Google celebrates late ‘voguing’ trailblazer Willi Ninja with Google Doodle for Pride Month

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In celebration of Pride Month, Harlem ballroom culture icon Willi Ninja has been honored with a Google Doodle.

On Friday, the search engine’s homepage featured a Doodle with a 48-second animated clip, highlighting the dance style that the late choreographer and LGBTQ+ trailblazer introduced to the masses in the 1980s.

Illustrated by Rob Gilliam, with original music by Vivacious, the video pays respect to the “Godfather of Voguing” with performances by current members of the House of Ninja, a familial collective the dancer founded in 1982.

Born William Roscoe Leake, the Long Island native rose to fame in the 1980s and 1990s with his signature style of voguing, which fuses fashion magazine poses and runway walking with outlandish and dramatic movements. Ninja’s trademark was reportedly inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphs and martial arts.

Ninja inspired artists such as Madonna, performed in Janet Jackson music videos and worked as a runway model for French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier.

He was featured in the seminal 1990 LGBTQ documentary “Paris Is Burning.” His talents were showcased in Wolfgang Busch’s 2006 film, “How Do I Look,” alongside other Harlem drag ball figures Kevin UltraOmni, Octavia St. Laurent, Pepper LaBeija and Jose Xtravaganza.

Ninja passed away from AIDS-related heart failure in 2006, however he continues to be a key figure in LGBTQ-centric studies and media.

Several of the storylines of the groundbreaking FX series “Pose” — starring Billy Porter, MJ Rodriguez and Ryan Jamaal Swain — mirrored aspects of Ninja’s real life. The Ryan Murphy/Steven Canals-produced drama paid homage to the Harlem “House Ball” community, spurring other mainstream TV projects such as HBO’s “Legendary” competition.