Big bless! Mr. Star City brings fresh energy to Manila

OCTOBER 27, 2022

Mr. Star City
Artist Mr. Star City brings fresh energy to Manila. Photo: JT Fernandez.

On his most recent expedition to Manila, New York-based artist Mr. Star City tells us about his life and practice


When I first met David “Mr. Star City” White, it was at a dinner after the Ronald Ventura exhibition at the Goldenberg Mansion. Star was traversing the route for Art Fair Philippines’ (AFP) 10 Days of Art, toured by AFP Founder Trickie Lopa.

As he settled in, Star’s voice boomed across the table, and the mood seemed to pick up with a few sparks. One of the people in the group tried on his necklace, a heavy chain with an even heavier gold pendant. About the size of a playing card, it sported a carved design of Star’s painted character, “Loverboy,” the celebutante of his work at the fair.

READ MORE: Art Fair Philippines Shines a Spotlight on Photography

Mr. Star City
Star wears a necklace sporting the carved design of his painted character, “Loverboy,” the protagonist of his work at AFP. Photo: JT Fernandez.

The weekend after AFP, Star’s schedule finally frees up. He enters the INQUIRER.NET office along with his friend Splash, an industrial designer from L.A. Also with them is Sid, who is bringing them around the city. Sid is a photographer and a colleague of Tim Tan, a Manila-based collector known for his growing collection of works by foreign artists, especially those in New York. 

Mr. Star City first came to the Philippines last March 2023 for the Metropolitan Museum of Manila’s exhibition “Sounds of Blackness” curated by Larry Ossei-Mensah. He says, “The overwhelming love and support brought me back. A year later, realizing my dream of showcasing a solo exhibition here became possible with tremendous support from the Art Fair Philippines team, especially Tim Tan, Trickie Lopa, and the special project design team led by Ed Lacson Jr. Their collaboration turned this dream into reality…. [Being] surrounded by caring and welcoming people has cultivated in me a deep respect for the diverse culture.”

READ MORE: Hats Off to Bambina Olivares


Paving paths to positivity

Mr. Star City greets the LIFESTYLE.INQ staff with his classic quip, “Big bless!” 

The artist towers above us. With his frame reaching almost 7 feet tall, our team squeezes into the tight elevator with him. Craning my neck upwards, I spout information on the day’s schedule. With a lighthearted nod he smiles and says, “Chill, little Bubble,” and I do find myself letting go. This is the good vibe that the artist seeks to bring. Although, with his sense of childlike wonder and his carefree, high-spirited life force, I would say Star is the “bubbly” one—A big bubble.

Take a scroll through his social media to see the genuine positivity that radiates from strangers in the comments. He says, “I try to spread positivity, aiming to bring joy to those in need. Consistency is key to allowing people to feel the love I share. Like any relationship, building trust is essential for others to open up and live authentically.”


A 100% New Yorker

While warm and friendly, it’s easy to tell that the man is strong-willed. Mr. Star City is a New Yorker, one hundred percent. With a strut in his step, the artist is at total ease in front of the camera, evidently used to feature shoots.

Growing up in the city known as the world’s melting pot, his exposure to diverse cultures manifests not just in his art, but in the way he dresses. Just earlier this year, Star released a momentous collection with Pharell’s brand Billionaire Boy’s Club. Apart from his heavy gold bijoux, he dons well-tailored jeans and bright red cowboy boots, which he tells our Creative Director he designed himself. The artist says,


“I’ve discovered a love for designing clothes, embracing the role of my own muse. There’s a captivating sense crafting for oneself—you transform into your own painting, and I take delight in coloring myself, using the world as my expansive canvas.”

Mr. Star City
Star personally customizes his own wardrobe. Photo: JT Fernandez.

Earlier on he also worked a music career, where he first got his moniker. He tells us about a song he made with his group the StarCity Boys called “StarCity Life” and how ever since he sang the hook, people started calling him by his name today. 

While Star has experienced soaring recent success, he didn’t grow up with some plush life. He grew up in Brooklyn in the ’80s and ’90s, when times were tough. Like many great contemporary artists, he started expressing himself through street art. Later on, he saved up to mount his solo exhibition, carving his own path as a self-taught artist. 

Mr. Star City
Photo: JT Fernandez.

It first surprises me when I read that the artist grew up with nineteen brothers and sisters—although it becomes less of a surprise as I notice the artist’s ease of connecting with everyone he meets, from our photographer to the security guards in the building. He tells me, 


“My father, a charismatic and humble figure, deeply influenced my values. His ability to connect with everyone left an indelible mark, instilling in me a mindset of choosing love over worry. I appreciate his influence guiding my ongoing artistic journey.”


The artist also grew up Jewish and in terms of his religious upbringing, his sense of spirituality is palpable as he repeats that line, “Big bless!” while always starting an email with, “I pray you’ve been well.” In his artistic process, Star reveals that he considers each work a blessing, and prays over each piece with positive energy—a practice sure to make a difference when it enters collector’s homes.

From the diversified cultures of New York to a spiritually rich family upbringing, Star expresses how his early experiences in the big city influenced his artistic journey, “This blend of influences fueled my imagination, leading me to delve into the rich tapestry of artistic expressions around me.”


The “Loverboy” Series

Taking this tapestry to Art Fair Philippines, Star’s work stood out at the fair in his presentation “One Petal At A Time.” The aesthetic differed from the many works on display, much of which were conceptual, hyperrealistic, and loaded with details. 


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Star’s strokes are big—similar to his personality. The textures appear sandy and each painting shows variations of a figure, with parts of its face in varying shapes and hues. A dainty flower covers the mouths.

I ask about the materials and the composition. He shares,


“I hold the belief that everything on this planet has a purpose and can convey a message. In my quest for materials, each discovery felt like entering a new universe – the way they blend with paint, their tactile sensation in hand. Exploring these materials remains one of the most gratifying aspects of creating art.”


The booth is hidden compared to the rest, nearer the talks and the Special Projects section. Star calls it a “speakeasy immersive space.”

Mr. Star City
Star wears local Barong designs by Randolf, which was sold with PHx at the Art Fair. Photo: JT Fernandez.

Every 7 PM, fairgoers would follow the sound of a saxophone playing at the booth. It came as a surprise, turning the corner and seeing the space filled with velvety blue plush walls and a checkerboard-patterned carpet. The design was conceptualized and executed by Stage Designer Ed Lacson and Star. At the entrance is a poem. Part of it reads, “A Brand New Rose / Underneath the Moon / Praying for My Love / Come Home Soon.”

The lines accompany the story of “Loverboy,” Mr. Star City’s eponymous character taking up space in the portraits. The artist tells us the story of his imagined protagonist, how Loverboy travels the world with a saxophone, falling in love everywhere he goes. But he is cursed—as soon as his love is reciprocated, his lover forgets his name. 

The artist explains the creative choices for the booth,


“When Ed Lacson and I chose the speakeasy immersive space, it was a deliberate decision resonating with Loverboy being a saxophonist—his workplace where he shares the energy of love and music. The blue hues symbolize Loverboy’s persistent mood to overcome challenges, serving as a reminder that with genuine self-love and tenacity, one can conquer anything. Just keep it moving.”


A move to Manila?

As we pass a large window, Star looks out and sees the city. He reveals he is seriously considering moving to the Philippines to open his own studio in the country. 

Just like the narrative of how despite the curse, Loverboy continues to travel and love the world at large—perhaps this connects to how Star himself has found a love for the Philippines.

Mr. Star City
Mr. Star City. Photo: JT Fernandez.

He declares, “As an artist, my future plans involve consistently crafting beautiful works of art to inspire the world and share love with those in need. I aim to be intentional about where I invest my energy, ensuring it is distributed thoughtfully and purposefully. Forever.”

With the New York artist’s plans to set new roots in Manila, we’re likely to see more of the star around the city—bringing in his sartorial designs and exhibiting his globally renowned portraits, with lots of refreshing energy (and lots of “Big bless”-ings!) to go around.

Photography by JT Fernandez.

Creative direction by Nimu Muallam-Mirano. 

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