Willi Ninja is affectionately known as a Godfather of Vogue. In the 1980s, Vogue thrived in the underground ballroom culture of New York City where the LGBTQ community would gather and compete. The dancers would walk and pose in positions that would mimic haute couture seen on the covers of magazines, thus the name of the style Vogue. Willi Ninja founded the House of Ninja in 1982. They competed with a style that blended martial arts into their performances.
Willi Ninja became the focal point of the 1990 documentary Paris is Burning which chronicles the life in the ball culture of New York City— exploring race, gender, sexuality, and social class in America. In 2016, the United States Library of Congress selected Paris is Burning for preservation in the National Film Registry for being "culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant."