On a whim, Lilibet Snellings decided to make the big move from Connecticut to Los Angeles with a few of her girlfriends. She had just graduated college and planned to stay in the city for a year, tops. But she slowly fell more in love with LA and spent nearly a decade here.
Like many Angelenos, Snellings became a “slash.” Some are actors slash waiters, others are writers slash dog walkers. While living in LA, Snellings was a cocktail waitress slash writer slash Box Girl at the Standard Hotel on Sunset Boulevard. For five years, Snellings spent one night a week lounging in a glass box in the Standard’s lobby and then she wrote a book about her experiences.
We caught up with Lilibet Snellings to talk about her various LA gigs, her favorite LA restaurants and her new book, Box Girl: My Part-Time Job as an Art Installation.
Tell me about your book, Box Girl.
Box Girl is a collection of essays about living in LA in my 20s and the various odd jobs I had while I was trying to “make it.” Of course, the oddest of them was my stint as a box girl at the Standard Hotel. It’s supposed to read as if I wrote the chapters while sitting inside the box.
The book zooms in and out of these short vignettes describing what is happening while I’m sitting inside the box, what I’m observing in the lobby and what I’m overhearing. Then we zoom out into longer chapters of my life in LA, like going on auditions, cocktail waitressing, being an extra on Entourage and almost drowning on set.
What did you first think of LA when you moved here and how did that change through the years?
I did not like LA when I moved there, which is funny because Box Girl is meant to be a love letter to LA. Los Angeles is a hard city to figure out at first because the neighborhoods are so far apart and you spend a lot of time in your car. For the first two years, I didn’t realize there was anything east of Fairfax which is awful because so much of LA’s rich cultural history is on the east side.
People think it’s such a superficial city, but there’s a thriving arts community, a great literary scene and some smart people in addition to beautiful people.
Tell me about some of your craziest experiences inside the box.
The strangest thing about being in the box was that people thought I couldn’t hear them. But if I chose to listen, I could hear everything, including (but not limited to) dudes placing bets on whether or not I was going to fall asleep, people constantly asking the front desk staff if I was allowed to go to the bathroom, a guy saying, “She’s got a good booty for a white girl,” and the creepiest–and most disturbing– of them all: a foreign man asking if I were for sale, and how much a few hours with me in a hotel room would set him back.
Having lived through it and survived, what’s your advice for women in their 20s trying to navigate employment and life, both in LA and in general?
Generally speaking, be a “yes” person. You never know where that babysitting job or catering gig or date is going to lead. People have become more introverted with social media, but they need to just go out there and try it. You think it’s going to happen immediately or take a year, but it might take 10 years.
Where do you go to be inspired and write?
I ended up living in Venice, which is my absolute favorite place. Going for a run on the boardwalk by the ocean was very inspiring. The Central Library in Downtown LA is one of the coolest libraries in the world. It’s hard not go in there and be inspired.
What do you love most about Venice?
Venice is one of the truly walkable neighborhoods in LA. Some days, I couldn’t find my car because I hadn’t driven it in four or five days. Whether you’re strolling along Abbott Kinney or by the canals or walking to a restaurant, you can spend a lot of time in that one neighborhood on foot. Because of that walkability, I was always running into people I know. In other parts of LA, you’re always behind the steering wheel so you don’t have that sense of community.
Name a few of your favorite stores.
Principessa on Abbott Kinney and Planet Blue on Main Street. Colcha is an amazing home store and a great place to pick up a housewarming or engagement gift. Steven Alan is always a great go-to, with classic, comfortable pieces.
Which restaurants did you frequent?
The Tasting Kitchen is one of my absolute favorites. Of course, Gjelina because the food is so delicious. One of my old-school favorite restaurants is an Italian haunt called Chez Jay. Allegedly it’s where JFK used to meet Marilyn Monroe.
I can’t not say Chaya Venice, not because I worked there for five years, but because I think it’s continually one of the best restaurants in LA. Out of Venice, MB Post is one of my favorites, for brunch especially. I still dream about their bacon cheddar biscuits.
As an insider, what would you suggest ordering from Chaya Venice?
There’s a Lobster Kobe Beef Roll that’s phenomenal and it’s best served with rice paper instead of seaweed, I think. Not many people order a chicken dish when they go out, but Chaya’s Chicken Dijon is absolutely delicious. I also love their lychee martinis.
Where’s your favorite place to grab a drink in LA?
High Rooftop Lounge at the Hotel Erwin is awesome, with panoramic views of the city and ocean. Le Zinque is another bar in Venice that I love. It’s a wine bar with good small plates. The Townhouse is one of the oldest bars in LA. It was opened in 1915 and masqueraded as a grocery store during the Prohibition with the bar downstairs. For non-alcoholic drinks, I love Groundwork coffee, the French Market and Intelligentsia coffee. Rose Café on Rose and Main Street has been around forever.
Name something that everyone in LA should experience at least once.
The Huntington Library and Gardens. Skip the Getty Center once and drive to Pasadena. It is the most gorgeous garden; you feel like you’re on another planet. That’s a great spot to take out-of-towners.
Los Angeles is…
Both ugly and beautiful, both sexy and smart.