All That’s Black: Willi Ninja

Willi Ninja model, choreographer vogue legend:

Photo Credit: Paul Hawthorn

“Child, you are FIERCE!”

Known as the godfather of voguing, Willi Ninja was born in 1961 in New Hyde Park, New York. Willi is perhaps most famous for his appearance in Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary: “Paris is Burning.”

Although Willi did not create the style of dancing known as voguing, he is credited with refining it with clean, sharp movements, basing his style on Micheal Jackson, Fred Astaire, Olympic gymnastics and even hieroglyphics.

His feature in “Paris is Burning would springboard Ninja’s career, helping him to earn roles in music videos for Janet Jackson (“Alright” and “Escapade”) and Malcolm MacLaren’s “Deep in Vogue” (only one year after the release of this video, Madonna would release her single and video “Vogue”).

Ninja, also modelled for Paul-Jean Gaultier, opened his own modelling agency and performed with several dance companies. In 2006, at the age of 45, Willi Ninja died of AIDS-related heart failure, but his style and artistry remain.

By Aprille’ Morris & Emily Burke

Edited By Keshav Kant

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