Why Hollywood Medium's Tyler Henry Says Connecting with Michael Jackson Was 'Really Humbling'
"Growing up, I really kind of got lost in my imagination — for the better," Henry tells PEOPLE of how he came to understand his abilities
As the 22-year-old star of E!’s Hollywood Medium, Tyler Henry has done over 1,000 readings — many with A-list celebrities — but one in particular stands out.
“This season, I did a reading with La Toya Jackson, and that was a shock because Michael came through — and that was the big question,” Henry tells PEOPLE. “That was probably one of the most surreal experiences I’ve had in a long time. Because when Michael connected, he basically just came through, just like anybody else.”
“There was nothing flamboyant or overtly ‘celebrity’ about his energy,” he continues. “He just came through as a brother looking to connect with his sister. It was really sweet and really humbling, and it really gave me a different perspective on the idea of celebrities.”
As he gears up for the season 3 premiere of Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry on Wednesday, Henry is opening up about everything from his upbringing and his first clairvoyant experience to how his abilities have changed in recent years.
“When I was 10 years old, I had a premonition of my grandmother’s passing,” says Henry, an only child, who grew up in the small town of Hanford, California. “I woke up with this total knowingness that my grandmother was going to pass away. At the time, we were really, really close.”
“She hadn’t been in great health, but we didn’t know that she was going to pass away,” he continues. “I woke up one night and basically just felt like I had this knowingness — like a memory. It was almost like I could recollect my grandmother passing away, but she was still alive at the time.”
Confused, Henry made his way into the next room to tell his mother about his experience.
“As I was explaining it to her, her phone rang,” he recalls. “When she picked up the phone, it was the news that her mother had just passed. So that was the moment where everything changed.”
“I think we all have the ability to tap into this inherent connection that really connects us all,” he adds. “I think for me, growing up as an only child, I didn’t have a lot of people around me or a lot of foreign influences, so growing up, I really kind of got lost in my imagination — for the better. I think I just grew up with this receptivity that a lot of people might shut down at an early age because of the influences around them. I didn’t really have that, so it just allowed me to trust what I see, hear and feel a lot more. It allowed me to have more confidence in going with my gut.”
That initial premonition, Henry says, basically acted as “catalyst” into a series of experiences that followed, in which he came to understand that he was a medium. Soon enough, he says he found himself experiencing instances of “knowingness” at school, with teachers and fellow students, in his day-to-day life.
“Before I knew it, I would share this information and people would validate it as being correct,” he says. “And when that started happening, I realized that there was something to this and I started doing readings professionally when I was 16 years old.”
From there, things took off. Though Henry graduated early from high school, at age 16, with the intention of becoming a hospice nurse (“My ability is actually what got me interested in hospice nursing — I was focused on trying to help people in that transitional point in their life,” he explains), his career as a medium took center stage as he found himself doing six to eight readings a day on the side.
“It really just started through word of mouth,” he says. “I really found that was a very powerful tool. I believe if someone is authentic, they shouldn’t have to advertise. If you can really talk to the dead, people are going to hear about it.”
“So they did, and word of mouth spread so fast that within a year I was so inundated with readings I basically had to choose between hospice nursing and being a medium,” he says. “Ultimately, being a medium won. Before I knew it, I was going to Los Angeles and doing readings. Sarah Paulson was my first celebrity client. That happened completely out of nowhere, so that was pretty surreal.”
So which celebrity does Henry have his eye on next?
“You know, it’s a bit of a funny answer, but I would love to read Tonya Harding,” he says. “I feel like one of the beauties of the show is we get to obtain an insight into these celebrities’ lives through some of the vulnerability and the healing that happens, and I think she could really use some help. She went through a lot of abuse with her mother, and she came out stronger. I just really admire her in a lot of ways, but I also feel like she could benefit from a reading.”
Henry identifies as a clairvoyant, which means his primary way of receiving information is through vision: images and pictures.
“As far as actual imagery goes, that typically is done in the mind’s eye,” he says. “So it’s not like The Sixth Sense, I don’t see dead people walking around. But I just get these little flashes or impressions that come through very quickly, in my mind’s eye. Kind of like when you’re daydreaming —it’s like entering a half-awake, half-asleep state.”
And Henry says his abilities are “definitely evolving” as he gets older. Surprisingly, he says they’ve gotten weaker.
“I’m actually glad my ability isn’t as strong as it was when I was little, because I had quite a few frightening experiences that were kind of overwhelming,” he says. “So I’m thankful that it’s evolved into being something that can turn off and turn on a little bit more easily. It’s something that I’m able to kind of find the time and the place for, and that’s been a big relief. Because this is one of those jobs that doesn’t end when you come home, and it does have the capability to completely take over your life if you don’t have healthy boundaries.” (Now, he limits himself to up to three readings a day, versus eight.)
As for how he deals with the skeptics?
“I totally understand skepticism, and I think it’s so important for me to show validation of my readings,” he says. “That’s a big reason behind all of this — I really feel like there are a lot of misconceptions behind mediums and what we do. I hope to kind of revolutionize and kind of rewrite a lot of what people think of when they think of mediums.”
“I can work with skeptics — cynics are a little bit harder because they already have their mind made up,” he continues. “There’s nothing that I’m going to say that’s going to change that. And I also understand that I can’t help everybody. I just try to help the people I can.”
Season 3 of Hollywood Medium with Tyler Henry premieres Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET on E!