Geoffrey Owens was met with a significant moment of applause when he appeared in the introduction to the 2019 Screen Actors Guild Awards Sunday night before shouting out his job at Trader Joe’s and declaring: “I am an actor!” “Somewhere in the middle of the road of my life, I found myself in the dark wood of unemployment and debt, but instead of switching careers like a sane person, I took a job at the local Trader Joe’s to see if I could hang in there with my career, and it’s actually worked out pretty well. I’m Geoffrey Owens and I am an actor,” he proclaimed.
“The Cosby Show” actor, known for his role on the show as Elvin Tibideaux, was embroiled in controversy in September 2018 when he was job-shamed after news outlets published photos of him working at grocery store Trader Joe’s.
Owens was recognized while working at a store in Clifton, New Jersey, by customer Karma Lawrence, who later told the Daily Mail it made her feel bad that after all those years on “The Cosby Show,” Owens “ended up as a cashier.”
The resulting media coverage about Owens cri-tiqued him for having a “regular” job and placed a negative connotation on being a person who bags groceries.
“I was really de-vastated, but it lasted ― the period of de-vastation was so short,” Owens said on a segment of “Good Morning America” after the coverage.
Owens told host Robin Roberts that he ”didn’t advertise” that he was working at Trader Joe’s because he “didn’t want the entertainment community to decide, ‘Well, he’s doing that. He’s not pursuing acting anymore.’ I felt like I had to be careful about that.”
— Michelle Collins (@michcoll) January 28, 2019
He went on to say: “There is no job that’s better than another job. It might pay better. It might have better benefits. It might look better on a resume or on paper. But, actually, it’s not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable. If we have a kind of a rethinking about that because of what’s happened to me, that would be great. No one should feel sorry for me, either from a positive or negative perspective. I’ve had a great life. I’ve had a great career … I’m doing fine.”
After Owens talked publicly about his job at the food chain, rapper Nicki Minaj even pledged to give him $25,000 and called the actor a “legend” on her Queen Radio show.
“I personally want to donate on behalf of Queen Radio $25,000 to Geoffrey Owens,” she said. “You know why? Imma tells you something. This man is a whole … a legend in these streets.”