Photograph of a young African American woman standing against a brick wall
Destiny Williams, aka Boujee Mustard, captured with medium format film. Photo by James Izlar

Philly’s Destiny

James Izlar

Photographer James Izlar spotlights Boujee Mustard, a local artist with a keen eye and a deep love for her city

When it comes to Philadelphia’s vibrant and ever-changing arts scene, no one has their finger on the pulse quite like Destiny Williams, an artist who goes by Boujee Mustard. Born and raised in Southwest Philly, Destiny graduated from the University of the Arts in 2021, and she’s no stranger to all the city has to offer. 

I recently got to spend the day in Makeshift Studios in North Philadelphia and had the opportunity to photograph her, her crew, and the musicians at work on Boujee’s Cypher Ring, where young rappers can show off their skills with a few freestyle verses. At her studio I was met by a full production crew, all in their early-to-mid-twenties, with professional cameras and audio equipment. I also had the chance to talk to Destiny about her influences and the local arts scene. Here are some of the thoughts she shared during our conversation.

Artist Simone Ruth at the mic. Photo by James Izlar

“My main influence is music. Even though I can’t make music myself, I’m surrounded by these able musicians that speak how I really feel. Their music is what I think my pictures would sound like. Whatever I’m listening to while shooting really affects my work. Even while editing I put on a song and get a million ideas of where to go.”

Photo of Destiny Williams showing a camera image to a performer
Destiny and Simone reviewing shots. Photo by James Izlar

“I feel like photographers try so hard not to make people feel uncomfortable, because it’s so personal [to take someone’s picture]. People feel a little bit awkward, so I try to coax them through it to help them feel better. A mirror helps too. Everyone’s a little bit vain.”

Photo of an African American man's torso with a shirt that says Negro
Photo of two young men in a parking lot
Top left: Flyest Negro; Top Right: Millions; Bottom: Fly Like Malcolm, 2021, by Boujee Mustard

“I didn’t realize how much my work focused on masculinity until people brought it up. I got a lot of flak for it—people called it anti-feminist. I’m like, no!  I’m chill with a lot more women. I grew up with two brothers, and my dad and I had a special connection. I have a whole lot of father and brother figures, and that all translated into my work. Though now I’m just exploring identity in general, as well as more fashion-related shoots.”

Artist Rae Dianz at the mic. Photo by James Izlar

“People talk trash about Philly, but we really are a creative city. I feel like Boujee’s Cypher Ring is my way to show love to the city. There’s so much talent; it’s crazy how underrated we are! Even though we have people like Jill Scott. People don’t know Jill Scott!”

Crew members Chelby Elam (left) & Austin Romaine. Photo by James Izlar

“I’ve been watching a lot of Atlanta and Random Acts of Flyness lately. Loiter Squad too. People like Tyler the Creator and Donald Glover map out their creativity in a way that you know it’s them. That’s how I want my work to be.”

James Izlar is a photographer and multimedia artist currently working in Philadelphia. Born in Washington, DC, his work is inspired by his broad cultural background. You can usually find James at the movies or getting lost in a daydream.

This project has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.