Cleo" and sent spam e-mails, which stated, "[Miss Cleo has] been authorized to issue you a Special Tarot Reading!... it is vital that you call immediately!"[5] Charges of deceptive advertising and of fraud on the part of the Psychic Readers Network began to surface around this time. One such case was described in a CourtTV report investigating Miss Cleo and the Psychic Readers Network. In late 1999, Stephen Schwartz was in a "state of depression" and called Miss Cleo looking for answers to his personal problems. After speaking to the "psychic" who "commented on his personality and character, but offered little else in the way of a psychic reading", Schwartz ended the call. Later, Schwartz was billed $300 for the call, but sued and ultimately won $200.[6] CourtTV and other sources also reported that the "psychics" who gave readings over the phone were in fact reading from a script (which was, in part, plagiarized from a book on tarot cards).[7]

In 1999, the first lawsuits were filed against Harris and her promoters concerning the psychic network's business practices.[5] In 2001, Access Resource Services d/b/a Psychic Readers Network was sued in various lawsuits brought by (among others) Missouri and Florida, and the Federal Communications Commission. Plaintiffs charged that the company's owners and Harris' promoters,Steven Feder and Peter Stotz, had made it appear that Miss Cleo owned and operated the Psychic Readers Network; Ms. Harris herself was sued only by the State of Florida, however, because Florida law allows a "spokesperson" to be sued as well as the company he or she represents. (The suit against Harris was later dropped on the condition that she waive her right to sue the state regarding the case.)

In 2002, the FTC charged Feder and Stotz with deceptive advertising, billing and collection practices; Harris was not indicted.[8] Her promoters agreed to settle for a fraction of the amount they took in.[9] Investigations helped publicize the fact that Harris was actually born in Los Angeles to American parents and had never lived in Jamaica.

Harris has since been researched by the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry. Bob Steiner, CSICOP Fellow and magician, has observed that her techniques and methodology were at best questionable.[10]

Harris also illustrated a full 78-card Tarot deck entitled "Miss Cleo's Tarot Power".

Personal life and subsequent career

In 2003, Harris (as "Cleo") went into private practice as self-described shaman and spiritual advisor through Wahgwaan Entertainment, based in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida.[11] As of 2007, the site advertises one-on-one tarot readings (priced at $200 and up), "house cleansings," "energy cleansings," wedding ceremonies, and private appearances (although the site stipulates that the appearances are granted only for "non-profit and not-for-profit fundraisers and functions").[12]

Additionally, the site describes her as "a survivor and victor of domestic emotional abuse" who is "committed to bringing an awareness to Domestic Emotional and Physical Abuse in the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community and to begin the healing." The site describes a series of workshops to be held by Cleo aimed at leaving an abusive relationship and "taking back your power from fear & shame."[13]

In the October 2006 issue of The Advocate magazine, Harris announced that she is a lesbian.[14] Harris also has an adopted son named Billy Harris.

In 2003, the New York Daily News reported that TV music network Fuse had signed Harris as a spokeswoman.[15] In early 2005, Harris was reportedly appearing on television as Cleo in advertisements for a used car dealership in Florida, according to the Broward-Palm Beach New Times.[16]

Cleveland television station WJW-TV reported on May 7, 2008 that Harris is a practitioner of Voudun.[17]

References

  1. ^ "Miss Cleo's birth certificate". The Smoking Gun. 2002. http://www.thesmokinggun.com/archive/cleo1.html. Retrieved 2006-11-18.  
  2. ^ FTC Charges "Miss Cleo" Promoters with Deceptive Advertising, Billing and Collection Practices
  3. ^ a b c d Parvaz, D. (March 2, 2002). "Miss Cleo left a trail of deception in Seattle". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. http://seattlepi.nwsource.com/lifestyle/60478_misscleo.shtml. Retrieved 2006-11-18.  
  4. ^ "'Miss Cleo' faces lawsuits". Reuters. February 15, 2002. Archived from the original on 2002-02-20. http://web.archive.org/web/20020220035035/http://money.cnn.com/2002/02/15/news/wires/cleo_re/. Retrieved 2008-05-01.  
  5. ^ a b Lithwick, Dahlia. With Psychic Friends Like These …: The lawsuits pile up for Miss Cleo. Slate, March 26, 2002. Accessed 08 January 2008.
  6. ^ Bean, Matt (January 17, 2002). "Seeing the future—or just dollar signs?". Court TV. http://www.courttv.com/news/feature/cleo/misscleo_ctv.html. Retrieved 2006-11-18.  
  7. ^ Bean, Matt (January 17, 2002). "Script used by Psychic Readers Network". Court TV. http://www.courttv.com/news/feature/cleo/script1.html. Retrieved 2007-10-05.  
  8. ^ FTC Charges "Miss Cleo" Promoters with Deceptive Advertising, Billing and Collection Practices
  9. ^ Christopher, Kevin (March-April, 2003). "'Miss Cleo' settles with the Federal Trade Commission - News and Comment". Skeptical Inquirer. http://www.findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m2843/is_2_27/ai_98252920. Retrieved 2006-11-18.  
  10. ^ "Miss Cleo Watch". Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. 19 February 2002. http://www.csicop.org/list/listarchive/msg00325.html. Retrieved 2006-11-18.  
  11. ^ "Welcome to Wahgwaan Entertainment Inc....Home of the one and only CLEO". Wahgwaan Entertainment/Miss Cleo. 2003. http://www.wahgwaanentertainment.com/. Retrieved 2006-11-18.  
  12. ^ "Special Services". Wahgwaan Entertainment/Miss Cleo. 2007. http://www.wahgwaanentertainment.com/serv02.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-05.  
  13. ^ "Cleo Live! - Workshop Series". Wahgwaan Entertainment/Miss Cleo. 2007. http://www.wahgwaanentertainment.com/serv04.htm. Retrieved 2007-10-05.  
  14. ^ "Miss Cleo Comes Out". The Advocate. October 2006. http://www.advocate.com/currentstory1_w_ektid36683.asp. Retrieved 2006-11-18.  
  15. ^ Rush and Molloy. Schumer $andbagging friends of AG?. New York Daily News, November 30, 2003. Accessed 08 January 2008. "New music network Fuse recently signed up as spokeswomen 1) televangelist Tammy Faye Messner (formerly Mrs. Jim Bakker), 2) cable porn princess Robin Byrd and 3) Youree Harris (the actress who played purported psychic "Miss Cleo" before the Federal Trade Commission shut down her $4.95-a-minute phone line)."
  16. ^ Staff writer. Drink and Scoot!. Broward-Palm Beach New Times, February 5, 2005. Accessed 08 January 2008. "The Turbaned One is back. With her crystal ball and snake-oil smile, Miss Cleo (real name: Youree Harris) showed up recently on television ads for Plantation-based Uncle Mel's Used Cars."
  17. ^ Taylor, Lorrie (2008-05-07). "I-team: What Happened to Miss Cleo?" (FLV). Cleveland, Ohio: WJW-TV. http://www.myfoxcleveland.com/myfox/pages/Home/Detail;jsessionid=94044006C68E075BBDAF905599A6845C?contentId=6491008&version=1&locale=EN-US&layoutCode=VSTY&pageId=1.1.1&sflg=1. Retrieved 2008-05-12.  

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