Fifteen years ago, a serendipitous encounter in New York City’s West Village altered the course of Richie’s life. At the time, as an 18-year-old, he was just known as Richie, but a chance meeting with a stranger led him to the spotlight. A woman approached him and recognized that he had a story to tell. This encounter eventually led Richie to make an appearance on The Tyra Banks Show, where he candidly shared his experiences of growing up gay in Spanish Harlem.
Supermodel and TV star Tyra Banks introduced Richie to the vibrant ballroom scene, a thriving community of LGBTQ+ individuals and allies who excelled in the art of voguing, runway walking, and creating breathtaking fashion looks. This transformative moment marked Richie’s entry into the House of Ninja, a legendary ballroom house founded in 1982 by Willi Ninja, renowned as the “Godfather of Vogue.” Under the guidance of Benny Ninja, Richie was mentored and evolved into the artist we now know as Loco Ninja.
A Voice for Authenticity and Self-Expression
Growing up in Spanish Harlem, Loco Ninja had big dreams of breaking into the music industry. “I wanted to be on stage and I wanted to entertain and inspire people,” he recalls. Slowly, he started creating rhymes and raps in his bedroom, gaining the attention of artists he admired through social media. Today, with over 200,000 Instagram followers, Loco Ninja shares a captivating mix of fashion, music, and beauty content, unapologetically blending fun and irreverence with a more profound message.
Loco’s approach to fashion and beauty defies conventions within the hip-hop industry, traditionally dominated by machismo and bravado. As a queer rapper celebrating femininity, he challenges boundaries. Loco emphasizes, “If I want to rap in heels and a skirt, then I’m going to do it.” This authenticity has not only reshaped his career but has also significantly impacted his relationship with his own sexuality and his role as an advocate for sexual health.
Advocacy for Sexual Health and Social Justice
Loco Ninja passionately advocates for sexual health within his community, particularly highlighting the significance of Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) in his daily life. He emphasizes that PrEP plays a crucial role in preventing HIV transmission and fighting the stigma surrounding it. Loco believes in the importance of community care and support, saying, “We’ve got to fight the stigma but also take care of each other as a community.”
Looking ahead, Loco aims to utilize his platform to address vital social justice issues, including legislative challenges faced by trans individuals and drag performers across the United States. Above all, his mission is to be a resounding voice for the queer and gender non-conforming community, filling a void that he himself experienced growing up. He affirms, “Being visible is the reason why I do what I do.”
Shaping a Legacy of Self-Love and Empowerment
After overcoming numerous obstacles in his personal journey, Loco Ninja hopes that his commitment to living authentically and prioritizing self-love, whether in fashion or sexual health, will leave a lasting legacy. He firmly believes that “everyone has the right to love themselves” and aspires to shape and shift the future for those who will follow in his footsteps. “That’s my purpose,” he declares, closing the chapter on a story of transformation and empowerment.