It's hard to celebrate Pride Month without mentioning Vogue, and no, we're not talking about the magazine! Vogue, or voguing originated in the late 1980s and came from the Harlem ballroom scene of the 1960s.
William Roscoe Leake, also known as Willi Ninja, and the "Godfather of Voguing", and the Father of the House of Ninja, was very much a part of that scene. I first heard of him in the iconic 1990s documentary, Paris is Burning, which is on Netflix. The documentary focuses on drag queens living in NYC and their "house" culture (family) that provided a sense of community.
Willi was a self-taught dancer and even though he did not create this expression of dance, he perfected it and worked on refining it with clean, sharp movements. His influence can still be seen today. Kemetic hieroglyphics, the young Michael Jackson, Fred Astaire, Olympic gymnasts, and Asian culture inspired his movements.
It was through the House of Ninja that voguing moved from the underground ballroom scene to appearances in mainstream media. House of Ninja has had a fruitful history in the entertainment and fashion industries, even appearing in Madonna's Vogue music video. In the 1990s, House of Ninja began collaborating with major fashion designers including Malcolm McLaren to teach models — notably supermodels Naomi Campbell and Iman — about posture, movement, and posing through the art of Vogue. If you're interested in learning more about the ballroom dance scene, watch POSE on FX. It's a great to show celebrate Pride Month!