Stalwart of late-night commercials of the late ’90s and pop culture touchstone “Miss Cleo” died Tuesday after a battle with colon cancer, her lawyer confirmed to the Associated Press. She was 53.
A “pillar of strength” throughout her illness, which eventually spread to her liver and lungs, Cleo died surrounded by family and friends, her representative told TMZ, which first reported the death. Harris’ lawyer, William J. Cone Jr., confirmed the death to AP.
Born Youree Harris in Los Angeles in 1962, Cleo became a cultural icon as the spokeswoman for Psychic Readers Network, where she starred in infomercials as a Jamaican psychic, replete with accent, who used tarot card readings to advise individuals who used the pay-per-call service on their futures.
Her success was cut short when, in the early 90s, lawsuits against the network began cropping up in states across the country alleging fraud. The Federal Trade Commission charged the company’s owners with deceptive advertising, billing and collection practices in 2002. Though Cleo was not charged, it was revealed at that time that she was born in Los Angeles to American parents.
In 2006, Cleo came out as a lesbian to the Advocate, inspired by her teenage godson. She had kept the secret from some family members over the years, though she affirmed that her parents, who had since passed away, knew about her orientation.
“Nobody really talked about it,” she said in the 2006 interview. “It was like the pink elephant in the room. I never felt bad, but I knew society didn’t accept me. This was the ’70s. Things were changing, but they weren’t all that changed.”