April 11, 2024

Disabled And Here: Interview with Miss Renée

Hi! How would you like to introduce yourself? I’m Miss Renée, a Black femme queer woman and spiritual advisor living and loving with a disability.

Renée portrait

Miss Renée smiles and sits with loosely folded hands at a table with tarot cards spread amongst flower petals. She has ombré gray twists, cat eye glasses, a nasal cannula, and a leopard print burgundy shawl on.

How did you get into astrology and tarot? Or, what’s the origin story of Miss Renée Healing? I am a preacher’s daughter, but it was my grandmother who predominantly raised me. She was a beloved member of the church and influenced my spiritual life the most, specifically through her volunteerism in soup kitchens, and through her dedicated tithing, praying, and fervent faith in God.

On top of that, I was a highly psychically sensitive child and I had no idea why I saw and knew the things I saw and knew. Spirituality was hardwired in me and although I no longer practice a religion, I feel that I, too, became a minister in my own way.

It’s funny because when I was introduced to tarot cards, the first question I asked was: “Aren’t those satanic?” Tarot came into my life at 18 via the person who is my best friend to this day. We peripherally knew each other in high school, but it wasn’t until the summer of our graduation — summer of ‘91 — when we had started hanging out.

It was the first time I’d been to her house and we were in her bedroom, combing through British goth magazines and listening to The Sisters of Mercy. The tarot deck on her bedside table kept drawing my attention until she finally picked them up. She assured me that no, the cards were not satanic and asked if I wanted to look at them. We did a reading with the little instruction booklet and I was hooked. It was like a gong went off. Holding the cards felt like home. I understood it in a way I couldn’t explain.

Renée holding tarot card

Close-up of Miss Renée holding up a High Priestess tarot card in front of the left side of her face.

It was also during that time that I moved from the outskirts of Seattle to Seattle proper. I would read tarot cards for tips at coffee houses, at parks, at parties and raves, psychic fairs at bookstores, at Goth Night in the clubs.

Within a year, I got the nickname Tarot Chick because that’s what people would say to me when they’d run into me months later: “Hey! You’re that tarot chick that read for me last summer! That ish came true!” It stuck. Over time, Tarot Chick morphed into Miss Renée as I’ve aged.

Astrology came into my life at 19, when I met and later became roommates with a redheaded leprechaun of a gay boy who was the son of a professional astrologer. He wanted to learn tarot and I wanted to learn astrology. So, everyday for about a year we would teach each other something about our craft until we became pretty competent with both.

Fast forward many years later to 2007. I’m living in Portland with my partner of two years when — as I jokingly but accurately predicted — my job laid our entire department off. I packed my desk in a box, went home, and told my partner, “I don’t think I’m going back to work for someone else anymore. I think I’m supposed to read cards and charts.”

They supported my decision and for months, we lived off of Dollar Store food and their MAC makeup counter paycheck, while I started a women’s clothing store on eBay and Tarot Chick locally. Within a year they were both going strong, but I only had the energy to do one well, so I chose Tarot Chick and never looked back.

I love that you’re a disabled healer, because too many people only think of disabled people as needing healing. From your perspective, how does healing work coexist alongside disability? In Greek mythology — and an asteroid in astrology — there is a centaur named Chiron. He was a great teacher to major figures like Jason and the Argonauts, Heracles, etc. One day, he is accidentally wounded in the leg by an arrow that had killed the Hydra, whose blood is poisonous, and the bloody arrow poisoned him. Usually, this would be fatal. But since Chiron was half god (his father was Cronos), he was immortal and, therefore, could not die.

Chiron was in constant agony and deeply motivated to find a way to heal this wound. He became a ferocious student of the body and its processes: medicine, herbalism and all methods of healing. While on this mission, he would help or teach the people around him what he had just learned when they needed healing. He became the most learned and renowned healer because of his wound and suffering. I have always felt connected to this story and I love to teach people about the placement of Chiron in their birth chart.

Renée doing a smoke cleansing

Close-up portrait of Miss Renée looking down while holding a smoldering sage-lavender bundle in one hand and an abalone shell in the other.

“Healed” to me is not a PLACE. We are all on some level on our journey of healing — on, not toward. As we journey, we learn through trial, error and grace. We pick up tips and tricks of lived experience that we can then share with a person sitting in the ditch we ourselves were sitting in a season or three ago. Nothing I’ve ever been through, no matter how painful, has ever been wasted because without fail, I’ll meet someone who will benefit from my personal experience.

It just hits different when the person holding space for and sharing wisdom with you is someone who has lived experience rather than someone who gained their knowledge solely from the pages of a book.

What are some things you do to relax or just for fun? I love to siiiing. Singing was my first love. I am a karaoke QUEEN, haha! I had a band for a while and recorded an album. That was one of my proudest achievements.

I discovered that I have a talent for gardening in Spring of 2020 when the world shut down. I tried it because I needed something to pour my energy into and every single seedling I planted burst into life! I started my first garden in grow bags and it was so magical and beautiful; my hands deep into the bag, mixing the rich soil that it will live in. Making sure they have the water, sun, shade, pest protection they need to bring forth their best fruit or veggies. I LOVE IT.

As you were prepping for the Disabled And Here photoshoot, we were all impressed by your accessory collection. How would you describe your fashion sense or style? Hahaaaa! I am riDICulous! I love shiny things, I must have been a crow in a past life. I just keep in my mind that as a Taurus, my ruling planet is Venus, and Venus loves her some beauty.

I am a deep appreciator of natural fabrics and jewelry. I’d rather save up and purchase a quality handmade amber, labradorite, or rutilated quartz piece than a fancy-named handbag any day. I have a section of wall where I hang my eye and sunglasses, lol. I’m ‘bout my accessories, hunty.

My style shifts with my mood, but I will forever be a goth girl. So, that element is always present underneath it all. I call myself a recovering goth.

Renée showing off shirt

Miss Renée smiles while sitting and showcasing a “Sounds gay, I'm in” shirt. She is dressed in all black, including a denim jacket, long skirt, boots, and a portable oxygen cylinder backpack resting on the floor in the background.

What brought you to Portland and how do you feel about the Pacific Northwest now, having been here for nearly two decades? I moved to Portland for LOVE. I met someone in late 2003 and after a year of them riding a Greyhound bus from Portland to Seattle every other week, we decided that it was getting too painful. So, August of 2005, I packed up my life and moved here. We were together for six and a half years. I regret none of it.

I’ve watched Portland go through so many changes in what will be 19 years in August - changes in race relations, homelessness issues, policing, queer community - little of it for the better. That being said, my family of choice is here and we are tight. We are holding it down for one another. I bought a house with my best friend in the summer of 2022. So, I’m committed, I’m hopeful. I’m community-facing.

One thing I’ve learned in my 50 years is, everything is cyclical. This is but a moment in time. In my grandmother’s words: this, too, shall pass. In the meantime, I’m building and feeding my garden, my home, the roots of my friendships.

We’re currently 4 years into COVID. What are some of the ways the pandemic has impacted your life? Covid has impacted my life profoundly. As a person with fragile lungs, using supplemental oxygen, who’s also diabetic and bigger bodied… I cannot afford to fuck around and find out with socially risky behaviours with my health. I’ve not been to a movie theater, the inside of a restaurant, a nightclub or a concert since. I no longer do parties in person — only virtually. I only karaoke with my friends and even then, only when everyone has tested and it’s a limited number of people.

Covid came along as my band disbanded and I’ve had to say no to invitations to get back up on the stage. There is a deep mourning underneath. I try to focus on the ways I CAN be a part of it all because if I think about the losses too long…sigh.

Switching things up a bit, if you were to create a more accessible world, what are some must-haves? Go as magical or real-world as you’d like. I’d love to see parents get REAL support for maternity leave and child care. I’d love to see a Universal basic income so that 99% of the population could get out of survival mode.

Renée posing with bouquet

Miss Renée smiles while holding a dried lavender and baby’s breath bouquet. She models cat eyeliner and rainbow frame glasses in front of a bamboo grove.

I’d love to live in a world where having a disability didn’t turn you invisible to a portion of the world, which has made many disabled people internalize ableism and gaslight themselves. Or a world where getting disability payment for those who need it didn’t make people feel like Sisyphus. I’d love to see America truly come to terms and face the way this country was born and the harm it’s caused us all, and then turn around and be proactive in the healing.

There would not be one sidewalk or building or subway system that was not wheelchair-accessible. I’d love to see more screens in drive-thrus for the deaf. There would not be one physician, doctor’s office, or hospital that did not have the knowledge of, equipment for, or a gown that couldn’t accommodate a larger-bodied person. May we never see tiny-armed chairs again — throw them into the sun!

Final question: what are the best ways to support you? You can help me continue to share my gift and pay my mortgage by scheduling a session: missreneehealing.com.

Photography by Gritchelle Fallesgon
Interview by Elea Chang

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

More reading