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."
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.)
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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