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Benny Ninja


Benny Ninja

Benny Ninja

Benny Ninja is the Westchester, New York-based father of the House of Ninja, a post given to him by the late Willy Ninja of Paris Is Burning fame. He appeared on America's Next Top Model Cycle 8 as a posing instructors for the super model hopefuls and now he poses in front of the Gay Life keyboard to chat about fathering a House, inter-house feuding and to teach me how to dance.

How does one become the father of a house?

By working their way up to the title; competing in balls and making a name for oneself. I was given this position by my gay mother Willy Ninja. Willy wanted something different for his house. He didn't want it to be just be about the ballroom scene. I was given this position because he felt that I was responsible enough to teach his children and guild them in the right direction. So I promised him that I would follow his wishes.

You've said that you are your own biggest hero because of where you've come from. Where is that?

I grew up in a single-parent household with my mother and sister. My mother struggled hard to make sure we had. Being the only boy was hard; but being the only boy and gay was a lot harder. I didn't have a father figure in my life. My mother is the one who taught me how to be a man, how to love, how to respect myself and the world around me.

All of my accomplishments in life were because she stood behind me all the way. I took what little relationship I had with my father and turned it around. Finally, I found a way to look up to him, and I knew he was what I did not want to become in life.

The hardest thing to teach myself was how to vogue. It took me three years to get the gist of it. I had to learn how to stretch, learn run-way, and then posing. Finally I put of them together the right way. 15 years later here I am. This is why I am my #1 fan and hero. Every time I get out there I am one with myself. No one screams louder than I do when I am performing.

So, is there really inter-house feuding or are people just stirring up gossip?

Of course there is inter-house feuding; just like there is in life. But you have to look past the ones who want to start trouble and keep you down. It's all negative energy and if you chose to take it on, it will surround you. The House of Ninja is a real family. We have our problems like the rest of them, but we work everything out, through love and respect. A lot of the feuding is for the ball room: Who’s better than who, whose hot today and who's not? But without this it wouldn’t be a competition. It doesn't just happen in the ball room. It happens everywhere in life. Take sports for instance. It's a competition of who is better than whom? Who is stronger than whom? What team is better than the next? In the ball room community we have the same competition. We just take it to the dance floor/runway.

The ball culture has survived decades of gayness. What's the secret to the scene's survival?

Ball room culture has been around for decades. The survival of this scene has been in the younger generation. With every new generation comes new ideas and new styles. This scene will be around for as long as there is a gay culture. We invented it, we nurtured it, and we have built it up to what it is today. This is our version of the Grammys or Oscars. This is our piece of heaven or 15 minutes of fame. This is our Community.

How has your life changed since appearing on America's Next Top Model?

Honestly since appearing on ANTM (America’s Next Top Model) one of my goals has been reached. Not much has changed though. The only difference is walking down the street and people that I don't know now know me. The same opportunities that were there before are still there. The people that were in my life are still in it. I did make a great impression with the show because I’ve been asked to be a regular guest/trainer. Ask me in a year and this answer might be different.

What's the one thing you want most in this world that you just can't have?

Even if it were for a moment, it would be to have my gay mother, Willy Ninja, here with us so he could see how we have grown. To see him smile once again, dance one more time, and to hear him tell one of his jokes or stories... and I cant forget his cooking!

I can fool people by moving my body just enough to look really cute, but I'd be lying if I said I could dance. What's the secret to throwing down on the dance floor?

There are many secrets to gaining control on the dance floor. One of them is the look. You have to look like you can control the floor. Or better yet, you have to own it. One way to do that is to study your body. Know what you are capable of doing. Know how flexible you are. And then there is timing... You must learn how to make it look fluid. Learn how to listen to the music. Timing is really everything. If you can pull this off, you’re halfway there.

You have to capture people with it. Make the music look 3D. Give the onlookers the chance to not just hear the music but to see it as well. Everyone has a different way of telling his/her own story. How will you tell yours?

Well, you'll just have to see next time I'm at the club!

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