Susan Miller Is The Only Astrologer the Internet Trusts

And now she’s on Snapchat.

Image: Jakub Jankiewicz

In a world of Etsy psychics and “The signs” memes and Snapchat horoscopes, Susan Miller just has embraced the reach and power of the Internet. Miller is the woman behind Astrology Zone, which encompasses a website, video series, social media handles and more, proffering the latest, newest, “most accurate” astrological readings for the Internet-era horoscope reader.

The site launched in July after ten months of buildout. In the weeks leading up to the revamp, she was on the phone with engineers, business associates and FedEx messengers until midnight or one in the morning. She instructed them in her project timeline, a series of specific dates plotted in precise alignment on the astrological calendar. Months earlier, she’d determined (for both herself and her readers) that August would lend her contracts and negotiations a prosperous glow. She shared this insight with her website managers as well as her readers, of course.

NASA shocked horoscope readers into chaos last month with the revelation that changes in the Earth’s axis and shifting constellation positions have potentially altered birth signs — and thusly, our very own (supposed) identities. Refinery29 called it “bone-chilling news.” Seventeen declared, “we’re freaking out.” But while the Internet panicked, Susan assessed. As her readers peppered her with questions on Twitter, she remained silent for days. She published a 6000-word essay on her site, “The NASA Controversy,” complete with a comprehensive guide to celestial history, “equinox precession” (the rotation of the earth that results in constellations “moving” across the sky) and more reasons to not freak out.

It was classic Susan.

Miller owes her brand’s durability to the accuracy of her readings (devotees swear by them), the ferocity of her fanbase and, most importantly, her omnipresence. Miller is everywhere, from InStyle Magazine to Vimeo (where she sits behind a desk surrounded by screens, Anderson Cooper-style). She has 307,000 followers on Twitter, which is not so many as far as celebrity accounts go, but thousands of her readers shell out $40 for the paid version of her app, which includes customized readings. This summer, she signed a new deal with InStyle to be the magazine’s astrologer for the next year, and she launched an Apple Watch version of her app.

Miller is obsessed with her reach. Millions of readers flock to Astrology Zone every month for their monthly readings. She consults Google Analytics and studies her Twitter following, always looking out for the newest data that will give her a more accurate picture of the kind of people who find her, and how, and why, and what they’re looking for. She knows her largest readership is in New York, particularly in the fashion world, but is investing in new analytics software that will tell her more about her audience in Canada, Brazil and beyond.

Miller began studying astrology as a child, when a strange illness (“there isn’t really a name” for it, she told The Cut in 2013) left her bedridden for months at a time. Her mother, also an astrologer, begrudgingly taught her as teen at home, emphasizing the importance of mathematical precision above all else. Miller says her mother refused to teach Miller astrology for twelve whole years. She worked in stints as an art marketer and photo agent before she turned astrology into her full-time career, launching Astrology Zone in 1995.

Miller remembered one visit right before her mother’s death, at her childhood home in New York City. “She was reading Astrology Zone, printed out,” she said. “She was reading Gemini, which she is. And she said, ‘I want to see what you’re saying to people.’ I asked, ‘How am I doing, little Mom?’ She looked at me with a twinkle in her eye and she said, ‘You can continue.’” And in differentiating herself from this other realm of spiritual guides and crystal talismans, Miller points to exactly that distinction: her years of instruction, following the mathematical dedication upon which her mother insisted.

The math is part astronomy and part celestial forecasting. An astrologer measures the distances between planets and the changing rotations of the celestial spheres — sometimes your constellation (“sign”) is closer to one planet or further away from the Sun. Charting the course of the planets as they move west and east, and plotting the previous placement of the planets at the time of the reader’s birth, and then layering the charts one on top of the other to superimpose knowledge of the zodiac (Libra craves balance, Mars means action, Mercury is always spinning off into retrograde) is the job before the astrologer.

As Susan points out, it’s not straightforward.

Nothing is as offensive to her as when those years of study are washed away when the media, readers and even friends confusing her with a palm reader. Her branding is built on astrology — the name of her website, her social media handles, her products, all of it. She doesn’t call herself a psychic, a medium or a fortune teller. And she’s quick to correct anyone who may lump her in that category. “People stick out their palms to me and I say, ‘We were friends and now you’re giving me a black eye!’” she says. “Then I say ‘I’m not a fortune teller.’”

But the world of crystal balls and velvet curtains and open questions is inviting. In fortune parlors around the world, readers offer a buffet of spiritual enlightenment: tea leaf readings, crystal ball gazes, tarot decks and professed mediums on staff. The clients or seekers share one trait: uncertainty. It’s a question, or a series of questions, that doesn’t always need an explicit answer — as Susan would put it: sometimes you just need arrows pointing toward a path that maybe points toward an answer, or a way forward.

“We all have intuition,” explained Leo, a staff member at the The Bottom of the Cup Tea Room in New Orleans. “I’m sure you have had a gut feeling and found it be accurate. We all have intuitive thinking. But readers have a gift. They’re able to use those for other people. So those who have it, who try it — they find us more than we find them.”

Image: Eden, Janine, and Jim

Joyce Van Horn, an astrologer based in San Francisco, has been practicing her craft for more than 30 years. She got her start in college, reading tarot cards, and she’ll still pull out her deck for certain clients and special occasions. “A good astrologer is saying, ‘Here are the choices available to you in this time frame. Here is what will benefit you,’” she explained. “‘Here’s what’s going to happen if you are not engaged actively in making the choices presented to you.’”

The commonality between both tarot and astrology charts, Van Horn explained, is your zodiac sign — that’s where the placement of the planets and an understanding of Leos, Libras and Gemini is key. And beyond your newspaper horoscope, a good astrologer will also bring her own knowledge of historical figures and events, upcoming dates and more to the table; this, Joyce emphasizes, is critical when mapping good days and bad.

“Astrology is an exact science,” Miller said. “It’s a science as related to how the planets influence us and how they create certain trends and certain energies and certain scenarios in each You’re looking at the overarching worldly events. When they begin, when they end, how people can react to them and the possibilities therein.”

And in addition to the crystal balls that Van Horn and Miller and their kind fight off, there’s a whole strata of difference, they insist, between “good” astrology and the kind “college girls write in newspapers” (according to Miller, “If you find a horoscope that means nothing to you, it’s just some woman looking it up in [a] book”).

Lily Herman, an unashamed fan of Broadly’s Snapchat horoscope series, has had a cursory interest in horoscopes since she first flipped through the glossy pages of Teen Vogue. “If I had a crush on a boy in middle school, I’d read the back page horoscope, and if it said that something was going to happen on the 23rd, I was really excited,” she said with an audible shrug.

She found herself checking her horoscope again this June, when she graduated from college and moved to a new city. “I’d have to look up what Mercury in retrograde means, and I don’t know if I believe they’re real, but sometimes I’m like ‘Oh, is this in the cards for me?’” she says. “In my state of transition, it was really important to me.”

When I asked Miller about these exact same points of indecision, when people turn to the stars because they feel there’s nowhere else to turn, she insisted on sending me an overnight package of goodies: her two books, personal horoscope set and even two 2016 calendars (one full-size, one pocket-size), complete with illustrated glamazons representing each sign. I flipped immediately to Pisces, and my own birthday on the calendar — each day was marked with a small box, crammed with text marking lunar eclipses and “five-star” days and planets conjuncting planets. Mercury went retrograde on August 30. September 25 is the luckiest day of the year.

“If a TV station calls me and asks me to be on the show, I say no if they’re going to mix me,” she says, referring to the numerologists, tarot readers and “spiritual” people agents want to book. “I get enough publicity — I don’t need to get every single one. Some publicity can be damaging if people get the wrong idea.”

Miller has had her share of bad publicity. Following a very public illness in 2014, fraught with late Astrology Zone postings and reader outcry, rumors began to float online: Miller was faking it — the illness, the astrology, everything. They divided into two groups: the Millianiacs, the die-hard supporters; and the Milleristas, the non-believers. Ann Shoket, the teen magazine icon of Seventeen and CosmoGirl fame, edited Miller for CosmoGirl throughout the early 2000s. “Miller allows you into her life — the good, the painful, the complicated — and so people are more willing to allow her into theirs,” she says. “That’s what has made her so enduring.”

Miller still isn’t well; after bouts with an inflamed colon, cataracts and more, she says she’s had to learn how to write around the hospitalizations. “So they were ready to take out my colon — and I said, ‘Can you live without a colon?’” she recalled. “They said millions of people do, it’s just three operations two months apart. I said, ‘Well, can I write? After the operation? Am I with a nurse?’ And he said ‘That’s your question?” and I said ‘That’s the only thing that matters to me.’”

Not that it’s the only thing that matters to her fans — or as Miller insists calling them, her readers. She brings it up again and again: “I never use the word fans, it’s so embarrassing. I just say they’re my readers. You know what it is, I just think they want to use the month the best way possible.”