This weeks story about former “Cosby” actor Geoffrey Owens was so refreshing and inspirational.  It all started when a woman recognized the actor as “Elvin” from the cast of the hit ‘80s sitcom (since relegated to rerun and residual oblivion because of Cosby’s ruined reputation) working at a Trader Joe’s supermarket, where he was bagging groceries. She sneaked a photo and shared it online. Tabloids quickly snatched it up and ran an “Oh, how the celebrity has fallen” story that went viral. (The woman has since apologized profusely, for what it’s worth.) 

But that’s when the story took an unexpected turn. Owens admits he was devastated at first by the embarrassing exposure, but only for an hour or two. Then he was flooded with messages of support. And he refused to feel shamed for working at Trader Joe’s. He said acting work is sporadic, and he needs to support his family. That job gave him flexibility, and he’s done it for 15 years. He told CNN: 

"It was hurtful but very short lived. What has been sustained, now over days, is how much love and support there is. Not just for me, but for working people. The idea that, 'Hey, what's wrong with working at Trader Joe's, or any job like that?’… What I hope continues to resonate is the idea that one job is not better than another. A certain job might pay more, it might have better benefits, it might look better on paper, but that essentially one kind of work isn't better than another kind of work, that we reevaluate that whole idea and we start honoring the dignity of work and the dignity of the working person."

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Mike Rowe couldn’t have said it any better!

As for the media outlets that tried to embarrass him, Owens said, "They set out to exploit the thing in us, in the public, that wants to see stories about people who were once great or celebrated, now fallen. There's something in us that is titillated by that and that is what those news outlets are exploiting. I would say, I hope you learned your lesson. I hope that you see that people are better than you think they are, that people don't want to celebrate people's downfalls. They want to lift people up."

In another surprise twist, someone in the media who does believe in lifting people up (and is often scorned for it) is Tyler Perry, who said he had “so much respect” for Owens that he just offered him an acting role on the #1 drama on his OWN TV network. Owens says he’d feel uncomfortable taking a job just because of this, but it would be nice if he could get into an audition to prove himself (I’m liking this man more every time he talks.) 

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Between renewed acting offers and the distraction of all the publicity, Owens was forced to quit his Trader Joe’s job, but I’m not surprised that they told him to call it a temporary leave and he’s welcome back anytime. And if he ever takes them up on it, I’m sure he won’t consider it a demotion.


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Comments 1-5 of 5

  • Clara Herrin

    09/20/2018 06:10 PM

    The Lord works in mysterious ways. He is able to take what seemed to be an embarrassing situation and turn it into a second chance for a fellow who never gave up his matter what life dealt him. I hope this new opportunity to do something he's good at will bring him happiness and satisfaction. How wonderful that Trader Joe's understands this. I wish more establishments realized that the dignity of the individual supersedes the things that happen to a person.

  • Michele Miller

    09/13/2018 07:23 AM

    I love this article! Thank you for sharing this with your readers. A roller coaster ride of an inspirational story! Sad for Geoffrey Owens when he was shamed -- like a "gotcha!" on his life -- exposed to be working at a "menial" job. A job with no flash or fanfare, no big bucks, and not much applause, but for 15 years he decided that it wasn't beneath him to do and he lived his life. I am so happy that he only let it get him down for an hour or two, and my heart is doing a happy dance for him that what was used for evil by some media outlets was resoundingly turned to good. So very glad to know that people showered him with encouraging words that refreshed and restored him. When it seemed like the Tyler Perry job offer was the best thing ever, to hear that Geoffrey's ethic was still rock solid in his desire to audition to earn a role rather than use the present situation, catapults my happiness for him. Felt a bit sad that the 15 year run at probably what had become like a second home to him at his beloved Trader Joe's had come to an end due to all of the hoopla, but again happy that in part it was owing to many new acting opportunities. Whew! Then to know that Trader Joe's loved him so much that they wouldn't even consider his resignation a resignation, but rather a temporary leave, SO sweet. Thanks again, Governor Huckabee, for sharing this with us. I am in the process of jumping back into the job "market" myself, and this is that proverbial timely word that is like an apple of gold in a setting of silver.

  • Donna Detwiler

    09/11/2018 05:20 PM

    This was the kind of story we don't hear enough of. I so appreciated Geoffrey Owens response to what was meant as a put down. I'm sure that it encouraged others who might be in his position. He was correct in saying that a high paying job or one with more prestige gives a person more worth. It really is the pride one takes in doing their job well that gives that person worth. Thanks for reporting this.

  • Barbara Demagall

    09/11/2018 02:05 PM

    Geoffrey Owens is a very impressive and mature young man. Someone who knows the value of hard work, of being responsible for his family, and who knows there is dignity within himself and whatever job he takes to earn a productive living. He is a role model to all of us. His depth of character is to be applauded. Good luck to him in his future. Tyler Perry is also a favorite decent young man. God Bless them both.

  • Denise Jackson

    09/09/2018 10:06 AM

    Trader Joe's has a reputation of being a good employer. Most people like working there. Haven't heard the same about the movie studios. MGM even missed payroll once. The employees' paychecks were literally bouncing. Even though it never made the 'office news', the news of bounced paychecks spread like wildfire in Southern California. The morning it happend the phones in Southern California work places were ringing non stop. You could hear people answering their phones saying 'Yes we heard. What are you going to do?" Which points to another issue - there is news media news - then there is the news people learn from there associates. People have always trusted the news they learn from their own experience and the experience of their associates more than "official news". Always have. Always will.