Dancer Willi Ninja cause of death, age, birthday family, gender, net worth

Dancer Willi Ninja cause of death, age, birthday family, gender, net worth

The American dancer and choreographer Willi Ninja was the godfather of voguing, know his cause of death

Ninja emerged as a prominent figure in Harlem’s drag ball culture.

Dancer Willi Ninja cause of death, age, birthday family, gender and net worth 

Willi Ninja opened the road for black LGBTQ+ representation and acceptance in the 1980s and 1990s. According to Google, the neighbourhood he created, “The Iconic House of Ninja,” is still active today.

Google has created a special Doodle to celebrate the great dancer and choreographer Willi Ninja today. 

Who is Willi Ninja?

William Roscoe Leake was born on April 12, 1961, at the Long Island Jewish Medical Centre in New Hyde Park, New York. He breathed his last on September 2, 2006 and passed away at the very young age of 45. 

Willi Ninja’s Family Life

Not much is known about his family or personal life. However, he devoted himself to taking care of his mother, Esther Leake, who was wheelchair-bound and suffering from Parkinson’s disease. Their visits to the Apollo Theatre and the ballet provided Ninja with ideas for further dancing endeavours.

Willi Ninja’s life illustrates what it means to be a black gay male in a world that lauds white male heteronormativity and Ninja transgressed rigid gender barriers as he participated in the ballroom scene and performed an androgynous gender presentation on and off the stage. He was a male by gender.

Willi Ninja’s Career

He took inspiration for his distinctive dance and movement from various sources, including Fred Astaire and the world of haute couture. Ninja’s career advanced after director Jennie Livingston spotted him and notably featured him in Paris Is Burning. 


Willi Ninja’s Success In Dance Company And Choreography

After the success of the movie Paris Is Burning, he joined a number of dance companies and started choreographing.

The 1989 music video for Malcolm McLaren’s song “Deep in Vogue” gave Willi Ninja more recognition. This popularised voguing, which gained additional exposure a year later when Madonna released her number-one single “Vogue.”

By the time he was in his thirties, Ninja had mastered the voguing style. He claimed mixed racial origins along with his black mother, including Irish, Cherokee, and Asian ancestry. Although Ninja didn’t create voguing, he did improve it and take it to a new level with his impeccable moves. 

Kemetic hieroglyphics, a young Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire, Olympic gymnastics, and Asian culture were among his influences.

Ninja performed in Harlem’s drag balls with his “children” as the Mother of the House of Ninja. The House of Ninja was a dancing group as well as a large social family. Ninja mentored his kids throughout the night on the former Christopher Street pier and in secret clubs.

Throughout his career, Ninja appeared in numerous music videos, including “Deep in Vogue” by Malcolm McLaren and “I Can’t Get No Sleep” by Masters At Work, both of which featured India. He had his single “Hot,” produced by Masters at Work, released in 1994 on Nervous Records.

Willi Ninja’s Other Projects Included:

  • Runway modelling for Jean-Paul Gaultier
  • Dancing for dance companies under Karole Armitage
  • Coaching Paris Hilton on how to improve her walk. 
  • In 2004, he launched Elements of Ninja, a modelling agency.
  • Ninja had major cameos in the documentaries How Do I Look (2006) and Paris is Burning (1990).

Ninja demonstrated his dancing prowess in two music videos for Janet Jackson’s album Rhythm Nation 1814, including “Alright,” which featured a remix by the late rap artist Heavy D as well as cameos by Cab Calloway, Cyd Charisse, and The Nicholas Brothers. Additionally, he appeared in “Escapade.”


The House of Ninja

Together with Sandy Apollonia Ninja, Willi Ninja started the House of Ninja in 1982. They created their own house despite not meeting the typical qualifications of taking home grand prizes or having previously been a member of a house. Because of the house’s Asian and martial arts elements, the term “Ninja” was given, and the mystique was increased by their unexpected debut in the dance scene.

The House of Ninja became well-known for its multiracial makeup, which was rare for the time because most houses—aside from the Latino House of Xtravaganza—were predominately African-American. Despite briefly closing in 1989, the mansion reopened in 1991 and again in 2003. Archie Burnett Ninja is still the eldest Ninja, and the House of Ninja now has over 220 members worldwide.

Ninja demonstrated his talent in both film and television, making multiple appearances. In August 1991, he made a special appearance on The Joan Rivers Show.

They talked about the documentary and invited viewers to take part in a “walk” as though they were at a drag ball during the show. Ninja also played a dancer in Marlon Riggs’s 9-minute short film Anthem, which was also released that year.

The Cause of Death for Willi Ninja

Ninja tragically passed away on September 2, 2006, in New York City, from heart failure brought on by AIDS. But even after his passing, many musicians and DJs continue to draw inspiration from his legacy.

Beyond music, Ninja’s influence can be seen in disciplines including performance studies, gender studies, and LGBTQ studies. Books like Juan Battle and Sandra L. Barnes’ “Black Sexualities” illustrate his significant influence.

Willi Ninja’s Net Worth

Willi Ninja’s net worth at the time of his death was $3 million.


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