Today’s intriguing video Doodle pays tribute to Willi Ninja, the “Godfather of Voguing,” a visionary dancer and choreographer.
Willi’s breakthrough performances in the 1980s and ’90s helped Black LGBTQ+ people gain acceptance and representation. His “Iconic House of Ninja” community continues his legacy.
Rob Gilliam’s amazing artwork, Xander Opiyo’s editing, and Vivacious’ unique soundtrack made this Doodle video special.
Current House of Ninja members Archie Burnett Ninja, Javier Madrid Ninja, Kiki Ninja, and Akiko Tokuoka (KiT Ninja) do an amazing dance to celebrate Willi Ninja’s incredible journey. “Paris is Burning,” featuring Willi Ninja and the iconic House of Ninja, premiered at the NewFest New York LGBT Film Festival on this day in 1990.
Willi Ninja, born in 1961 in Flushing, Queens, had a loving and caring mother who accepted him. She took him to Apollo Theater ballet performances to encourage his artistic spirit.
Willi Ninja taught himself the fascinating dance moves that made him famous.
Willi’s ultimate skill was voguing, a compelling dance form combining fashion postures with elaborate mime and martial arts-inspired moves. Voguing was an artistic revolution born in the Harlem ballroom scene, a refuge for Black and Latino LGBTQ+ people seeking self-expression and solidarity.
The “houses,” supporting communities for persons rejected by their original families, were central to this movement. Willi co-founded the House of Ninja, an empowering community, in 1982.
Willi reinvented voguing with dancing moves inspired by ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs and martial arts. In the 1990s, he appeared in films, music videos, and top runway events around the world because to his talent. Madonna, Jean-Paul Gaultier, and others were captivated by his motions.
“Paris is Burning,” the 1990 documentary, helped popularize Willi Ninja’s unique dancing technique. His work gained popularity after the film’s success.
Willi Ninja championed his community in addition to his dancing achievements. He helped end HIV/AIDS stigma in drag ball culture by promoting knowledge about prevention early on.
We thank Willi Ninja for his vital contributions to dance and for his global awareness of Black and Latino LGBTQ+ identities. Willi’s spirit lives on via the House of Ninja’s dances, urging generations to be themselves and unite.