Photo: Isabelle B83

Google Celebrates Voguing Godfather Willi Ninja: Look + Listen

In support of Pride month, Google has honored the late dancer, choreographer and LGBTQ+ icon Willi Ninja with a Google Doodle. 

Featured in the documentary “Paris is Burning,” the voguing superstar (born William Roscoe Leake) rose to fame in the 1980s and 1990s and created the “The Iconic House of Ninja” social community and dance troupe, which lives on today. 

Credited as the “Godfather of Voguing,” within the Harlem ballroom scene, William was born in 1961 and raised in Flushing, Queens by his mother who took her son to ballet performances at the Apollo Theater in New York, subsequent to which he would go on to invent his own style of dancing.

“Paris is Burning,” a film about LGBTQ+ culture in America in the 1980s, premiered on June 9 1990. The film featured Ninja prominently and is recognized as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant” by the Library of Congress. It was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry in 2016.

Ninja’s dancing inspired and influenced artists like Madonna. He danced in two music videos for Janet Jackson and was was a runway model for designer Jean-Paul Gaultier. 

An advocate for HIV/AIDS education and prevention, Ninja died in 2006 at age 45, and his Google Doodle celebrates his dancing style with a 48-second animated clip.

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Author: Saul Goode

Photo: Isabelle B83