“The Chi” creator Lena Waithe has lived in Eagle Rock for the past three years — but oh, how her life has changed since the moment she moved in, along with her fiancé, Alana Mayo. Not only is there an Emmy statue now hidden among the books on her shelves (for writing on the previous season of “Master of None”), but there’s also the matter of that Vanity Fair cover, which anointed her as an industry game-changer. But she still toils away on scripts, both hers and others’, in a tiny cluttered bedroom on the loft’s second floor. “I’m not one of those people who can go to a coffee shop or write on a plane,” she says. “I always feel more comfortable at my crib.”
Waithe met Mayo at a general meeting as writers, and they “really vibed,” she says. Then they kept bumping into each other, and finally crossed paths again at a friend’s 30th birthday party. Mayo suggested they get a drink, “and it’s been on ever since,” reveals Waithe. It was a year into their relationship when their friend Justin Simien’s (“Dear White People”) partner, a photographer, snapped a moment of them “newly in love.” They received the framed photo as a gift, and it hangs on the wall within eyesight of Waithe’s desk. “I just love it,” she says simply.
Her sizable collection of sneakers — at least 100, if not more — fills up a wall, spilling out to the floor around it. “I’ve been collecting them ever since I started making some real money, which was around ‘Master of None’ time,” she says. “It’s crazy because it does not appreciate in value, but it’s something that I appreciate myself.” The obsession took hold when she was living in London filming “Ready Player One,” and discovered the culture of sneaker vlogs during her downtime. It inspired her so much that she’s planning a documentary. “I really want to dive into these guys and their psyche, because they spend their lives just going out to the mall every week to get the new shoes that just dropped,” she says. “It’s just very competitive.”
Waithe’s priority in her career is her writing, but even she couldn’t turn down the opportunity to work with famed director Steven Spielberg on the film “Ready Player One,” her first feature ever. Her character was turned into an action figure, which cracks her up. “I remember holding onto it throughout my travels [on the press tour],” she says. “I kept it in my bag every train, plane, and automobile I got on. I didn’t want to lose it.” The collectible now lives on her shelf, along with other knick knacks. “It’s my one little keepsake from the film — tiny, but you know it’s there,” she says.
Waithe doesn’t allow herself many distractions when she writes — there’s no TV in her office, for example — except for the 3-month-old bundle of fur she just adopted from the rescue service Wags and Walks. “Our lives have never been the same,” she says of Simone, whose favorite chew toy is a stuffed Donald Trump. “I think it just reminds us that yes, we work a lot and we’re busy, but she makes us make time for each other, whether we want to or not.”
“It’s literally the New Age pen pal,” says Waithe of Instagram, where she met and befriended Tiffany Prioleau. The two women bonded over being queer women of color, both engaged to their partners. Before long, Prioleau sent her a piece of art as a gift. “It just reminds me to be a warrior and to always stand tall,” says Waithe. “I think I’ve always been looking to be welcome, to feel a part of the lesbian community. It’s just crazy how you really connect with people over social media.”