(Photo: Alex Mizell)

Surrounded by black skulls, dimly flickering candles and a blood-red velvet tablecloth, Lexi Ferguson does her astrological readings on an iPad. “If you’re not using technology, you have to draw a chart by hand,” she explains. “You have to calculate, and it’s charts and graphs and knowledge and a ton of time. It’s completely impractical.” 

Lexi is the daily astrology columnist at Vice. During one of her regular appearances at the Vice Night Market, before it ended its season in December, she was offering free, 20-minute tarot and birth-chart readings to anyone fast enough to put their name down on a crowded list. At least 40 people had done so, a good number of which would have to wait two weeks to try their luck again and sign up faster. 

Lexi joined the Vice team last April when the magazine launched an astrology app that reached 100,000 downloads within just four months. Her work appears on the app daily, which means many sleepless nights. “I prefer working at night because nobody is bothering me,” she says. “My ideal is sleeping from 6 am to 2 pm.”

Coming up with content for the app isn’t as easy as one might think. “A lot of people just do it in their brain, but I try to make my brain do less,” Lexi explains. Every day, she looks at the chart from the perspective of each sign, locates and analyzes the data points that the chart provides, and tries to come up with an empowering narrative that represents them. The storytelling experience she creates, though, doesn’t depend on how she’s feeling that day or what she’s dealing with at the moment. Rather, it’s the combination between the data on the chart and the inspiration that comes from her intuitive experience. When I ask her to explain this further, she laughs. “Basically what you’re asking is, how does magic work?” 

With so many astrology apps and on-app astrology jobs available in the market, is it actually possible to make a living from them? Absolutely, Lexi says. Some practitioners juggle multiple aspects of astrology, from app content creation to private readings to social media. “There are definitely people, who I know personally, that built up a huge following,” she says of social media. “They support themselves entirely through a combination of horoscopes, private readings, and online readings.”

A few tendrils of hair straying from her loose bun dust Lexi’s earrings as she reads a client’s birth chart. Her outfit matches the vibe of her table – a purple t-shirt, black pants with leather side-bands and leather boots. But, unlike her clothes, her face looks radiant, and her big brown eyes light up every time she welcomes a new client with a comforting smile. “I basically feel emotionally intimate with anyone that I meet,” she says. She believes that energy can be associated with empathy. 

“There’s a trend away from organized religion, but people still have a yearning for some sort of spiritual connection,” Lexi calmly explains.. “But then on top of that, I think people are really freaked — I think people feel really powerless.” Lexi’s mind is traveling places, diving deep into socio-economic issues, and analyzing the collective emotions of society. She thinks people’s sense of insecurity is heightened right now. But then, she swims back to surface: “But still, most of the questions I get are pretty mundane — you know, love or money.”

She resists the idea that we’re “so, so simple,” though. And apparently, so do the adventurers and experienced connoisseurs that sign up for her readings. Nicole Dilorio, a newbie to tarot and birth chart readings, believes people are confused, and need guidance. She, on the other hand, is not that confused. “I’m just curious!” 

(Photo: Thomas Egan)

Sharon Gallardo, a tarot habitué who likes to get her cards read twice a year, takes Dilorio up on curiosity. “You want to know things that you might not know at the moment,” she explains. 

Alicia Sekhri is more pragmatic. “People need to believe in something,” she shrugs, as she admits that’s really why she is getting a reading tonight. Lexi was right — we’re not that simple.

When she isn’t practicing as a professional occultist, Lexi does a million other things. Late at night, which is the middle of the day for her, you can catch Illexxandra (her DJ name) spinning electronic music (house, drum and bass, etc.) in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Houston, D.C., or at one of her many other bookings. She travels “a lot. Like, a lot.” 

Brooklyn isn’t the wild, raw, artsy place that it was 17 years ago when Lexi first moved there, and she isn’t the same person, either. Fresh out of Northwestern University with degrees in literature and music, Lexi enrolled at the Manhattan School of Music to study vocal performance. But she found that being an opera singer isn’t worth it when you love the music but hate the “corrupt, backstabby and parasitic” business. 

Every morning — er, afternoon — Lexi rolls out of bed and into her studio, which happens to also be her bedroom. “It’s fancy for a bedroom studio,” she laughs. She produces all of her music in-house. Mainly, she does drum & bass and really likes Detroit electro, though she isn’t really opposed to any electro or house sub-gender. And people like her music. Her debut EP of solo originals Out The Shadows — which dropped by label Producer Dojo in August 2019 — quickly reached #2 on Beatport’s Electronica chart. She started DJing professionally in 2006, when her job and passion for the occult was already strong and affirmed. 

Between a gig and a column, you can find Lexi giving private readings to her clients, for whom she really does “deep dives.” If you don’t get to the bottom of what’s motivating your question, then it becomes more complicated to answer it, she says, and you’re not really going to learn anything.  She doesn’t allow clients to shuffle the deck — that’s off-limits. Shuffling is how Lexi imbues the cards with her energy and the energy of the question. It’s also how she doesn’t get distracted and “worried about them fucking up my cards.” She doesn’t do what some readers call “challenging readings” or “dark readings.” Predicting the future isn’t her thing, either. “Any information can be used in an empowering way,” she points out. “I’m on the person side by default.” Lexi wants people to succeed, and uses the information she uncovers as a helpful tool rather than a “foreboding hurdle.”

Lexi doesn’t want to stop doing tarot and astrology professionally, but what she does want is to finally become a touring DJ and producer. At the same time, she wants to learn more and become black-belt at astrology, rather than just stay at the same level indefinitely. When I ask her if she has a dream, she doesn’t hesitate to answer.

“Yeah, I wanna keep being a badass.”