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edge staff writer


Celebrity Slam - Don't shame the hustle

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This is not going to be the usual Celebrity Slam.

Ordinarily, we take to this space to scorn and mock those in the celebrity sphere who say and/or do things that we consider worthy of our scorn and mockery (and yes, we do power couple portmanteaus and occasional heartfelt goodbyes, but the majority of our time is spent on the aforementioned scorning and mocking).

Here’s the thing – ultimately, it’s all in good fun. It’s rare that we genuinely take anybody to task for what they’ve said and done. We make fun of them for being out-of-touch idiots, but it’s little more than teasing. Like, we don’t ACTUALLY care about whatever dips—t move got pulled by Bieber or a Kardashian. It’s just fun to make fun.

But sometimes we see a story that, while it might resemble what we do on a very surface level, is actually little more than mean-spirited shaming, intended to belittle someone who has done absolutely nothing wrong.

So yeah – we’re going to talk about Geoffrey Owens for a minute.

For those unfamiliar, Owens is an actor. He’s best known for his run as Elvin, Cliff Huxtable’s son-in-law on “The Cosby Show.” He’s done a fair amount of work in the years since, appearing in numerous television and film projects, but never breaking through into the top-tier fame stratosphere.

Recently, photos surfaced of Owens working at a Trader Joe’s in New Jersey. The photos were posted by the Daily Mail and Fox News, along with details that not-so-subtly shamed Owens for working at a grocery store.

Happily, the backlash was swift and near-universal, with the social media world offering up plenty of support for Owens, who is just a guy looking to make ends meet.

And that’s the thing. There are a LOT of working actors out there who need to take additional jobs to pay the bills. Just because you’ve been in a couple of movies or a TV series doesn’t mean that you’re wealthy. And with the mercurial nature of the acting business (or any number of other creative careers) being what it is, sometimes the gigs aren’t there. And gig or no gig, you have to put food on the table. So you teach or you wait tables or you work construction … or you man the checkout at Trader Joe’s.

Making a living as an actor is HARD. It is hard and it is a never-ending quest for the next job. It might seem that wealthy actors are everywhere, but that’s just because you see them all the time. There are thousands of actors out there doing a walk-on in a movie here and a three-line scene on a “Law & Order” there and a play at a regional theater over this way. These are people cobbling together a living as they pursue their passion. If they need to work some 30-hour weeks because their agent can’t get them in anywhere right now, so what? There’s nothing wrong with that.

Owens did an interview with “Good Morning America,” Trader Joe’s nametag pinned to his lapel, where he talked about what he hoped would come from this - a rethinking of “the honor of the working person and the dignity of work.”

“There is no job that is better than another job,” he went on to add. “It might pay better, it might have better benefits, it might look better on a resume and on paper, but actually it's not better. Every job is worthwhile and valuable.”

Now, as things stand right now, this looks like it might ultimately prove to be a positive thing for Owens. The outpouring of support has been significant, with a multitude of actors, directors and other entertainment folks speaking up to share their own stretches of necessary outside employment. As Owens said in an interview, “I feel like I’m more of a celebrity now than I’ve ever been. I’m more of a celebrity now than when I was an actual celebrity.”

It’s true – it’s likely very few of us had given any thought to Geoffrey Owens for a very long time. Now he’s in the spotlight and getting job offers. And that’s nice, but it’s not what this is about. This is about acknowledging that there’s no shame in working hard, no matter what the job might be.


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