Astrologist’s sphere of influence grows among the fashion flock
By Meredith Bryan
The astrologist Susan Miller was speeding up Madison Avenue in a cab recently from Frederic Fekkai, where she’d had her hair blown out, toward Barneys, despite the fact that the young man at the Fekkai counter had been unable to snag her a last-minute reservation at Fred’s for lunch. She was clutching a cane; Miller’s left leg, which has a congenital defect, recently broke for the fourth time (2009 was a bad year for Pisces). The Observer suggested they try Rouge Tomate on 60th, to avoid waiting. Miller pulled up the restaurant’s number on her iPhone and dialed it. “I always pretend to be my secretary,” she whispered, raising the phone to her ear and taking on an officious tone. “Hello, I’m calling on behalf of Susan Miller at Elle magazine. … Do you have time for a lunch reservation right now?” she said. And then, flustered: “There are two of us.” She hung up. “I can’t lie!” she wailed.
Miller is known for telling her devoted readers exactly what the planets have in store for them, good and bad. Her lengthy monthly reports on astrologyzone.com and in Elle—she began writing for the magazine in September, demanding two full pages—are optimistic but have “no sugarcoating,” said the designer Charlotte Ronson, whose chart Miller read about a year ago. “She’ll be like, ‘Don’t even leave your house in September or October!’” Ronson said.
After a year that most people, not just Pisceans, would like to forget, Miller, the current leading astrologer of the style set, is having a moment. For the first time since the late ’70s, when “what’s your sign” was a universal pickup line, astrology is almost seeming a legitimate preoccupation among otherwise sensible people. Really, when things are so bad … why not? “If I’m going through something bad in my life or I’m upset, I read it and I’m like, ‘OK, it’s not me, it’s the stars!” said fashion publicist Mandie Erickson of Seventh House, who’s a fan of Miller’s writings, calling them “spiritual-astrological therapy.” Mary Kate Olson, Lindsay Lohan, socialites CeCe Cord and Lauren Santo Domingo, models Molly Sims and Dree Hemingway, fashion photographer Carter Smith and designer Jeremy Scott are also fans. A friend of Cameron Diaz’s purchased a reading for the actress for her birthday last fall, and so Miller jetted up to Boston, where Diaz was filming Knight and Day with Tom Cruise.
“I’m not much of a horoscope person, but she won me over,” e-mailed Cindi Leive, currently the editor of Glamour, who ran Miller’s column at Self for nine years (it also enjoyed a run in InStyle). “I remember her as high-energy, very positive and startlingly sane.”
It helps that Miller’s astrology has an earnest, practical whiff of self-improvement. She’s a Catholic, she’ll tell you, and not a psychic. It’s not her business to predict whether you’ll get that new job; instead, “I can tell you when you’re going to be viewed most favorably,” she explained. “It’s up to you to make the argument.”
You’ll be heartened to hear that according to the astrologer, most signs are destined for at least a fortuitous February, and, save for an eclipse at the end of June, this year in general is going to be an improvement over last. Miller explained all these things at all-day seminars costing $125 on Jan. 30 and Feb. 6 (the second date added after the first sold out), in New York, part of her own personal plan to extend her business in tough economic times.
To the already committed fashion flock, Miller is no fly-by-night, but a trusted sage who guides fragile creative endeavors and even more fragile egos through unprecedented tumult—or, less menacingly, Saturn, which is meant to teach and challenge, and to change the established order of things. Even to nonbelievers, there is something soothing about seeing world and personal events in terms of natural cycles to be weathered and learned from, each presenting opportunities to be maximized; and New York narcissists inevitably enjoy studying the many influences that comprise their own fascinating personalities. Moon in Aquarius? Well, you are destined to speak to large numbers of people. Aries in mid-heaven? You’ll eventually be an entrepreneur.
New Yorkers provide the largest concentration of Miller’s roughly 18 million monthly page views (six million unique), which she garners despite updating only once a month, instead of daily like most of her competitors. There are larger astrology sites on the Internet, but Miller’s is Chanel to Astrology.com’s Gap: Her readers are educated, affluent, usually childless or with children who have left home, who appreciate her specific attention to career, creative projects, appearance and fitness, parties, home decoration and even real estate opportunities.
Miller explained that astrology is “practically like engineering. It’s all mathematical cycles, some that will repeat and some that don’t.” For example: “Pluto has not been in Capricorn since the time of the American Revolution, and when it gets to 7 degrees”—which she predicted would happen by 2012—“it will be in the same place as it was when Britain passed the stamp act, and we got so mad we started a country! Ha-ha-ha!” Miller is an avid watcher of the television news, which she keeps on “for company” while she writes in her Upper East Side apartment. “All the people in the news right now are Capricorns or Cancers,” she said. Tiger Woods, for example, who was born Dec. 30. “I could have helped him if he would’ve seen me,” she said. “I would’ve said, ‘I’m worried about this Dec. 31 eclipse.’ It wasn’t altogether friendly to his planets.”
Miller herself was born with a “very tough” chart—the planets “all squared off”—but she feels strongly that it has made her the person she is today. “People with calm, beautiful, gorgeous charts, they don’t try as hard,” she said. She will not reveal her age, though she told The New York Times in 1998 that she was in her “mid-40s.” She is a third-generation Manhattanite whose grandfather came over from Sicily.
Miller found comfort in her mother’s astrology books. “Nobody had a computer, so you learned to do the algorithms by hand,” she said. (Now, software engineers take the calibration of the planets, distributed by NASA, and “drop them into a program.”)
Her first career was as a photography agent, but she kept up her study of the planets and eventually started AstrologyZone on the side in 1995, after giving birth to two daughters and divorcing her husband, a Scorpio and doubting Thomas (the two are still friendly, and he lives nearby).
Her forecasts on Astrology.com, which can run 3,000 words each, take her seven hours to write per sign. The Elle horoscopes take four days. And then there are her daily iPhone and Blackberry apps, monthly horoscope columns in Korean W, Japanese Vogue and a Turkish glossy called Tempo, not to mention horoscopes for 10 Japanese websites and a self-publishing division that puts out a calendar and 4,000 to 5,000 personalized books per year.
Miller usually writes in her apartment or at a nearby Dunkin’ Donuts from 11 a.m. to 1 a.m., seven days a week. She has so little time for private clients that she charges $500 for personalized readings.
Miller said she doesn’t know why astrology works, just that it does, though she admits that she’ll always be competing with others in her field who are “not serious.”
“Modern man is uncomfortable with ambiguity,” she said. “I’m completely comfortable with it. The Dalai Lama says that Western man feels they have to solve every mystery in his lifetime. That’s our nature, and it’s so sweet, because it’s what makes us study and do research. But we can’t say something doesn’t exist just because we don’t know why.”