Hometown: Roanoke, Virginia
How does a girl from small-town Virginia get to the California coast?
I graduated high school and I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life. But I was awarded a volleyball scholarship to an all-girls university, so I took it and majored in art. After a while, I found myself so bored. I finished up the season and withdrew from school.
You have to do what’s right for you.
Fuck the rules. I started working immediately. I worked at Burger King, Little Caesars, a bakery called Cupcake Cottage, and I was stripping at night.
Whoa! Most eighteen-year-olds are lazy as hell.
My daily grind was nuts. I would get up at 4 a.m. and not come home until 3 a.m. It was a 24-hour cycle. I remember going three days in a row once with no sleep. I lived on Red Bull and coffee. It was nuts. Plus, there was this boy who lived across the street…he was my boyfriend and I was enamored with him.
There is always a boy.
I know. His family suddenly decided they were going to up and move to Texas. I was devastated. In-stead of letting him go, I decided to follow him. I packed a bag, got into my grandmother’s beat-up 1996 Buick, picked up my last paychecks, and left for Texas.
You must have had a lot of time on that drive to think, girl.
This was my first long road trip of many long road trips. In Texas, I got a job as an au pair for a single father with three kids, but that didn’t work out. My boyfriend’s mother did not want me living with them, and I had nowhere else to go. She dropped me at the bus station with my suitcase, smiling as they drove away. I didn’t even have enough money for a ticket home. I had sixty dollars to my name. I ended up living at the bus station for three days, hidden behind the arcade games to get away from the homeless men and drug dealers. This was no place for an eighteen-year-old girl.
Lena, you are punk as fuck!
[Laughs] Eventually, another friend back home heard that I was living in a bus station and he bought me a hotel for the night and a plane ticket. It was the nicest thing anyone has ever done for me.
Did you have high hopes when you came out to California?
As I was driving to L.A., the most beautiful city in the world, I thought to myself, It can only get better. I’m happy to say that it really did. I love my life here. The beach is my sanctuary. Whenever I go there it’s like the ocean washes away anything that has ever been wrong.