We like to say we value hard work. We insist that we respect resilience.  

But then we sometimes see the brutal truth, which is that some of us really enjoy tearing people down.

Case in point: actor Geoffrey Owens, who had a bit of fame back on the 1980s for his role on The Cosby Show, which was the No. 1 television show of its era.

Fast-forward nearly 30 years, and he's working at a Trader Joe's in New Jersey.

A shopper snapped a photo. It went viral, and both Fox News and The Daily Mail ran stories that were not exactly complimentary. To paraphrase:

Ha ha ha ha ha ha look at this loser! He used to be a famous actor and probably made millions. Now he's working in a grocery store. Ha ha ha ha ha!

Again, that's paraphrased, but it was the tone.  

Thankfully, there was a backlash on social media--people who shamed the shamers, pointing out that working for a living is hardly something to be embarrassed by.

The result of it all is that Owens landed a spot on Good Morning America yesterday. He was charming and understated. He quoted Shakespeare. He offered gratitude. He acknowledged that the publicity will likely help his career, and he wore his Trader Joe's name tag, which a lot of people noticed on social media.

"I'm more of a celebrity now than when I actually was a celebrity," he joked in the appearance, adding later, "No one should feel sorry for me. I've had a great life. I've had a great career ... that most actors would die for. No one has to feel sorry for me. I'm doing fine." 

But Owens also wore something else--something that comparatively few people observed: A blue hat with a big "Y" on the front. 

"Y" for Yale University, from which Owens graduated in 1983.

In truth, that's even more of a surprise to many people than the fact that he played the role of Elvin Tibideaux on Cosby starting two years later. 

Because The Cosby Show has been off the air for 26 years. A lot of people today never saw it, never mind remembered Owens's role. But we all have our conceptions of the Ivy League, and Owens seemed to address that sort of thinking straight on.

"This business of me being this 'Cosby guy' who got shamed for working at Trader Joe's, that's going to pass," he said. I hope what doesn't pass is this idea that people are rethinking what it means to work, the honor of the working person and the dignity of work."

Here's his full interview. 


 

Published on: Sep 5, 2018
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