In life there are moments so surreal, so bizarre, it’s safe to say the likelihood of them ever happening again are a firm zero. Now is one such moment. To all outward appearances I’m sitting calmly in front of my laptop, waiting for it to connect a regular work call. But my nerves are fried, my heart thudding a dent inside my chest. The difference on this day is that I’m waiting to speak to a medium over Zoom.
Medium, psychic, intuitive, clairvoyant – whatever you call it – are by definition individuals who can supposedly predict the future and/or communicate with the deceased. In popular culture, they find their latent powers spinning out of control (Carrie), are distinguishable by a uniform of gold lamé robes (Whoopi Goldberg in Ghost) or commandeer ouija boards and let demons through the ninth gate of hell (every horror film ever). According to these examples, they are something to be feared, certainly not chatted to through a shaky video call connection from Lisbon.
Waiting on the other side of the line is Fleur Leussink, psychic medium to Hollywood A-listers, offering her services to celebrity clientele such as Lana Del Rey, Emma Roberts, high-profile politicians and one of the top five wealthiest people in the world. Her parents noticed at the age of 5 that she was able to recall specific characteristics of her deceased grandparents whom she had never met, and despite coming from a scientific background (Dutch-American Leussink was pre-med at UCLA), she eventually followed her 'calling' at 18, when she began doing readings. She currently has a three-year waiting list with around 31.2k followers on Instagram, is a published author, launched the third season of her podcast, Moving Beyond, this month and has expanded her practice to holding six-day intuition retreats in Portugal. I’ve managed to snag a much-coveted slot but rather than excitement, in truth I feel apprehensive. I’m sceptical about most things that hinge on the belief of the unseen or disproven but in actual fact, I think it’s because the whole thing feels so personal to me. What skeletons will she unearth? Is that even what she does?
Leussink explains that the way she starts is by getting tuned into you like you’re a radio station, tapping into “your life force, your energy, your spirit, your consciousness”. From the outset I make it clear that I want a future reading; I’ve seen enough horror films to know that nothing good comes from speaking to dead relatives.
She starts off by checking if there are any sensitive no-go areas and if there’s anything I don’t want to hear. I confirm that I’m open to hearing about my own health and the health of any of my family members. At this point, my heart starts to beat a little faster. She tells me that I should give away as little as possible by answering only ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to her statements so I don’t unintentionally influence her answers. She insists that I won’t hurt her feelings if I tell her she’s completely off the mark; if anything, she’ll tune in a little clearer to my ‘radio station’ if I do so. At the same time, she has three decks of cards, which she asks me to choose from. She closes her eyes.
“It looks like you’re in a really lovely partnership…your heart is connected to someone very significant,” she says after a pause, eyes still closed. It’s lovely and affirming to hear. I live with my boyfriend of two years. But in my sceptical brain, it’s information that could have been harvested by combing through any number of my social media platforms.
Swiftly we move onto my career: “There's quite a tiger in you. You want to dig your teeth into truthful stories, but you’re in the process of figuring out what you care about. I feel like you may find a frustration in getting to share the way you want to until you're in your late 30s.” I obviously love this one (because narcissism) but I do feel like it’s quite an open-ended observation to make, especially about someone she knows is a writer and probably will continue to be a writer in the future.
We move onto family. Leussink touches upon the fact that my mum and biological father are divorced. I'm unmoved – aren’t everyone’s? But then she says something that makes the oxygen feel like it's been sucked out of the room: “It looks like there’s half siblings.” I suddenly feel light-headed. Before I can muster a response, Leussink continues: “There’s not much connection with that side... I don't think you will. You can put that search to rest.” Genuinely rattled, I tell her we can move on.
It’s not common knowledge but most close friends (and now the internet) will know that I’m aware that there are two half siblings on my biological father’s side that I have never met. Father is a loose term, seeing as he had no hand in raising me, was a violent and physically abusive man, and I haven’t had contact with him since I was 13 years old (I’m 30 now). At one point Leussink says: "I have to say your mum looks like she's been through quite some challenges in her life...but she is happy and super optimistic now." I nod and try to smile, unable to swallow the lump in my throat.
When I was a teenager, my stepfather adopted me and my brother and we changed our surnames, never looking back. As far as we’re both concerned, we have one father and it’s my stepdad. For years, I struggled with the knowledge that I have half siblings, untethered, out there in the world, and battled with the internal conflict of doing nothing about it. Would I regret it if we never connected? Was I less of a person? After years of torturing myself, chewing it over until it was ash in my mouth, I came to terms with the fact I didn't need anything. Blood wasn't thicker than water. As far as I was concerned, I had my family. Even though it came from the mouth of a complete stranger, Leussink's comment didn't so much validate my feelings as confirm a decision I had subconsciously made a long time ago.
Leussink goes on to talk about the health of my parents but rather than spinning me out with ominous news of disaster and disease, she tentatively gives me suggestions of improvements that could be made (which I call my parents with after). I still don’t fully trust her but I’m starting to relax into it a bit more. Or maybe I’m just relaxing into the knowledge that it’s as real as I want to make it.
Despite having confirmed that I only wanted a future reading, at one point she does say someone is "here". A shudder runs through my body. She tells me she sees a “grandmother on your father’s side who’s passed away”. It's not true, so I tell her no. Later in the conversation, she pivots to asking if a grandmother on my mother’s side has passed away, and by process of elimination that is indeed true. The likelihood at my age that I will have a grandparent that has passed away is high. She passes on a 'message' from my grandmother (I consent to it because of morbid curiosity but admittedly feel uncomfortable the entire time), then goes on to talk about where I'll live in the future, then about my brother, motherhood and marriage: “You may even get engaged and have a really long engagement.”
At one point I do ask her what her response is to people like me who are sceptical or might have the preconception that she's exploiting people's vulnerabilities to her advantage; that maybe the people turning to Leussink could be desperate for meaning or connection with loved ones who have passed away quite suddenly. I also balked to find that her readings go for around $700 a session, and express “emergency last minute" readings are even steeper at $895.
“I feel like I'm here with the very best intention to guide people and to help them,” she says. “If they disagree, they don't have to come see me. There is nothing in our world that works for every person: no medication, no philosophy, no food. [What I do] is just another way of healing, another way of finding peace within yourself. I'm totally fine to work with the sceptics. I'm here to help whoever is curious, whoever wants help.”
When the call eventually ends, I feel more or less the same. There certainly were stranger, uncanny moments but there were also some moments where Leussink missed the mark, and the rest felt open-ended and applicable to most. In the last minutes of the call, Leussink does say something which I find quite profound, whether you subscribe to spirituality or not. “It's not about having this tapestry of fate laid out in front of you," she says. "Because we're creating our own future." It's not new information but it's nice to be reminded that we're free agents and we can do what we want. And we should, as long as no one gets hurt.
At the end of the day, a reading from a medium for the stars wasn’t enough to turn me into a diehard believer. If anything, it confirmed to me that I trust my own intuition, believe in my own intentional decisions and their power to sway the direction of my life. I feel proud of my loved ones and of the many wonderful people I have surrounded myself with. These are the things, in the tangled mess of the universe, that let me know I am on the right path. As for Leussink's predictions? I guess the only thing for it now is to wait and see if it all comes true.