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Suzi Horton – A Legend in Her Own Time

Imagine this. It’s 1993 and the artist known as Prince is in Toronto. You’re seeing him live in concert, having the time of your life dancing and singing to songs like “Purple Rain.” The next thing you know, this icon calls you and more lust-crazed, energized girls, onstage to join him in a once-in-a-lifetime dance.

And just when you thought the night couldn’t get any better, a new career is just around the corner. Prince is so impressed with your amazing moves and energy, he invites you to continue touring with him. What a wild head rush!

While for some of us this would likely be a daydream come true, for Toronto muse Suzi Horton, it was just another lucky draw from her wild deck of cards.

An entertainer, model, businesswoman and most importantly an inspiration, Susan Horton-Ifill did it all. A beautiful and aspiring soul, Horton’s radiance shines bright and leaves behind a dazzling legacy.

Jim Searle and Suzi Horton, 1993, Fashion Cares 25 Year Retrospective Book
(Photo courtesy of Sybil Gibbs-Songui)

Early Life and Career

Born at Doctor’s Hospital and raised in Toronto, Horton attended Mother Cabrini Catholic School (elementary) in Toronto, followed by Michael Power St. Joseph High School in Etobicoke. Her love and appreciation for fashion, music and entertainment was evident from a very young age. It all started with her school uniform, which she always customized to her liking. “She had a keen eye for fashion,” says her mother, Sybil Gibbs-Songui, with a warm smile. She liked bringing out the ‘person’ in personality.

Horton’s career blossomed from passion. Apart from her talents, she was a natural entertainer. “When the song ‘Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head’ played on the radio, rain or shine, she would put on her sun dress and rain boots, go outside with her opened umbrella and sing and dance,” says Gibbs-Songui as she recounts the nostalgic moment during an emotional conversation.

She loved fashion. Horton was about five years old when she was the flower girl at her aunt’s wedding in Trinidad and set her eyes on what would become one of her most meaningful objects of affection. Years after falling in love with her aunt’s wedding dress, hoping she would wear it one day, she found her own love, her husband Dean. Horton wore her aunt’s beautiful hand-crocheted dress to her own wedding and at her funeral in 2013. She was 47.

In order to wear a Hoax Couture black and white striped gown measuring approximately twelve feet, she was balanced on her cousin, Dwayne Howard’s shoulders.

Suzie Horton photo courtesy of Dean Ifill

Her career was nothing short of extraordinary with many accomplishments. When you thought she’d done it all, she’d surprise you with something else. She was a dancer, actor, model, singer, artist, stuntwoman, producer, choreographer, entertainer, philanthropist and muse; an entrepreneurial wonder.

Nothing could stop her, not even a serious car accident in 1987, which left her in intensive care. In fact, she emerged stronger than ever. Horton continued to dance while supporting local artists and starting her own, multi-faceted creative company, sheVISIONS.

In addition to her time with Prince, she also toured as a dancer with other well-known musical artists, like the Beastie Boys and appeared in several video productions in Toronto and L.A. In the latter part of her life, she continued to act and produce while working in special events, such as the Interior Design Show and World Mastercard Fashion Week Toronto.

The clients, artists, brands, and organizations Horton worked with numerous. A truly talented human being, she was naturally eager and always willing to work on any creative project.

Suzi's Wedding Cebration with Sybil Gibbs-Songui, her mother (2010)

Breaking Barriers

“She was a dynamo,” explains Elaine Tennyson, a businesswoman, entrepreneur, close friend and mentor. “She modelled in fashion shows, was a performer, a dancer at concerts, in videos, and films – she did all of that,” Tennyson reminisces. “But most importantly, she was beautiful inside and out.”

One of Horton’s most dramatic and high profile appearances occurred in 1993, at the M.A.C Viva Glam Fashion Cares gala fashion show held at BCE place. In order to wear a Hoax Couture black and white striped gown measuring approximately twelve feet, she  balanced on the shoulders of a male acrobat, skillfully managing to stay elevated while he carefully held her legs and walked across the stage, to massive applause. It became an iconic moment in the show’s history. In 2006, for the 20th Anniversary held at the Metro Convention Centre, she reprised the performance with her cousin Dwayne Howard.

In her work across various creative endeavors, Horton carried herself with poise and grace. In an industry largely based on who you are and who you know, racism can hinder an aspiring star’s career. Horton however, did not let ignorance impact who she was, or how she treated others.

Tennyson, who often attended functions and events with Horton, stressed the importance of attitude. “She could sit in a room and be the only Black person and it wouldn’t matter,” she says. “She kept her head held high, and opened her arms and her heart to everyone.” Horton’s magnetism and character often transcended issues of race and ignorance. Her talent and charisma were just some of the attributes that won people over. “That’s how Suzi was, people were drawn to her, people looked beyond race with Suzi,” Tennyson explains.

Susan Horton Head Shot (Photo courtesy of Sybil Gibbs-Songui)

 She was a dancer, actor, model, singer, artist, stuntwoman, producer, choreographer, entertainer, philanthropist and muse, an entrepreneurial wonder.

Influence and Legacy

During her life, Horton was an incredible and multifaceted performer. A true inspiration to everyone she collaborated with, many people remember her as an individual with an abundance of creative talent and energy who put everything into her work.

In 2008, in her home country of Trinidad and Tobago, Horton and her husband, Dean Ifill, started LuvSupreme, a charity established to educate children on loving and saving the environment via the arts.

Horton was a true performer and artist who embodied the entrepreneurial spirit. She was able to be a part of so many creative projects throughout her life and she treated everyone she met with kindness. “Suzi was dynamic,” says Tennyson. “She was in a league of her own.”

And we know that wherever Susan’s spirit might be right now, she’s doing what she loves.

About the authors:

Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

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Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

Read More

About the author:

Over the years Prof. Gooden has built a multi-media career as an editor, writer, presenter, public relations consultant and special event manager, spokesperson, host, and educator. She...

Read More

Archive of images at BFC:

The dazzling legacy of a multi-talented Toronto muse who aspired and inspired.

The dazzling legacy of a multi-talented Toronto muse who aspired and inspired

NameSusan “Suzi" Monique Horton-IfillYearsMay 3, 1966 - November 29, 2013BirthplaceToronto, OntarioEthnic OriginsTrinidadian, GuyaneseOccupationsModel, Muse, Dancer, Stuntwoman, Performance Artist, EntertainerShare

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