Felipe Rose

Felipe Rose (born January 12, 1954) is an original member of the disco group the Village People. In the group he performed as an "Indian" character from 1977 until 2017 when the name of the group was turned over to Victor Willis (the Original Lead Singer from 1977 to 1979). Rose launched a solo career and released a solo recording "Going Back to My Roots" in 2018.

Felipe Rose
Background information
Birth nameFelipe Ortiz Rose
Born (1954-01-12) January 12, 1954
Brooklyn, New York City, New York
Years active1970–present

Early years

Rose (birth name: Felipe Ortiz Rose [note 1]) was born in New York City to a Puerto Rican mother.[1] He currently claims Lakota/Taino descent,[1] but at other times has said he is Apache.[2] He was raised in Brooklyn where he displayed an interest in the arts during his childhood. His mother was his main inspiration as she herself had been a dancer for the Copacabana during the 1940s and 1950s. In 1970, when Rose was 16 years old, he won a scholarship to study dance with the Ballet de Puerto Rico under the guidance of Pascual Guzman. He participated in a dance-drama recital of Julia de Burgos at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts with the Ballet Company. The New York Post called his performance "poignant and compelling."[3][4]

Village People

Rose began as a nightclub dancer. He describes being encouraged by an aunt to begin dancing "in his father's tribal regalia", which he says led to his "Red Indian" [sic] costume in the Village People. Rose was working as a dancer and a bartender in the gay New York discotheque The Anvil, dressed "as an Indian" when he was discovered by French producer Jacques Morali and executive producer Henri Belolo and so became the first recruit for Village People.[3][4]

Both Jacques and Henri were fascinated by Rose's "Red Indian" [sic] attire and saw the potential in organizing a singing group where each individual would wear a different costume and have a particular identity. While the producers were busy recruiting and preparing the other members of the group, Rose was sent to Paris where he choreographed a native dance number for the Crazy Horse Saloon. When he returned to the United States, he suggested that the other members of the group wear uniforms representing different "manly" occupations in New York's Greenwich Village.

In 1977, Village People had their first hit with "San Francisco", although this song became a hit only in the United Kingdom. Then in 1978 they had their first hits in the U.S. with "Macho Man" followed by "YMCA"[3][4]

In the 1980s, Rose sang and danced for the Latin music maestro Tito Puente and he also starred in a regional theatre production of West Side Story. In 1996, Rose started the Tomahawk Group, an entertainment and recording company which handles the Village People's releases and songs. The company is also in charge of the group's many engagements. Rose has also been the producer of various artists.[4]

Solo career

In 2000, Rose began to work on his solo career. His single Trails of Tears was nominated for 3 NAMMY Awards (Native American Music Awards) for Best Historical Recording, Song of the Year, and Best Producer. In 2002, Rose was the opening act of the fifth Annual Native American Music Awards celebrated at the Marcus Amphitheatre in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. That year he won a NAMMY Award for the Best Historical Recording.[3][4]

In August 2002, Rose moved to Richmond, Virginia, which he described as "the next Southern town on the rise." On January 12, 2005, Rose donated the gold record for the hit song Y.M.C.A. to the National Museum of the American Indian in Washington, DC.

Rose has appeared in the following movies: Can't Stop the Music (1980), The Best of Village People (1993), and Feathers and Leathers: The Story of the Village People (1999). He also participated in the 2000 documentary, Village People: The E! True Hollywood Story.[3][4]

Later years

Rose and Village People have raised millions of dollars for many charities. Among them are the Native American College Fund and various AIDS charities. Rose is a member of the board of directors of Sixuvus Ltd, the Advisory Board of the Native American Music Association, the LARAS-Latin Grammys, and the Winter Music Conference.[3][4]

In 2006, Rose appeared as a contestant on the revival of I've Got a Secret. He currently lives in Asbury Park, New Jersey.[3] Over the years, up until 2017, he has intermittently performed as his original "Indian" character in the "Village People"; at other times, others have portrayed the "Native American" character in the group.


  1. This article uses Spanish naming customs: the first or paternal family name is Rose and the second or maternal family name is Ortiz.

See also


  1. Stuever, Hank (January 13, 2005). "Celebrity Artifact". The Washington Post. Archived from the original on September 2, 2008. Retrieved September 30, 2017.
  2. "Banda Village People llega al PerĂº". El Peruano. Retrieved May 25, 2019. Felipe Rose, el nativo apache americano
  3. Anderson, Teja (October 25, 2008). "Felipe Rose: Village People's Macho Man". Livinginmedia.com. Archived from the original on December 31, 2008.
  4. "Felipe Rose". Sobelpromotions.com. Archived from the original on September 28, 2013.
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