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Cosby show to Trader Joe’s: Job shaming celebrities

by Aaron Betancourt

A recent photo surfaced of former actor Geoffrey Owens who was spotted working as a cashier at a Trader Joe’s in Clifton, New Jersey. The photo was posted on Snapchat by Karma Lawrence who spotted Owens weighing potatoes with a stained shirt this month.

“It was a shock to see him working there and looking the way he did,” Lawrence said in her reasoning for snapping the photos and sharing her story with the Daily Mail. “It made me feel really bad. I was like, wow all those years of doing this show and ended up as a cashier. Other fans would be surprised for sure as well.”

Well,  Lawrence, Owens could be happy working there or it could be his side job. The cost of living is not cheap and it is very common that people find ways to make extra cash. Owens stated that he took the job 15 months ago for flexibility while still pursuing jobs in the entertainment industry. According to an article written on Inquisitr, Owens teaches a Shakespearean acting class in New York City and has acted in both on and off Broadway productions. He has also appeared in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia,” “That’s So Raven,” and “Lucifer.” So, to refute Lawrence’s claim, he did not end up just being a cashier.

I can’t figure out why she thought Owens working at Trader Joe’s was so important she had to contact a newspaper company. She was very concerned about someone’s, who I doubt she ever personally knew, personal life. It seems like she was deeply affected by this. Or maybe once upon a time she was an aspiring talent agent who wanted to show the unfortunate living situation of a-once-well-known actor and find him endorsements. Since the release of the photos she has told NJ Advanced Media that she regrets what she did and that it was a bad impulse.

“I feel terrible about embarrassing him. I wanted to go up to him and take a picture as a fan but I thought he would be embarrassed by that so I just took one of him. I figured everybody does it,” Lawrence also told NJ Advanced Media.

Lawrence just contradicted herself. If she thought asking to take a picture with him would embarrass him why would posting a picture on the web would be any different? You legally have to ask someone if you want to take their photo regardless of what you plan to do with it. Someone with compassion would have thought about what impact this story and photos would have on Owens and his family. He could be a private person who doesn’t publicly share all his information. Though, he said he was devastated at first, Owens said in an interview with Robin Roberts on Good Morning America that no one should feel bad for him and he is grateful for his life and success. Owen’s humbleness was clear when he saw the positive side of publicized job-shaming articles and Fox News tweeting him about working in Trader Joe’s. He didn’t bash the media or Lawrence. Instead, he hopes that as a society we move past the notion of one job being better than the other and realize there is significance and value in every job.

Owens had every right to be upset, use profanity and be contemptuous, but chose to be the opposite. Not every entertainer has a longstanding career. Some go out of the spotlight and get into other things and others take long breaks and make scattering appearances. But, that does not give anyone the right to shame or humiliate someone for their job or lifestyle. Everyone wants something different out of life. Some people are comfortable working two or three jobs. Others are comfortable working the same job their whole life and in the same position.

I commend Owens for representing those middle-class Americans and former and struggling entertainers working in regular jobs. Owens also represents hard work ethics. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but thank you Lawrence. I know I’ve condemned you throughout the entire article, but you depicted real life for so many Americans with your post. You also gave Geoffrey Owens the chance to remind the country how much of a humble, gracious man he is.

Aaron Betancourt can be reached at aaron.betancourt@spartans.ut.edu

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