Job-Shaming Of 'Cosby Show' Actor At Trader Joe's Renews Dignity Of Work Debate

Sep 11, 2018

With Meghna Chakrabarti

The Cosby actor, job-shaming and the dignity of work. The photo that went viral sparked an emotional debate. We’ll hear it.


Barbara Ehrenreich, journalist, founder of the Economic Hardship Reporting Project and author of “Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting by in America,” among other books. (@B_Ehrenreich)

Aliya S. King, freelance journalist. (@aliyasking)

From The Reading List

BET: “Geoffrey Owens And How Black Artists Are Expected To Survive” — “Sometimes the Internet gets it right.

“Fox News recently published a mean-spirited (and completely unnecessary) news bit on actor Geoffrey Owens who is working as a cashier at a Trader Joe’s in New Jersey.

“The photo shows Owens looking considerably older than he did on The Cosby Show, (as he should since it was over thirty years ago). And the paparazzi-styled photo screamed gotcha! since it looks like he didn’t know it was taken. (The customer who took the picture promptly sold it to a tabloid.)

“Blame it on decades of experience in celebrity journalism, but I expected social media platforms to explode in laughter with memes and gifs ribbing Owens. Working as a cashier at a supermarket? After being well-known for an Emmy-winning show? I could only imagine how ugly Black Twitter could get.”

Vox: “Geoffrey Owens, actor and Trader Joe’s employee, sparked a debate about how we value work” — “This Labor Day weekend came with an unexpected reminder that the daily struggle is real — even for celebrities.

“Former Cosby Show actor Geoffrey Owens made headlines this holiday weekend after a New Jersey shopper snapped photos of him bagging groceries at a Trader Joe checkout line — then provided them to the Daily Mail.

“Instantly, Owens — who played the Huxtables’ affable son-in-law Elvin on the show from 1985 to 1992 and is still a working actor — found himself at the center of a complicated conversation about low-wage labor. It involved social media shaming, a backlash to the backlash, and a SAG-led campaign to celebrate the many actors who, like Owens, work less glamorous jobs to make ends meet and do what they love.

“Ultimately, at the end of a whirlwind weekend, Owens appeared on Good Morning America Tuesday to discuss the situation — proudly wearing his Trader Joe’s employee badge, though he noted he’s since quit the store due to all the attention.”

BBC: “Cosby actor responds after being ‘job-shamed’ at Trader Joe’s” — “Geoffrey Owens, an actor from The Cosby Show, has thanked supporters after photos of him working as a cashier at Trader Joe’s were mocked online.

“A customer’s snapshots of Owens bagging groceries in New Jersey were published by the Daily Mail and Fox News, leading to accusations of ‘job-shaming.’

“Actors and celebrities rushed to defend the actor, which Owens told ABC was ‘really overwhelming, in a good way.’

“Filmmaker Tyler Perry tweeted a job offer to him after the interview aired.

“‘I feel like I’m more of a celebrity now than I’ve ever been. I’m more of a celebrity now then when I was actually a celebrity,’ Owens told Good Morning America on Tuesday.”

People: “Woman Who Took Geoffrey Owens’ Photo at Trader Joe’s Says She Didn’t Mean to Shame Him” — “The woman who took Geoffrey Owens‘ photo at Trader Joe’s is full of regret.

“In an interview with, Karma Lawrence apologized for any pain she caused the 57-year-old Cosby Show alum after the Daily Mail and Fox News published her photos of him bagging groceries in New Jersey last week.

“‘I don’t know why I snuck a picture,’ said Lawrence, 50. ‘I figured everybody does it. I don’t know what possessed me. I just did it. I didn’t even think about it. I just kind of did it on impulse and it was a bad impulse.’ “

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