We can confidently predict a documentary is forthcoming on ‘90s TV psychic Miss Cleo.
Nonfiction entertainment studio XTR and production company Majority announced they are in production on a film about the famed tarot card reader, who became the centerpiece of a billion-dollar fraud investigation. Award-winning filmmaker Senain Kheshgi is directing the documentary about a woman who became a ubiquitous television presence in ads offering to tell people’s fortunes through a pay-per-call number.
Miss Cleo purported to be a Jamaican soothsayer, but the person under the turban in fact was Los Angeles native Youree Dell Harris, a sometime actress and playwright hired to embody the gifted psychic.
“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 noted. “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 died of cancer in 2016, at the age of 53. Kheshgi is said to be interviewing “subjects throughout Miss Cleo’s past” for the documentary.
“Youree Harris may have been an accomplice or perhaps a victim in the Psychic Reader’s 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.”
XTR’s Bryn Mooser, Kathryn Everett, Justin Lacob, Abazar Khayami and India Wadsworth are executive producing the documentary. It’s been a good couple of weeks for XTR; on February 8, the studio’s Ascension, directed by Jessica Kingdon, earned an Oscar nomination for Best Feature Documentary. No expected released date for the Miss Cleo film was announced; consult your favorite psychic for a prediction on that.
“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 90’s cultural icon’s life,” said Wadsworth. “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.”
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