Willi Ninja Biography, Wiki, Cause of Death, Career, Age, Net Worth 2024

William Roscoe Leake, also known as Willi Ninja, was an American dancer and choreographer.

Willi Ninja

He became famous for his role in the documentary film Paris Is Burning.

Willi Ninja was considered the pioneer of voguing, a dance style.

He drew inspiration from various sources like Fred Astaire and high-fashion culture to create his unique movements.

The director of Paris Is Burning, Jennie Livingston, noticed Ninja’s talent and prominently featured him in the film.

The documentary was a huge success, and it opened doors for Ninja. He went on to perform with different dance groups and received choreography opportunities.

In 1989, Ninja appeared in the music video for Malcolm McLaren’s song “Deep in Vogue,” which popularized his style.

A year later, Madonna released the hit song “Vogue,” which further brought attention to voguing as a dance style.

Willi Ninja Wikipedia Profile

Real nameWilliam Roscoe Leake
Stage nameWilli Ninja
Date of birthApril 12, 1961
Date of deathSeptember 2, 2006
Place of birthNew York
Place of deathNew York
Girlfriend Unknown
Net worth$100,000

Early Life

Willi Ninja was born in New Hyde Park, New York, at the Long Island Jewish Medical Center. He taught himself how to dance and became skilled in voguing by the time he reached his twenties.

Willi had a mixed racial background, with his mother being black and claiming to have Irish, Cherokee, and Asian ancestors.

Jennie Livingston, the director of Paris Is Burning, learned about Willi Ninja from other voguers who gathered in Washington Square Park.

Although he didn’t invent voguing, he dedicated himself to perfecting the dance style with precise and clean movements, taking it to an impressive level.

Willi drew inspiration from various sources, including Kemetic hieroglyphics, a young Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire, Olympic gymnasts, and Asian culture.

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Date of birth- Age

Willi Ninja was 45 years old at the time of his death on September 2, 2006. That is he was born April 12, 1961


In Harlem, Willi Ninja took part in drag balls along with the “children” from his House of Ninja.

The House of Willi Ninja was like a big family and dance group combined, with Willi as its leader and caretaker.

He would teach his children late at night, either on the old Christopher Street pier or in underground clubs.

Willi became a well-known dancer and appeared in several music videos. He danced in Malcolm McLaren’s “Deep in Vogue” and “I Can’t Get No Sleep” by Masters At Work featuring India.

In 1994, he even released his own single called “Hot” on Nervous Records, which was produced by Masters At Work.

Willi later got involved in runway modeling for Jean-Paul Gaultier and performed with dance companies under Karole Armitage.

He even provided instruction to Paris Hilton on how to improve her walking skills. In 2004, Willi opened his own modeling agency called Elements of Ninja.

He made an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live! and was featured in the documentaries “Paris is Burning” (1990) and “How Do I Look” (2006), directed by Wolfgang Busch.

Willi also had the opportunity to dance in two of Janet Jackson’s music videos from her album “Rhythm Nation 1814.”

One of those videos was “Alright,” which featured a remix with the late rap star Heavy D and appearances by Cab Calloway, Cyd Charisse, and The Nicholas Brothers.

He also appeared in the video for “Escapade.”

Willi worked hard to take care of his mother, Esther Leake, who had Parkinson’s disease and used a wheelchair.

Their outings to the ballet and the Apollo Theater inspired him in his later dance endeavors.

House of Ninja- Controversy

In 1982, Ninja founded the House of Ninja with Sandy Apollonia Ninja.

It was uncommon for someone to start a house without having previously been part of one or winning three grand prizes, which was usually seen as a requirement.

They chose the name Ninja because of the house’s Asian and martial arts influences, and because they seemed to appear out of nowhere in the ballroom scene, where people didn’t know who they were.

The House of Ninja was known for its diversity, as it included members of different races.

Unlike most houses at the time, which were mostly African-American, the House of Ninja welcomed white men to participate in their competitions.

The house closed in 1989 but reopened in 1991 and again in 2003.

Currently, the House of Ninja has more than 220 members worldwide, and the oldest living Ninja is Archie Burnett Ninja.

In Film

Ninja appeared in a few movies and TV shows. On August 8, 1991, he was a special guest on The Joan Rivers Show.

Some of his fellow cast members from Paris Is Burning, like Dorian Corey and Pepper LaBeija, were also there.

Jennie Livingston, the director of the documentary, was there too.

During the episode, they discussed the documentary and encouraged the audience to walk like participants in a Drag Ball.

In that same year, Ninja played a dancer in a short film called Anthem, directed by Marlon Riggs.

The film lasted for about 9 minutes.

Cause of Death- Legacy

Ninja passed away in New York City on September 2, 2006, due to heart failure related to AIDS.

Even after his death, Ninja continues to be a source of inspiration for many artists and music DJs.

His unique and nonconforming expression of gender as an artist has made him an important figure in LGBTQ studies, gender studies, and performance studies.

He is mentioned as an example in the book “Black Sexualities” by Juan Battle and Sandra L. Barnes.

On June 9, 2023, Ninja was honored with a Google Doodle, recognizing his contributions and impact.

Net Worth

His net worth is estimated to be around $100,000.


The information in this article was curated from online sources. All details cannot be independently verified by PrudeTunes or its editorial team.

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