Life

‘The Hollywood Medium’ On Grief, Critics, And Why Your Dead Relatives Aren’t Pissed At You

Tyler Henry is exceedingly polite. Almost unnervingly so. On his show, Hollywood Medium, the 20-year-old immediately puts even the most skittish celebrity at ease with his calming demeanor and humble attitude. He’s friendly, he’s kind, and he’s an absolute delight to talk with. Perhaps that’s why he’s gathered such a following. Unlike psychics such as Theresa Caputo, with her “closer to god” hair and “I need to talk to you about your dead dad while you’re on the Stairmaster” approach, or John Edward, whose smugness transcends both the physical and spiritual realm, Henry is just a nice guy who claims to have a special gift. A gift which he wants to share with the world to help others gain insight and closure, especially during times of grief.

While Henry, who rose to fame when he started working as a medium at the age of 16, has met with plenty of criticism, when we talk about his show on the telephone he has no unkind words for the people who think he’s a fraud. He knows skeptics think he googles the celebrities he gives readings to (in order to research their past traumas), and he knows there are some out there think he’s a grief vampire. But is the shy 20-year-old who doesn’t even have a driver’s license (making him all the more charming) really a bad guy trying to make millions off the pain of others?

Whether Henry is the real deal or not (he passed on giving me a reading, saying that the energies involved in a reading and an interview are much different), he insists that his life’s mission is to help those around him. Even if he isn’t clairvoyant (and I’m still fairly skeptical), Henry truly does believe in what he’s doing. There’s absolutely no question of that.

We spoke on the telephone last week:

I just read that you were renewed for season two. Congratulations.

Thank you so much.

How does that feel?

Oh my gosh, it’s so surreal. Season one has just been incredible. We got the news that two additional episodes were added to season one, recently, so now being at season two is even more intense. It’s a lot of filming. I’m just so excited.

How is that for you? The filming is new?

I started working professionally as a medium at the age of 16 and only recently really have done stuff on camera. It’s been an adjustment, but one that’s been actually pretty easy.

Have you been adjusting to becoming a celebrity? Do people stop you on the street now?

I don’t consider myself a celebrity. People are so nice, it’s been great getting to meet people. They share their experiences in watching the show and the relatability of it. That was really the goal in doing this show: for people to be able to watch it and get a connection. Relate with some of the stories of loss and feeling and closure.

Before you did this, that was one of your career aspirations, right? You wanted to be a grief counselor for parents who’ve lost children? Am I right? 

At the time that my career as a medium took off, I was actually enrolled in school to become a hospice nurse. I really think I’ve kind of achieved the same thing in being able to provide a sense of comfort to those who fear death or might have experienced the loss of a loved one.

Personally, I am fucking terrified of death.

That’s understandable. [Henry laughs]

I imagine that you have seen this a lot. You had your own near-death experience two years ago, right?

Right, I did.

How has that changed your views on death? What would you say to somebody who is not comfortable with the idea of death? 

Death is never a comfortable subject. I think that we’re hardwired as human beings to inherently try to avoid dying. We look both ways when we cross the street, we eat every day. There’s a reason for that. Even people that claim to not be afraid of dying still look both ways when they cross the street.

In my own near death experience, it was really a very non-spiritual feeling for me to go through. I was sitting there in a bed, and it was awful and my brain was swelling. That whole process is not a pretty one. People, I think, are generally afraid of the pain that comes with going through the physical illness that often leads to death. I always tell people, death itself is nothing to be afraid of. It really is a process, just like anything else. Just like birth is a transition, so is death. I think that a fear of dying, in a sense of the process that goes behind it (of illness and whatnot), is understandable. People really should not be afraid of the actual moment of passing, because that really is where the relief is in a lot of cases.

What about what happens after? According to you, you don’t have to be religious, right? There’s still going to be some kind of afterlife.

Right. For sure. I don’t claim to know all of the answers, but I do know (obviously, in order for me to do my work), that there is some sort of continuation of life. Every individual that I’ve been able to interact with, that has come through at a reading, has acknowledged some degree of learning, that they’ve had a continuation of consciousness, and that they are at peace in some capacity. Everyone’s come through with that message, but what’s been so interesting to me is the fact that we do continue learning and that learning process doesn’t stop when we die.

Speaking of learning then: Coming back from your own near death experience, has that changed you in any way? In college, I took a class in the philosophy of near death experiences and I’ve read that coming back grants you more insight, more clarity. What did you learn from your own experience?

In my case, I never actually technically transitioned over and got back, like in many near-death experiences in which people’s hearts stop. I think in any medical emergency or any serious close call, there definitely is a shift in perspective. For me, this happened when I was 18 years old. Though my priorities were in line and I knew that I wanted to focus my work as a medium, that moment of coming so close to passing really showed me what mattered and really helped aid my process, and understanding not to sweat the small stuff and recognize what really matters and what doesn’t.

I think that in that way, my near death experience was a gift.  It really showed me a deeper appreciation for life, as cliché as that is. Also, it gave me a bit of an interesting perspective in helping people who have loved ones who have passed. Also, I’ve been in situations where the clients themselves have been severely ill. That did give me a bit of a perspective, for sure.

I have to wonder how celebrities factor into it. You’re from Fresno, right? Your mom drove you around. 

Sure, that area, yeah.

Why celebrities? Have you always wanted to have a TV show?

No, I actually never dreamt of being on TV. Like I said, I was three hours north of LA, living in a very small town near Fresno. It was Christian.

Near Fresno.

Yeah, it wasn’t even Fresno. It was near Fresno. It was in the middle of nowhere.

This process actually happened very quickly. When I started working in my small little town as a medium doing readings at the age of 16, word of mouth spread. I started getting calls from LA, and in order to accommodate to those clients, I had to go to LA to do readings. Basically, the show naturally followed what I was already organically doing, which was making that commute and then having celebrity clients. I find that once the readings get going, the celebrity element is really not what the focus is. It’s really just two people connecting on a deeper level and a human being getting a sense of closure and a sense of peace, which is a universal subject that we all can relate to. They just happen to be a celebrity.

What is it like to be a medium? What actually happens to you during the process?

I always say that my sixth sense goes through the other five senses. Basically, I describe it as I’m almost like a blank canvas and whoever’s gonna come through is gonna paint the picture of their life and they’re using me to do that. I might get a scent of a grandmother’s perfume, I might hear someone’s name, I might have a mental image of someone passing or of a sentimental memory, or I might even feel a physical sensation that corresponds with how someone passed. My sixth sense kind of goes through those other faculties as a means to communicate information. That would be kind of the gist in all readings, it’s usually a bit of a mix, but I’m primarily clairvoyant.

This is not a request for a reading, but can you do it on the telephone? If somebody were coming through for me right now and you were focusing, you’d be able to do that without me being present?

It is possible, yeah. Usually when I do phone readings, I have the individual either mail me an object to hold onto–you’ll see that often times on the show, I hold on to an object and that really helps solidify a connection.

It’s not really limited to time or space.

Is it a different kind of mind space for you? I’m sure you’ve seen the Long Island medium. I’m sure you’ve met the Long Island medium at this point. Does the Long Island medium email you or tweet at you and to like, “What’s up, Tyler? Let’s hang.”

She and I have never interacted ever.

What?!

Maybe someday that may change.

I just imagine Theresa being like, “I gotta email that kid right now and talk to him.”

Yeah, we work a little differently.

One of her big things is stopping people on the street and being like, “I know you’re on the Stairmaster at the gym and probably don’t want to hear about your dead grandfather.” Do you ever get that? Do you ever get a sense, or do you always need the object or the person present? Do you ever stop somebody on the street and say, “I have something I need to tell you.”

To be honest, I do pick up on information about my surroundings when I’m in public. On the first episode of the show, you saw me read Bella Thorne, which was at a party. It was a party setting where everyone there knew there was a very strong possibility of being read in the event that I happened to get a feeling.

I personally feel the way that I work is such an intimate, private, and very personal process. I believe it’s something that requires the right time or space. I feel that it’s something so personal that it’s sometimes inappropriate to just walk up to somebody who may not be even wanting a reading, or approach them unsolicited in a way that would be out of nowhere. I don’t view that as the right way to necessarily use an ability, but that is just my opinion and the way that I work. Others may feel differently. My process, I view almost like therapy. Would you walk up to somebody on the street and give them therapy?

No.

That’s such a personal thing.

Here’s something I’ve always wondered: What if there’s no one close that’s passed on? What if there is no one? The people who have died close to me are my grandfather and a kid I knew in middle school. I don’t think they’d be banging around with a message for me.

Sure. Sometimes there are cases where I’ll sit down with a person and no one will come through for them specifically as much as people will come through with messages for other people. There are some examples on the show where it’s actually happened, but I’m not sure what they’ll show and what they won’t. There are some cases where I’ll sit down with the person and no one will necessarily come through with a specific message for them, but maybe their grandmother (who they never met) will come through with a message for their mom who is still alive.

They’ll find a way to deliver a message when appropriate. There are cases when sometimes they don’t really have anything huge to say to a particular person. That doesn’t mean they don’t love us or that they’re not around us. There just doesn’t always necessarily need to be a particular message directed at one person.

Have you ever had a session where you’re sitting down with the client and then no one comes through?

I can say, so far, pretty much in every reading somebody has come through. Some with less of a connection to the person, but somebody comes through in every case. In an event that I can’t really connect super closely to an individual, I usually focus on their personal life and try to get insight into that because that’s also a very helpful application. If someone hasn’t lost anyone close to them, usually I just recommend they focus on their personal life, which can be equally helpful.

Do you feel like people are always around you coming through. Like it’s a The Sixth Sense type of thing, or are you able to kind of stop that?

I would describe it as as series of impressions. It’s less of an on and off switch, and more like a volume dial, almost like the volume on a radio. I have the background music going on 24/7. Everywhere I go, I’m picking up little impressions on the back burner about everyone I’m interacting with, or where I’m at, if I’m in a new space.

About an hour before I do a reading, I consciously try to take the information that’s kind of on the back burner and turn that volume up and bring it to the forefront of my mind, where I am then able to make more sense of it, piece it together and then deliver it in a way that makes sense. I feel like if I were on completely and always receiving really pressing messages all the time, it would be very overwhelming and it would be hard to have much of a life — so there are boundaries that are necessary that come with that.

What about dating? I read somewhere that you said, “I can tell when there’s not gonna be a second date right from the beginning.”

For sure, it does help in friendships and social interactions, in general. It’s sometimes really helpful. I obviously don’t claim to know everything. When I meet people, I only see the impressions that I’m given. It does help, often times, to have a little bit of a heads up or a gut feeling, which I think that we all have the capability of having. We all have an intuition.

I’ve read criticisms of your work and one of them is that we never seen a negative message come across. Why is it that nobody ever comes through and just says, ‘It’s mom, and fuck you.’ Does it happen? How do you deal with that?

You know, I find that death really puts things in perspective, and when people cross over to the other side there are cases in which they may not choose to come through to a particular person. That can be telling.

Generally, I find that when I go into a reading, I set the intention really to only communicate with individuals who are going to be able to provide insight for me that’s going to be clear, with information that’s going to be able to be validated specifically, and messages that are going to be helpful or useful to my client. From the get-go, I set that intention. If I get the feeling of anything other than that, I just simply don’t communicate it.

On a second note, there is growth after death. People always ask me, “Why don’t I see anything negative? Why don’t they come through with talking about the fight or the argument or if someone stole money?” When we die, that really changes what we prioritize and what we value. We realize that situations and circumstances are not as big of a deal as we make them while we are living. Death really lets that go in a big way. That would really be the reason. When you’re dead, why would you come through and still hold resentment and anger? What’s the point?

“Why would I care if the dude stole $5,000 from me?”

Just to add really quick, there are cases where individuals will come through, like people who’ve been murdered, for example, who do acknowledge that there is a frustration towards the person who did this to them, but there’s generally also an understanding of their soul and their soul’s lessons and things along those lines.

There’s a fine line.

If you think something too negative, you might consider, “Maybe I just won’t tell the person what’s coming through because this is not going to be helpful?” It does feel like what you’re saying is a little bit like you are the therapist for both parties. Like it’s couples therapy.

Sure. I feel like when I go into a reading I’m not in charge of what comes through, but I am in charge of how I communicate what’s coming through. I think it can be very harmful delivering a message that is negative and has no positive silver lining. It would be pointless and would only be harmful to deliver. I only deliver anything negative if it can be resolved in a positive way, or have some sense of resolution, or else what’s the point?

I don’t know how often you read media about yourself, but people have called you a grief vampire. How would you respond to something like that?

I think in any situation with where people are in the public eye, criticism is inevitable. The people who have criticized me have never met me, have never had a reading, and are only making an assessment based on their view of psychics and mediums in general. That in itself is not fair.

To skeptics, I would say this about the show: I’m never told my reading in advance. Even more importantly, if you look at the information that comes through, these celebrities themselves acknowledge that the details that come up in readings are pieces of information that they’ve never discussed publicly, cannot be researched and are not on Google. Unless a cynic can explain that one for me, I’m not sure what to say.

It’s very clear that the which information comes through that is very specific. There’s no way that you can read body language and tell someone such specific things. That’s what I would say. Everyone has their own beliefs, of course. I just encourage people to actually get a reading so they can have an experience firsthand, and that will really be very telling.

How does the criticism affect you? One of the articles that I’ve read basically said, “Everybody can Google that Jaime Pressly was friends with Brittany Murphy, and yet this guy is talking like he’s never Googled that.”

Right.

How do you process that? How does that make you feel?

Throughout the show, production goes through great length to ensure there’s no way I ever know who I’m reading, to the point where they only communicate who the celebrity is on their end using initials. They don’t even use the names of the celebrities when talking amongst themselves. They go by initials exclusively.

Obviously hearing that [criticism] is hurtful. It’s a negative thing. This really is something that’s about providing healing and closure. The amount of people that have come up to me and told me, “The reading that you gave me allowed me to move on with my life.” The amount of mothers who have come to me and told me, “You gave me closure with my son who committed suicide. Now I can continue living”– any cynic who’s going to try to ruin that for someone who’s going through such a horrible experience, I think is being exploitative on their end. There’s an irony to that in that they claim psychics are exploitative, yet I feel that they are exploitative themselves.

What has been your most profound moment as a medium?

Each reading has had its own inherent uniqueness to it, so that’s tough. Let me think on that one real quick. Every one of them was so overwhelming.

For me, personally, I really felt like the connection I made with Candis Cayne was one of the most overwhelming. Before I even knew who I was reading, I had a grandmother figure come through and she said, “Tell her that I’m proud of my granddaughter,” and she emphasized granddaughter. She didn’t necessarily emphasize the proud part, she emphasized granddaughter. I was like, “That’s kind of confusing, usually they emphasize the proud part.” When Candis Cayne opened the door–and she is obviously transgender–that was a validation I think that Candis was needing. To know that her grandmother loved her and acknowledged her identity. That she didn’t have a grandson, she had a granddaughter.

That was something I think Candis really benefited from. She actually acknowledged that her grandmother knew that she was transitioning before she passed. Candis’ grandmother called the rest of the family and said, “If you have a problem with our granddaughter being my granddaughter, then you can take it up with me.” I felt like that was really inspiring and powerful, to show that generationally someone who was from a much older generation was able to be so accepting, and continues to be so accepting on the other side.

That’s really beautiful. At first, I thought you said Candace Cameron and I was like, “Grandma hates Kirk, too!” but then as you were talking…

Candace Cameron, can you imagine? That would be an interesting one. Quite literally.

Oh my god, can you get Candace Cameron? Oh my god.

I would die. That would be hilarious.

You’re openly gay. Do you see yourself as a positive LGBT role model? Is that something that you set out to be?

I’m a human being and I never necessarily tried to set out to be a role model so to speak, but I do definitely hope that people do get a good influence based on what I do. I hope that people benefit from my message and also benefit from the fact that I’m doing this so publicly. I think that it takes a lot to stay true to who you are. This is who I am as a medium, and I happen to be gay in a very public way. Hopefully people seeing that will also be inspired to share their story and to be open, and to not be afraid to have that openness and to be themselves.

What would you hope someone would take away from your show? What’s your message? 

I just hope throughout this process, people watching are able to really find a sense of relate-ability with the clients that I read. Even if you’re not getting a reading yourself, I think we can all watch these sessions and watch the healing take place. The loss of a loved one is universal. My goal in doing these readings is to help show that, convey that, and allow people to know that their loved ones are at peace and that they’re really with us every step of the way.

Hopefully that’s what people get out of it.

One more quick question. Can you drive now?

No, I don’t drive yet. I prefer to be chauffeured around in LA now. [Henry laughs]

By your mom still?

You know, my assistant sometimes does it for me now. They alternate.

Mark Shrayber is senior writer at Uproxx Life. You can contact him directly on Twitter

×