Lynnette Blanche is a first generation American, born to Colombian parents in Anchorage, Alaska. She spends her weekdays plugging away as an advertising executive and weekends snapping photos all over the city. Her Hell’s Kitchen neighborhood is often the backdrop.
So, what’s your New York story? Born here, or just arrived?
Growing up, I always dreamed of living in New York City. My parents met and were married in Astoria, and while we weren’t raised here, it always had a special place in my heart. One month after I completed university, I moved to NYC and never looked back. That was nearly 15 years ago.
How did you end up in Hell’s Kitchen?
I became friends with someone whose parents own two buildings in NYC. I was looking for a new place, and it just so happened that a unit was opening up in one of their buildings. The couple who had lived there were in the unit for over 40 years. It was their time to move out of a 5th-floor walk-up and my opportunity to snag a freshly gutted and beautifully renovated apartment. That was 2011, and I’ve been in the apartment ever since.
What’s your favorite thing about Hell’s Kitchen?
The people/community. In a suburb, it’s natural to feel like you’re part of a neighborhood, which isn’t always the case in NYC. But in HK, I know my neighbors, local business owners, and there is a true sense of camaraderie that is truly quite special and unique.
And what’s your Hell’s Kitchen pet peeve?
Currently, it’s the crime. However, I have felt and seen a slight improvement since the spring.
Did you stay put when the pandemic hit, or did you find an escape for some of the time?
There’s nowhere else I’d rather be. I happily hunkered down in Hell’s Kitchen and don’t regret it.
What did you do for work pre-COVID? What are you doing now?
I’m the Associate Director of Business Development at a global advertising agency, specifically our NY office (that’s a mouthful). I’m blessed to say that I’m still in that role, and as one might expect, brands and clients needed our partnership more than ever. We doubled-down in support of our existing clients, their brands, and also reached out to help new brands/clients during this unexpected period for so many of us.
What’s the most interesting thing that you’ve learned during the pandemic?
I don’t know how interesting it is, but I’ve learned that I’m WAY more productive when I work from home and I’m away from distractions. In a work/office environment, it’s so easy and fun to get chatty with co-workers. I do miss that aspect, sometimes, but mostly find that I’m a more efficient workhorse from my HK remote office.
Tell us one thing that’s given you hope during the pandemic?
This city has always been resilient. We know from past events that people in the city, without question or hesitation, come together and lift each other up in times of need. I was reminded of the resiliency of our own Hell’s Kitchen community – to see so many coming together in support of closed business and gig-economy workers (thank you, W42st for organizing the tip list), and things like the clean-up crew, the 7pm recognition of essential workers…I could go on. That has given me hope. It’s always been there but to be here, feel it and experience it first hand has given me hope that all is not truly lost.
What’s your closest brush with world fame and celebrity?
It has to be the time I was working reception at a salon in Bergdorf Goodman, and I checked-in Beyonce for her lash extension appointment. She came in after-hours, so it was a very personal and close encounter, and she was LOVELY. In Hell’s Kitchen? It’s probably Jon Hamm at Gallaghers Steakhouse. I never feel comfortable bothering celebrities while they’re enjoying their meals, but I was star-struck to see him. He’s even more handsome in person.
What’s your superpower?
Making the impossible possible. I began my career in production, and you learn that there is a solution or way to solve ANYTHING. If there’s a way, I’ll find it.
What song do you sing at the top of your voice in the shower?
This is a tough one. Music is so infused in every part of my day and life. There is rarely a moment when I’m not listening or playing music. BUT if I had to pick an awesome song to amp me up in the morning, it would probably be “Keep it Moving” because it’s impossible not to dance and sing when that comes on. It’s a classic.
Which people inspire you the most?
Right now, it’s two groups of people: working parents with children that are remote learning from home, and educators. It’s hard enough to do our jobs remotely and without the convenience of quick, in-person chats/collaboration. I can’t imagine doing all that plus monitoring, mentoring, and offering real-time support for children from living rooms and kitchen tables. I truly don’t know how they’re doing it all, but they are, and it’s remarkable. Then we have the educators who, with no fair warning, had to quickly adapt and rethink their lessons, how to engage or make connections with their students, etc. These are both incredibly challenging situations. It’s inspiring all around.
What’s your favorite quote or saying?
“We’ll see.” I say it so much, and a few friends hate it. I love it because nothing in this life is guaranteed, and we truly never know what will happen next. My friends say it makes them anxious, but it’s teeming with wonder and possibility for me. I love that so much.
Do you love Times Square? Why, or why not?
You mean my back yard? That’s what I call it, lovingly. I spend nearly every weekend in Times Square. Like most New Yorkers, I used to hate it. I would do the classic bob and weave through the street to quickly dodge tourists and get home. One day, I saw this lovely family sitting and staring up at the lights. Then I started looking at other families, their faces, and it gave me chills. So many people from all over the world will work so hard, or save up, to bring their families (or travel alone) to this one place. When you stop and take in their moment of joy, marvel, or even exhaustion, it becomes so magical. We take it for granted.
If you could bring one thing (person/place/event) back to HK that is no longer around, what would it be?
Selfishly, my landlords. They moved out of the building and into a house. Having them in the building was such a treat! Our building is still maintained to perfection, but it feels like our family moved out. I miss waking up and/or coming home from work to smell the Greek food in the hallways. They would leave their door open, so you’d hear music or the awesome sound of them talking (aka yelling) to one another in Greek. They were always there to welcome tenants home after a long workday and make you smile on your way to your apartment. It’s not the same without them. For the community, I’d bring back Hourglass Tavern.
Add your shameless plug or personal profile?
I’ve been known to take a picture or two. You can see them on Instagram @lsblanche.
Anything we missed?
I want to say how much I appreciate the role your publication has played in bringing this community together. Thank you for being a constant for many of us during the pandemic. The editorial effort of a daily newsletter is no small task. Thank you so much for keeping us connected.
HELL’S KITCHEN HAPPY PLACES
Hold Fast. You’re at home there and the food is amazing.
Dim Sum Palace. You can’t eat dim sum and not feel happy. Dumplings are pockets of happiness with broth.
Lilly’s Craft & Kitchen. The energy of the staff, the beer selection and sports. You can’t go wrong!
El Rancho Burritos. Best tacos in town at the best price. They are unmatched.
Swing 46. Friday night salsa dancing. The music once lured me out of my bed and onto W46th Street. When I saw people dancing in the street to live music, I was hooked. If you haven’t been, GO and bring friends (in masks). It’s so much fun and inadvertently a great workout.
Tell us your West Side Story. Click here to find out how you can feature.