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Willi Ninja’s prolific dance style has inspired many, including Beyoncé and countless more. 
On the 33rd anniversary of the “Paris Is Burning” June 9 premiere, Google Doodle celebrates one of the documentary’s biggest stars, the late dancer, choreographer and the “Grandfather of Vogue,” Willi Ninja. 
Born William Roscoe Leake in Queens, New York, in 1961, the queer icon rose to prominence in the 1980s and 1990s through the Harlem ballroom dance scene. In addition to the “Paris Is Burning” documentary, which chronicles New Yorkers in the ballroom scene and LGBTQ culture in the late 1980s, “How Do I Look” and “Check Your Body at the Door” also feature Ninja.
According to CNN, Ninja grew up attending dance lessons at the Apollo Theater in New York before eventually launching his dance style. According to the New York Times, which covered his untimely death at just 45 in 2006 due to complications of the AIDS virus, Ninja took voguing worldwide.  
Sally Sommer, a professor of dance at Florida State University and the executive director of “Check Your Body at the Door,” told the New York Times Ninja perfected the performance aspect of voguing like none other.
“He was [a] tall man, about 6-3,” Sommer said. “And God gave him the biggest, broadest dance shoulders in the world, so when he would do those things with his arms, it was just so impressive.”
Ninja was known for his physique, style, attitude and dance ability. He wasn’t just an inspiration to performers; Ninja taught models like Naomi Campbell how to walk down runways, NYT reports. In 2004, Ninja opened the modeling agency EON (Elements of Ninja). 
According to the New York Times, he never stopped dancing and appeared on shows like “America’s Next Top Model” and “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” and made appearances at many local clubs in New York. 
His legacy lives on through the “House of Ninja,” a de facto family and dance troupe he founded in the late 1980s, and the many he has inspired. Traces of Ninja are in choreography worldwide, performed by some of culture’s biggest names. 
Beyoncé’s “Renaissance World Tour” pays significant homage to the legacy of ballroom, voguing, and in effect, Ninja. 
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