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Entertainment

Miss Cleo, the Beloved TV Psychic, Has Died

We will never forget her infectious catchphrase, "Call me now!"
July 26, 2016, 8:15pm

Miss Cleo. Photo by Kadeem Ellis.

Miss Cleo, the hotline psychic known for her iconic "Call me now!" catchphrase, has died at 53. She had colon cancer that spread to her liver and lungs and passed away in hospice, TMZ reported Tuesday afternoon.

Although she's remembered primarily for her Jamaican accent, Cleo's patois––like most of her public personality––was an affectation. Cleo, whose real name was Youree Harris, was born to wealthy parents and raised in Los Angeles, where she attended a Catholic boarding school for girls.

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Her family were practitioners of voodoo, and she studied under a Haitian teacher for 30 years before joining the company that would propel her to fame. But when she joined the Psychic Readers Network (PRN) in the late 90s, it rebranded her as a mindreader, probably because her religion is often stigmatized and misunderstood in the States.

Regardless, she became the company's spokesperson with a series of ads that started airing in 1997. Her outlandish outfits, cutting humor, and exaggerated accent made her a stand-out of 90s television, and she's been endlessly imitated since.

The company that propelled her to fame didn't propel her to fortune, however. In a 2014 interview, Harris told VICE she was pulling in 24 cents per minute as the company's marquee talent.

In 2002, the PSN was sued by the Federal Trade Commission over deceptive advertising and billing. Eventually, the company's Florida-based owners settled for $500 million, and the woman who made them that money faded into obscurity. In 2006, she came out as a lesbian in the Advocate and voiced a character in Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, but she lived a relatively private life after her commercials went off the air in 2003.

She spent the end of her life working as a spiritual adviser, and she is survived by her two children as well as an unknown number of grandchildren.

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