Plano resident Suzi Checki possesses a seemingly endless supply of creativity and talent – dancer, singer, artist, aerobics and yoga Instructor, entrepreneur, and at one time, even the star of her own one- woman theatrical show.
Suzi got her first taste of show business singing with local bands while still a teenager. She dreamed of becoming a movie star and traveled to California in her early 20’s. There she found work as a singer and as an extra on the sets of numerous television shows. Although Hollywood stardom eluded the hopeful young entertainer, looking like one would soon became her trademark.
A Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest prompted Suzi to purchase a $20 wig at Woolworth’s Department Store and style it herself in the familiar tresses of the actress. After adding a white dress reminiscent of Marilyn’s attire in “The Seven-Year Itch,” Suzi easily won the contest. For the next several years, she frequently appeared at clubs and cocktail parties where anyone with a yearning to be seen with Marilyn Monroe could have a picture taken with the glamorous impersonator.
Years later, Suzi turned that idea into a one-woman show called “The Blond Highlights of Hollywood,” featuring a variety of sultry female performers. In addition to Marilyn, she added vignettes that included Peggy Lee, Marlene Dietrich, Mae West, and Madonna. Her performances of well-known standards like “Fever,” “Que Sera, Sera,” and “Don’t Cry for Me, Argentina” instantly brought alive those popular personalities.
Suzi is herself a recording artist. In the 1980’s, she recorded a dance record that received international airplay and led an award from the biggest radio station in New York for Suzi. These days, she continues her musical career by singing with the New Kings of Swing Band on Thursday afternoons at the Richardson Senior Center. She also enjoys performing with the McKinney Band and other musical groups as often she can, where she brings a touch of glitz and style to each appearance.
If her musical talent were not enough, Suzi is also an accomplished artist, specializing in vivid acrylic paintings. Her favorite subjects are portraits of women, each of whom wear bright, red lipstick. Although she has never actively marketed her work, people have bought her pieces for years. Today her paintings hang in homes throughout America and in at least four Western European nations.
While still in her 30’s, Suzi turned her considerable talents toward teaching exercise. Taking advantage of the physical fitness craze, she developed several high energy routines, always with enough dance steps to keep everyone moving. She taught aerobics at Brookhaven Community College for a number of years.
More recently, the entrepreneurial Suzi recognized that those who once danced to a frenzied beat would want a less strenuous form of exercise. She began the study of various forms of yoga, particularly those movements that worked well for more seasoned bodies. When she received her instructor certificate at the end of three years, Suzi opened her first class at the YMCA. She taught there for three years before moving to the Plano Senior Recreation Center (PSRC).
The class quickly became a favorite for the over 50 crowd, and when the PSRC closed in February for remodeling, a dedicated core of yoga enthusiasts followed Suzi to classes at the Carpenter Community Center and then to Christ United Methodist Church at Parker and Coit in Plano. Suzi currently teaches classes at that location three days a week, where her students adore their dazzling teacher in her glittering tops. She looks forward to moving back to the PSRC when the renovations are completed early next year and expects that most, if not all, of her students will make the move as well.
Unlike other yoga classes, the goal of her class is not to break a sweat, but to hold the various poses for longer periods of time. During the session, Suzi encourages each woman to stretch only to the point of tension, not pain, and to use chairs if any pose is painful. According to the students, her methods have remarkable effects on older bodies.
“Last summer I was so stiff that I could barely move. After coming three days a week for several months, I can finally move again.”
“I am a Type A personality, and I needed help with stress I put on myself. But this class has definitely helped me improve my disposition and mood. I leave this class more focused and able to deal with life.”
“A knee replacement created such severe pain that I couldn’t sleep. But the stretches have strengthened the muscles around the knee so that I no longer wince when I move that leg in the middle of the night.”
The hour-long session ends with an immersive relaxation exercise. Participants lie on their mats with feet on the seats or backs of folding chairs, letting the blood flow leisurely back into the torso. The only sounds in the room are Suzi’s soothing voice and the sounds of deep breathing among the participants.
“My reward is helping people feel better about themselves,” says Suzi. “We always end our sessions with a prayer that those who come will have joy and peace and happiness in their lives. That is the ultimate pay-off for me.”