William Roscoe Leake, better known by his stage name Willi Ninja, made an impactful mark on voguing. Voguing is an American dance form combining fashion-oriented poses with intricate mime-like choreography to form an exciting form of dancing known as Voguing.
House of Ninja and is well known for his appearance in the documentary film Paris is Burning. Unfortunately, he passed away from heart failure related to HIV/AIDS on September 2, 2006 in New York City.
Early Life and Education
Willi Ninja was widely revered as the godfather of voguing. Featured prominently in Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep in Vogue” music video, Willi Ninja became an important figure within ballroom culture and LGBTQ studies before mentoring young dancers and models until his untimely passing at 46 years of age.
William Roscoe Leake was born April 12th 1961 and raised in Flushing Queens. His mother encouraged and supported his identity and talents by taking him to ballet performances at Apollo Theater; although she could not afford dance lessons herself, William taught himself dance moves that became his signature style.
Willi Ninja was an unapologetic individual who defied social norms. A master of his craft, Willi Ninja made history for Black LGBT artists.
William Roscoe Leake, better known by his nickname Willi Ninja, was an iconic figure in Harlem ballroom culture and the godfather of voguing. This dance form blends fashion poses with martial arts-influenced movements for an aesthetic experience similar to Fred Astaire and Olympic gymnasts; its creator was greatly inspired by haute couture fashion houses as well as Fred Astaire himself.
Ninja created the House of Ninja, an ensemble which functioned both as dance troupe and extended social family. He provided models such as Naomi Campbell with early advice to improve their strutting skills.
Madonna immortalized his choreography for their hit 1990 song and video, “Vogue”. Unfortunately, he passed away at 45 from complications associated with AIDS on September 2, 2006 but his legacy remains alive today among LGBTQ and gender nonconforming individuals alike.
Achievement and Honors
William Roscoe Leake, commonly referred to as Willi Ninja, was an influential dancer who helped pioneer and define voguing. This dance form combines stylish poses with intricate movements inspired by mime and martial arts.
His involvement in Harlem ballroom scene included co-founding House of Ninja in 1982 – an LGBTQ Black and Latino queer network serving as each other’s chosen family and encouraging togetherness. Additionally, he participated in drag balls alongside members of House.
Following his debut appearance in Paris is Burning, he went on to become a choreographer and performer who later inspired many artists who immortalized his moves in their music videos. Unfortunately, on September 2, 2006 due to heart complications caused by AIDS complications he passed away, yet his legacy continues to impact dancers and performers worldwide even today.
William Roscoe Leake was raised in Flushing, Queens by a loving and supportive mother who encouraged him to attend ballet lessons at Apollo Theater and later to join Harlem ballroom communities called houses that offered extended family support through dance. Leake eventually led House of Ninja and appeared in music videos such as Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep in Vogue”.
As soon as he appeared in Jennie Livingston’s documentary film Paris Is Burning, he made voguing an international phenomenon. He even modelled for designers like Theirry Mugler and Jean-Paul Gaultier’s runway shows while teaching models such as Iman how to walk.
William Roscoe Leake, commonly referred to by his stage name Willi Ninja, was an American dancer renowned for popularizing the ballroom style known as voguing among members of Harlem LGBTQ community. He appeared as a featured performer in 1990 documentary film Paris Is Burning and later served as model for fashion designers.
Ninja was born in 1961 and dedicated much of his life to caring for Esther, who suffered from Parkinson’s disease. Esther’s devotion inspired Ninja to pursue dance as a career path; often accompanying her to ballet performances at the Apollo Theater where he learned from other performers.
Ninja also worked as a runway model for Jean-Paul Gaultier and taught female models femininity before opening his own modeling agency Elements of Ninja in 2004. Unfortunately, Ninja passed away due to AIDS-related heart failure on September 2, 2006 in New York City.