Willi Ninja – He Lived To Be A Legend


April 12, 1961 – September 2, 2006


William Leake, born on April 12, 1961, became Willi Ninja, the well-known, respected, and loved man. A native of New York, Willi graduated from Bayside High School and went on to complete one year of studies at Queens College. He may have been educated there, but h learned wisdom and style through life’s experiences. As the Mother of the House of Ninja, he helped many other young men when they needed assistance. As the son of Ester Leake, he was devoted to her. As a brilliant dancer, Willi Ninja was self taught and self motivated, leaving behind a distinctive style that will forever be synonymous with his name.


Ninja made vogue dancing known throughout the world by consistently exposing it to others over many years. Ninja was not the first Vogue dancer, neither the last, but he brought voguing to a level of performing perfection that was memorable. He created a distinct Ninja style marked by its sharp attack and swirling turns. In Jennie Livingston’s 1990’s documentary about gay vogue balls, “Paris Is Burning” the mother of the house of Ninja announced; “I want to go to the real Paris and make it burn!” And He did.


Willi Ninja’s handsome androgyny appealed to everyone. Tall, with incredibly broad shoulders, he could clasp his hands then sweep his arms over his head and behind his back in one smooth move. Inspired by to dance by Fred Astair, PBS Great Performances, Olympic gymnastics, and the Apollo Motown shows, Ninja noted, “Nobody says you can’t learn.” Ninja taught voguing throughout Europe and Japan. An eloquent spokesperson for gay House life, he appeared on talk shows and serious university panels about cultural life. Ninja broadened the scope and the audiences for voguing, moving it from the clubs to the concert stages when he performed in orks by postmodern choreographers Karole Armitage, Doug Elkins, Douglas Neuman, and his own choreography with is company.


He was inspired by working in the fashion industry and doing runway modeling himself for designers such as Jean Paul Gaultier, Thierry Mugler and Zang Toi. He worked with the beautiful and famous such as Grace Jones, Iman, and Naomi Campbell. In 2004, Ninja open his own agency EON (Elements of Ninja) In addition to teaching and booking, he arranged for the children of the house of Ninja to perform at fashion events, positioning the dance back into the modeling world that originally inspired it.


In 1988, he made “Deep In Vogue” with Malcolm McLauren then went on work with DeeLite and Queen Latifah. He has appeared in the films, “Paris Is Burning,” “House of Tres” and the Peabody Award winning “Everybody Dance Now!” and is featured in the upcoming (2007) documentary, “Check Your Body at the Door,” by Sally Sommer.


He is survived by his mother, Ester Leake. They enjoyed a particularly close relationship and Willi was enormously proud of Ester and her accomplishments. He lovingly described her as, “my best friend, my mother, my father, my sister, and my brother.”


He will be deeply missed by all.
“Oh child, you were fierce.”