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New York Fashion Week kicks off extra-early this year, which means, for the first time in recent memory, the industry is wading into the thick of seating chart all-nighters, make-or-break collection reviews, and bleary-eyed blogging without consulting Susan Miller's September horoscopes.
The astrologer turns out 2,500-word missives on each sign monthly—which may be why she's struck a chord with the equally detail-obsessed fashion set. In addition to posting free horoscopes on her website, AstrologyZone (visitors per month: 6 million), Miller has regular columns in heavy-hitters like Elle (her fashion designer daughter Chrissie first introduced her to Joe Zee), Vogue Japan, W Korea, and Marie Claire China. "I pop out of bed like toast out of a toaster," she told us over tea at the Pierre a few weeks ago. "I only need five hours of sleep."
We believe it—the woman's multitasking skills are real. During our conversation Miller negotiated a raise via cellphone, greeted a friend ("Hello, little lamb!"), and entertained a baby at a neighboring table—all while giving her thoughts on astrology conferences, why you shouldn't panic when Mercury is in retrograde, and whether or not a dog can be "such a Virgo."
Image via Calypso St. Barths
How did you discover you had a talent for astrology?
Do you know about my birth defect? There's no name for it, and no one alive with it anymore. I'm lucky I have it in the leg because you can tourniquet the leg. If you have it in the lungs or the head, you get one attack and that's it. I had attack after attack all through my childhood—one or two a year.
The last one, I was stirring fudge by the stove. I would always feel a volume of thick liquid, like chocolate syrup, falling in my leg. There would be a stiffening and a pain and I would have to limp over to my bed and put a pillow under it right away because if I left it straight it would lock. After six to eight weeks it would go away.
People would chide me and say, "If you didn't want to school you found a clever way to get out of it." But I couldn't even stand vibrations near me. I couldn't leave the bed. A child doesn't live like that.
My room didn't have a TV or a phone, so I read a lot. All the classics. I would also read my mother's astrology books, but she didn't know it. My sister would put them under the dust ruffle, and I'd read them for fun when I was done with my normal schoolwork.
I kept asking my mother to teach me astrology and she said, "No, you would have to study for 12 years."
Was your mother a professional astrologer?
No, but she was brilliant. Before she died she told me, "I wish I could have talked about what I knew, but it wasn't accepted. I wish I had a column," I said, "Whose column do you think this is? This is your column, I'm just typing it for you." I'm so glad I learned from my mother. I go to meetings at astrological organizations and some people are good, while others are horrible.
Wait, astrological organizations? Do they have conventions?
Oh yes. You can take any tract you want, you can study the Uranus-Pluto dispute—that debate has been going on since 2011. The cover of Mountain Astrologer is "Uranus-Pluto: Who's Winning?" I'm like, "Oh, I have to read that." I think Pluto is winning, but I'll see if anybody agrees with me.
I belong to the American Federation of Astrologers and the National Council on Geocosmic Research.
So is the astrology world very structured?
You have to sign an agreement that you'll uphold the teachings of the ancients, although some people don't. When I go on TV I have to defend the entire industry.
Some astrologers are very good, others are good but can't write—that's 95% of the problem. Astrologers tend to talk to each other, not to a mass audience. So no one can understand what they're saying, since they're using technical terms. I'm a Steve Jobs devotee, he says, "Anything can be made simple."
So it takes 12 years to really get a handle on astrology. That's like going for two Ph.D.'s! Can you touch on a few of the things serious astrologers study?
Well there are eight planets plus the sun and the moon. When you're looking at a chart, you can't just look at one part. You have to look at all the aspects and crystallize it at once. First you have the learn the glyphs.
Like what Aries looks like in hieroglyphics. You have to learn which planet rules each sign. Aries is ruled by Mars, Taurus is ruled by Venus, Gemini is ruled by Mercury. Astrology is very complex, with layer upon layer upon layer.
Most people only know their sun sign in the newspaper. That started in the 1930's when papers were having trouble. They went to astrologers asking them to write columns, and the astrologers said, "No, there are eight planets plus the sun and the moon." So the newspapers said, "Well, can you just take the sun? All planets go around the sun."
The rising sign is equally important.
How do you know what your rising sign is?
You have to know the exact minute of your birth.
Did you grow up in New York?
Yes, I'd leave a man before I'd leave New York. I'd leave a man before I'd leave Manhattan. People say, "Oh, it's so hot," but I love that heat. It feels like something is happening. I never want to miss anything.
Speaking of never wanting to miss anything, you have so much going on! Give me a rundown of all your different jobs.
I have a column in American Elle, but not online—the Astro Twins write for the website and I write for the print edition. I write for Vogue Japan, W Korea, Tempo in Turkey, Claudia in Brazil, Amica in Italy, S Moda in Spain—which is weekly, but I wanted to be in a Spanish publication—Marie Claire China, and Neiman Marcus. I just sent a sample to Fucsia in Columbia, and Grazia in France is talking to me too. I have an app—right this minute we're coding for Android and Samsung.
And you're working on a Hulu show!
It's not going to be like what I do online. I'm going to explain things. People are terrified of Mercury in retrograde when they shouldn't be. It's annoying, but it's not tragic.
Do you work, like, 24 hours a day?
I pop out of bed like toast out of a toaster. I only sleep five hours a night and I've never needed an alarm. People never believe me, but The Wall Street journal just ran an article on people who function on five hours of sleep. I love the morning. Why would I miss being up at 6am? I do have to wait around until the news shows come on at seven, though.
What do you think is the biggest misconception about astrology?
That it's pre-destined. It's not. It's best used for finding your talents. That's one of my favorite things. When I was an agent for commercial photographers I'd use my charts all the time to find talent.
And what does it mean when Mercury is in retrograde?
Every planet has its own little job to do, and Mercury rules the things that the world runs on—contracts, negotiations, communication. But when Mercury retrogrades it means the wind is changing direction.
Like my own daughter. She signed a lease to her apartment when Mercury was in retrograde, which I told her not to do. Her landlord just came in and told her she has to move out within a month.
Is Mercury in retrograde ever a good thing?
You can ask for a raise when Mercury is in retrograde. Say to your managing editor, "I've heard there's not a crumb in the supper dish, and that you can't give me a raise but you'd love to. So if you can't I understand, I still love this company."
I bet your friends are always asking you, "Should I sign this lease? Should I take this job?" Do you ever take a day off from giving advice?
Arnold Scaasi, who designed some beautiful dresses for First Ladies, calls me when I'm on the street, in CVS—it's funny he hasn't called me now. But he's so nice, and his questions are easy to answer, so I always answer them.
One day he wanted me to print out my horoscopes for him, but I was having some medical problems, so I said, "Today I'm going to buy you a computer." He said, "No, it's so much better when you send them." So he got me an appointment with the world's expert for this particular medical problem, who had better advice for getting rid of it than my own doctor.
You should just help people when they ask. It takes a lot for somebody to ask for help to begin with. Most people who ask me a question really need the answer.
Does astrology work for animals? Are you ever like, "That dog is such a Virgo."
It should, I'm just not a pet person. I've never had a pet. But there are 91 million cats in the United States, according to The Today Show, and 89 million dogs. Some of those owners must know their pets' birthday. A Leo dog is probably going to be different than a Pisces dog, but I've never meditated on it.
What does the astrological forecast look like for fall?
I want everybody to get things done in September and coast in October. Mercury is in retrograde in October and we have two eclipses, so there's going to be a lot of change to adjust to.
Eclipses surprise you, and they're looking for weak links—in a relationship, in a job, in anything.
Have you worked on elections before? Do politicians consult with astrologers on their campaigns?
I have. I think Hillary Clinton should run, she has a good chart.
Who do you write for? Who do you picture reading your columns?
I write for people who don't believe in astrology. That's why I explain my terms, and that's partly what makes my horoscopes so long. I can't assume that people know what I'm talking about.
How should people use astrology?
For planning. And watch those new moons and full moons! We've all applied for a job and then wondered if we should follow up, thinking, "I don't want to be annoying." Well if you call a day or two before the full moon, they're coming to an answer. But if you call way before the full moon, they don't know what they're doing yet. They're still interviewing other people.