Nonfiction entertainment studio XTR and production company Majority share announcement that they are in production on a film about Miss Cleo. Award-winning filmmaker Senain Kheshgi is set to direct the documentary, which follows the woman who became a public figure with a massive presence in television offering to tell people’s fortunes through a series of pay-per-call number advertisements in the 90’s.
Many assumed Miss Cleo was a coveted, experienced Jamaican tarot card reader. However, she fooled naive optimists for years. The woman under the elaborate turban and tarot reader look was Los Angeles native Youree Dell Harris, an aspiring 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 shared in a statement to Deadline. “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.”
Kheshgi is sharing her story through subjects throughout Miss Cleo’s past for the upcoming documentary. Harris will not be involved in the documentary as she died of cancer in 2016 at the age of 53.
“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 shared. “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 continues on the quest to produce Oscar-worthy films. XTR’s Bryn Mooser, Kathryn Everett, Justin Lacob, Abazar Khayami and India Wadsworth are executive producing the documentary following Miss Cleo’s life. The studio’s film Ascension earned an Oscar nomination for Best Feature Documentary on Feb. 8.
No release date has been announced for Miss Cleo’s film.
“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.”
Stay tuned for more details to follow on the upcoming documentary.