The ex-Cosby Show actor who got job-shamed for working at a Trader Joe's will head to Atlanta soon, to start filming Tyler Perry's The Haves and the Have Nots on OWN.
Perry hired Geoffrey Owens after he was outed by a shopper who last month shared unflattering photos that went viral of the actor bagging groceries. Since then, the classically trained actor, who portrayed the Huxtables' son-in-law, Elvin, has been sifting through numerous other offers, including one by Nicki Minaj to give him $25,000.
"I went from being a relatively anonymous Trader Joe's bagger/shelf stocker to internationally discussed poster child for a new cause celebre about the virtues of work and the working man," he said. "All in the course of a week or less. So, my head is spinning. It's been bizarre. It's been wonderful, challenging, exhausting, and mostly really great."
In other words, Owens is going to be OK.
I can't say the same for the rest of us, though. The way he made headlines for working at Trader Joe's exposed something really ugly about us: We're a nation of snobs. Too many of us feel certain work is beneath us. And when we saw a former "star" whose face we remembered from TV dressed in a stained T-shirt and working at a grocery store, we were straight-up appalled.
I've got to give it to Owens, a cum laude graduate of Yale University who lives in Montclair, N.J. The 57-year-old didn't slink off in embarrassment the way a lot of us would have. Instead, he spoke eloquently about the virtue of putting in an honest day's work, reminding us how there's honor in that.
"I hope this isn't a conversation that goes away when I go away," he told me. "I'm going away soon in terms of me being hot in the news.
"What I hope doesn't go away is this thing we're talking about — about the virtue and the nobility of work, no matter what it is," he added as he drove to the home he shares with his wife, Josette, also an actress, and his 19-year-old son. "That's something that I think as Americans, it's really difficult for us to wrap our heads around."
He's right about that. Many of us have been conditioned to think that there are certain jobs that are more acceptable than others.
"I'm hoping that this week, it won't end, that we'll continue to be sensitized to the fact that the vast majority of people do work that no one considers particularly famous or glamorous," Owens told me. "The vast majority of people do jobs that are just valuable in the fact that they serve a good purpose, and they provide money [and] ways for people to live, and that's nothing to be demeaned or looked down upon."
"I mean, this is like 99 percent of us," he continued. "We have to stop thinking that that 1 percent that have different kinds of jobs are better."
Owens was influenced by his parents as well. His mother is a teacher and his late father was a librarian who later became a congressman.
"They always taught me the value of work," he said. "They also taught me that money isn't the most important thing."
Owens, who also teaches and directs, is "on an indefinite leave of absence" from Trader Joe's.
And although it's not his intention, he wouldn't be averse to one day going back. That's looking less and less likely lately.
"I hope that what this leads to is – if not huge, glamorous things – just enough work on a daily level, enough work on a modest scale for me to make a living and not have to do anything else outside of the business," Owens said. "We'll see what happens."
"I will go back to a job like Trader Joe's if I have to, as I did to begin with."