Google is celebrating the life of Willi Ninja with a special Doodle. Ninja, a gay man known as the godfather of voguing, was a fixture of ball culture at Harlem's drag balls who took inspiration from sources as far-flung as Fred Astaire and the world of haute couture to develop a unique style of dance and movement. And this year marks his 62nd birth anniversary.
Who is Willi Ninja?
Willi Ninja, born William Roscoe Leake, was an American dancer, choreographer, and artist who made significant contributions to the voguing and ballroom scene in New York City. He was born in 1961, in Queens, New York, and passed away on September 2, 2006.
Willi Ninja is often referred to as the "Godfather of Vogue" and played a crucial role in popularizing voguing, a dance style that originated in the LGBTQ+ ballroom culture. He became an iconic figure in the underground ballroom scene of the 1980s and gained wider recognition when he appeared in the documentary film "Paris Is Burning" (1990), which documented the ball culture of New York City.
Ninja's dance style was characterized by his fluid and precise movements, fierce poses, and theatricality. He also worked as a choreographer and model, bringing voguing into the mainstream through his performances, music videos, and runway shows. Ninja's influence extended beyond the dance world, and he became a recognized figure in the fashion industry, collaborating with top designers and participating in various fashion shows.
Throughout his career, Willi Ninja contributed to the visibility and acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community, especially within the ballroom scene. He used his talent and platform to challenge societal norms and promote self-expression. Even after his passing, his impact on voguing and ballroom culture continues to inspire dancers, artists, and performers worldwide.
How is Willi Ninja an inspiration for millions?
There are several valuable lessons one can learn from Willi Ninja:
- Embrace and celebrate your uniqueness: Willi Ninja was known for his exceptional talent and individuality. He embraced his own style and personality, breaking barriers and stereotypes. He teaches us the importance of being true to ourselves and celebrating our unique qualities.
- Pursue your passion relentlessly: Willi Ninja's dedication to voguing and his artistry were unwavering. He tirelessly pursued his passion, honed his skills, and contributed to the development of voguing as an art form. He teaches us the importance of pursuing our passions with determination, even in the face of challenges.
- Push boundaries and challenge norms: Willi Ninja's impact extended beyond the dance floor. He challenged societal norms and stereotypes, particularly regarding gender and sexuality. He showed that self-expression and creativity have no boundaries. He encourages us to push the limits, challenge the status quo, and create our own paths.
- Foster community and support others: As a prominent figure in the ballroom scene, Willi Ninja helped build a community of like-minded individuals. He nurtured talent, supported emerging artists, and created a space for self-expression. He reminds us of the importance of fostering a sense of community, supporting others, and creating opportunities for growth.
- Leave a lasting legacy: Willi Ninja's contributions to voguing and ballroom culture continue to inspire and influence dancers and artists today. He left a lasting legacy through his performances, collaborations, and his role in the documentary "Paris Is Burning." He teaches us the significance of leaving a positive impact on the world and the importance of creating a legacy that inspires future generations.
Willi Ninja lost his life to AIDS-related heart failure in New York City. His life and work demonstrate the power of art, self-expression, and community. His story serves as a reminder to embrace our authenticity, pursue our passions, and make a meaningful impact in our chosen fields.