Posted on 25 March 2009.
At a tiny, earth-toned coffeehouse, the fliers advertise mediums and meditations. Wind chimes ring and dream catchers spin.
It’s early afternoon. The plush couches sit empty.
And seated at a table, a silver snake earring dangling from one ear, Miss Cleo says she couldn’t be happier.
”I’m a proud voodoo woman,” she says in the thick Caribbean accent that many late-night television viewers can well recall. “And I make no apologies to anyone.”
Around the turn of the millennium, Miss Cleo was the face and voice of the Psychic Readers Network in TV commercials and infomercials across the country, many of which still live on at Web sites like YouTube.com.
Draped in colorful robes, she urged nighthawks to call in because “the cards never lie.”
That lasted until the Psychic Readers Network, run by Access Resource Services of Fort Lauderdale Is your Fort Lauderdale restaurant clean? – Click Here., succumbed to a storm of lawsuits from consumers who said they were grossly overcharged.
Cleo, a spokeswoman but never the boss, was sued, too. But she was not found liable.
Since then, Cleo has found a new life.
The woman also known as Youree Dell Cleomili Harris moved from Davie to Lake Worth, came out as a lesbian, released a spoken-word CD, and started a radio show.
She is still recognizably Miss Cleo. It is the name people call out on the street when they see her and the name she uses in public, including on her Web site, www.the-real-mscleo.com.
During a recent interview, Cleo had moments much like those in the commercials, minus the incense. Her laughs were long and loud, and she peppered her sentences with ”How delicious!” and “What a kick in the pants!”
She is taller than she seemed on TV — 6 feet, plus a few extra inches from her high-heeled shoes. Her hair was pulled back in a wrap tucked under a pageboy hat.
She said she was drawn to Lake Worth in 2007, and to this coffeehouse, by her work with the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.
Since then, she has protested in downtown Lake Worth, walked in the Florida AIDS Walk in Fort Lauderdale, and emceed the PrideFest 2008 of the Palm Beaches.
”I don’t know her from her Miss Cleo days,” said Allan Hendricks, Palm Beach County meetup organizer for Equality Florida. ‘So when I met her it wasn’t under the premise of `I’m meeting Miss Cleo.’ It’s that I was meeting some really cool woman named Cleo.”
At PrideFest, Cleo mocked her Psychic Readers Network past, said Julie Seaver, capital campaign manager with Compass Community Center in Lake Worth. (But Cleo also made a donation to the PrideFest raffle — free readings for 10 people.)
Occasionally, Seaver said, she gets an e-mail Cleo sends to friends and clients, reminding them when dangers lurk in the cosmos — and that they should get their oil and tires checked.
”I love spending time with her,” said Seaver. “I wish I could hire her, but she’s too busy.”