Today, a special Doodle from Google honours Willi Ninja, the legendary dancer and choreographer. In the 1980s and 1990s, according to Google, Willi paved the way for Black LGBTQ+ representation and acceptance. The community he made, “The Iconic House of Ninja,” lives on this until now.
Willi was also known as the “Godfather of Voguing,” a dance form. His real name was William Roscoe Leake. The performers, who dance to honour Willi’s legacy, are current House of Ninja members Archie Burnett Ninja, Javier Madrid Ninja, Kiki Ninja, and Akiko Tokuoka, aka KiT Ninja. On this day in 1990, the documentary Paris is Burning, featuring Willi and the iconic House of Ninja, had its US premiere at the NewFest New York LGBT Film Celebration.
Godfather of Voguing’, Willi Ninja: Overview
Willi Ninja was born in 1961 and grew up in Flushing, Queens. Willi’s mother took him to ballet performances at the Apollo Theater to support his identity and encouraged his interest in dance. Willi taught himself the moves that would one day make him a star, even though his mother couldn’t afford expensive dance lessons.
Inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphs and martial arts, Willi developed revolutionary new dancing techniques. In addition, Willi has appeared in films, music videos, and luxury runway shows all over the world. His moves have inspired Madonna and Jean-Paul Gaultier. Willi was also one of the first people to promote HIV/AIDS prevention at drag balls, and he was a key player in helping to break the stigma associated with the disease.