Nov / Dec 09:
Columns & Extras
- Overcoming Self-Esteem Issues
- The Junior League of Phoenix
- Blind Hikers Scale Mount Kilimanjaro
- The Facts about H1N1
- Workplace Workout
- Afternoon Tea in the Valley
- Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber Therapy
The Real 'Medium'
By Morgan Benavidez / Photography by RJ Cook Photography / Makeup by Julia Venegas
Allison DuBois is not a morning person. Petite and fresh faced, she stands placidly in the photographer's studio with her fiery red hair pulled back and an oversized bag on her shoulder, looking a little sleepy. After a quick hair and makeup session, she emerges in a striking white suit. She's sipping contentedly on a large fountain soda, waiting for directions from the photography crew. With just a hint of mischief in her large brown eyes, her presence seems almost childlike--nothing about her screams "psychic."
But there is something remarkable about the sassy, talkative young woman, who is the inspiration behind the hit TV show "Medium." She claims that since she was 6 years old, she has been able to see the deceased. While she admits that this can be challenging at times, she has certainly made the most of her gift by assisting in criminal investigations, doing readings and writing books, not to mention working as a consultant for "Medium" and developing her new show, "Soul Evidence."
Adolescence is hard enough for the average teenager--imagine dealing with all that angst while grappling with your own psychic abilities. DuBois says that even though it was hard growing up with her gift, she did have a solid group of friends. "My friends accepted me for who I was. I didn't really hang out with the jocks and that crowd so much."
One fateful evening when she was 17, DuBois and her close friend Barbara were getting ready to go out when DuBois suddenly began moving her bed across the room. "[Barbara] asked me what I was doing and I said, 'I heard a voice tell me to move my bed,''' says DuBois. "She was like, 'You're so weird.'"
That night, DuBois and her friend were awakened at 2 a.m. by a huge crash. A truck had demolished the wall where the bed had been just hours ago. "We would've literally been under the truck," says DuBois. "Needless to say, [Barbara] always listened to my advice after that."
Rather than feeling frightened by mysterious voices and apparitions, DuBois has always been drawn to places that carry a great deal of spiritual energy. Having grown up in Phoenix, she knows some of the better hot spots in Arizona. "Tombstone, Ariz. has so much spiritual activity," says DuBois. "I dig staying there because at night I can see the cowboys walking down the street that were there in the 1800s.
"Any small town that has a saloon that's been there for at least a century, is going to carry some heavy, heavy activity," she adds. "But to me, that's like going to Disneyland--I dig that!"
A Family Affair
DuBois and her husband, Joe, have three young daughters. While some people might think of forensics and psychic mediating as heavy territory for children, DuBois worries more about sheltering them from insincere people who try and reap the benefits of knowing a celebrity.
"Some people would become friends with them just to get in our house and be around us," she explains, recalling an instance where her daughter shared special concert tickets and the opportunity to meet the Jonas Brothers with a friend from school. "As soon as the friend met the Jonas Brothers and was home, she had no need for my daughter anymore. It's really hard to watch them be disappointed that way."
Despite having to be careful of whom they befriend, her daughters are quite well adjusted. "They're pretty well versed in forensic science," DuBois laughs.
Most wives have heightened intuition as it is, but for DuBois' husband, even his private thoughts are fair game. "Tomorrow's our 16th wedding anniversary," says DuBois. "I always know what he's going to get me, so that's kind of hard for him. But I think he's gotten used to it now. At first he'd be a little disappointed, but I'll say, 'I was surprised when it popped into my head what you got me!'"
DuBois and her husband are so in sync, he forgets at times that he needs to communicate verbally. "Sometimes he thinks I'm just going to read his mind and he doesn't articulate so well, and I'll be like, 'What are you talking about?' and he has to elaborate," says DuBois.
The kids, who also have their mother's gift, can read their dad like a book as well. "Our daughters have totally been tag-teaming him," says DuBois. "It's been a learning experience for him to have all these little girls who know what Daddy got them for Christmas, but he just adores them. He's the best daddy. I just couldn't have asked for a better husband."
Yet even for psychics, there are still surprises in life. DuBois cites her pregnancies as an example. "When you're too close to the project, you can't really know what's going on," she says. "I had no idea what I was carrying, but I could look at baby names and know which ones were the perfect names for their personalities."
It's clear that DuBois cherishes her family, and that they've all adapted well to their respective abilities. "They're just amazing little girls. Our third one was kind of a surprise, so for being psychic I wasn't very good," she laughs.
Lights, Camera, Action!
Having your life translated to the TV screen for millions of viewers might not be an ideal scenario for everyone, but DuBois manages to take it all in stride. "Sometimes they take license with me--my character--and I'll call and say 'What the hell was that?'" she says. "But I try and keep an open mind. It's helped to bring out a lot of people that have their own abilities or have lost somebody, and it gives them comfort, so that means a lot to me."
DuBois says that the main difference between her life and "Medium" lies in the way her TV persona gets her visions. Rather than dreaming about the dead the way Allison does in the show, she says that she usually gets it while she's awake. While DuBois says that her brother and her husband's family have been portrayed accurately, she feels that writers dropped the ball with her mother's character. "The way they portrayed her was completely not my mom at all," says DuBois. "That was a little hurtful, but other than that I think they've been pretty good about being sensitive to my family."
In her upcoming reality show, "Soul Evidence," DuBois will lead a team of detectives and psychic profilers in cracking cold cases. "On the first case, we exonerated six suspects on a 33-year-old rape/murder case," says DuBois. "The police are able to start looking at other names now, because we eliminated all their main suspects. We heated that case back up, which is the intent of the show."
While DuBois feels that her abilities are indeed a gift, there are aspects of her job that will forever trouble her, such as mediums who don't show sensitivity to their clients' emotions. "We're there to give facts and messages, not show blunt trauma to the head," she explains.
"I do see people in my field sometimes who forget that we're supposed to heal and help, not injure. That's a little frustrating for me."
Naturally, tapping into the minds of the most hardened criminals and bridging the gap between the dead and the living can be trying. Having friends in law enforcement, DuBois understands that the legal system is often riddled with heartache as well. "Sometimes the [suspects] get off on a technicality and my friends have to sleep knowing that this person's out there and this baby is not alive anymore," she says. "They carry so much pain and baggage with them and they definitely are underappreciated by the public."
DuBois admits that because of her abilities, she must sometimes contend with her own psychological trauma. For instance, while filming the first season of "Soul Evidence," she and her team discovered human remains with the help of cadaver dogs, but have been unable to exhume them and give the family answers because it is an official crime scene. "l deal with death everyday, all the time," she explains. "I have to be sure to check myself and reside more with the living than the dead, because I'm still here."
When she has to deliver bad news to someone, DuBois says that sensitivity is the key. "I try to use 'kid gloves' and be sensitive," she says. "My main objective is to help that person be in a better place than they were when they walked in."
Sometimes there's no way to sugar coat the truth. DuBois says this is especially tough when she's trying to help a friend. "It's hard to tell somebody for the first time that thinks the person could still be alive that I don't get them still being here because I can bring them through--that tells me they've crossed," says DuBois. "That can be difficult when it's someone I care about."
Dealing with Criticism
When you're famous for communing with the dead, reading minds and seeing the future, controversy is bound to arise. DuBois has dealt with her fair share of criticism, but she seems unfazed. "I don't mind skeptics that are science minded, because there will be things they do that I don't agree with," she says. "But when you're talking about someone who does it professionally, like they're deployed to an event we have just to rant and rave--I think those people need medication. I don't give them the same credibility as other human beings.
"I guess you can't take it too personally," she adds. "The way I look at it, you can be ridiculed for anything in life. I won't apologize for what I do."
DuBois points out that more people have psychic abilities than do not. We've all had moments of clarity where we know who will be on the phone before picking it up, or had a sinking feeling about a loved one minutes before hearing bad news. "It's the most human, natural thing in the world," says DuBois. "Science used to be very spiritual. Scientists believed energy remained after people died. It's only been in the last hundred years or so that it's gotten so out of whack."
According to DuBois, this is especially true of the U.S. "I've toured Tokyo and other countries, and the U.S. has more hang-ups with life after death than most places do," she says. "It was kind of hard to come home knowing our country's the most difficult. But if I can take on the most difficult, I'm doing alright."
Playing Charades with the Other Side
"It seems like everyone expects us to be 100 percent right, but I like that on 'Medium,' Allison can misread," says DuBois. "We're playing charades with the other side."
So what is it like seeing dead people? "They're not weird and creepy when they come through," says DuBois. "They're sarcastic and funny, sometimes foxy or proud of how they look."
She also explains that when spirits visit her from the other side, their most inherent characteristics come through. "Whatever they were inside is how they manifest to me," says DuBois. "So if they were proud of being a blonde, they're always going to come through blonde even if they were 85. They'll revert to a younger age, because being a blonde helped to define who they were and it made them feel special."
Lately, DuBois has been touring the country doing mass readings. "To take a room of a couple hundred people and leave them in a really great place feels pretty gratifying--it's exhausting, but gratifying," she says.
With such a widely publicized career, DuBois has amassed a large group of followers--some of whom go as far as emulating her appearance. For several years, she had two bleached blonde, face-framing locks amid her naturally red mane. She says that her intention was to fend off people who can't accept the unusual. While she has gone back to one color, the trend remains among her fans.
"I still have 65-year-old women at my book signings who have my hairstyle," says DuBois. "It's very flattering, but I want people to feel connected by their own abilities and experiences. Plus it's a real pain to bleach that streak and I had so many people ask me, 'Oh my God, did you have a near death experience?'"
Intuition is Key
First and foremost, DuBois stresses belief in oneself. "Even people without abilities should believe in themselves no matter what anyone says," she says. "Follow your intuition, because in the end, only you won't let yourself down--you have to believe in yourself more than anyone else."
While she firmly believes that people should trust their own intuition, DuBois acknowledges that even when you're psychic, things don't always turn out the way you might expect. For instance, she recalls the irony of her first encounter with her husband. "Everyone asks if it was love at first sight, but Joe was irritating when I first met him," she admits. "It all worked out. Within a year of saying 'I won't go out with you,' we were married."
For DuBois, just as the future is not something to be feared, neither is death. "When we die, that's not the end of the story," she says. "A lot of people come through and say that they're more alive now than they've ever been. I guess that means in our physical sense, we're less alive than they are." She stresses that people must look at the world in a way that makes sense to them, rather than believing in whatever they're told or dismissing the extraordinary.
Walking the fine line between life and death seems to have given DuBois a greater perspective and appreciation for life, along with a sense of fulfillment about her own existence. "I feel very fortunate to do what I do," she says. "I just wish everyone could see ..."
Morgan Benavidez is the Managing Editor of Phoenix Woman magazine.