Geoffrey Owens Donates the $25K Nicki Minaj Gave Him to Charity: 'I Am Extremely Grateful'
"I am extremely grateful to Nicki Minaj for enabling struggling actors to continue pursuing their dreams," Geoffrey Owens said
Geoffrey Owens is “extremely grateful” to Nicki Minaj for gifting him with $25,000 after she learned that he worked at Trader Joe’s. But instead of keeping the sizable donation, the actor is sending the funds to other actors who are in need.
“I would like to give this donation of 25K to the Actor’s Fund in memory of the late, great Earle Hyman — who played Cosby’s father, ‘Russell’, on The Cosby Show — who lived his last many years and died at the Actors’ Home, (funded and run by the Actor’s Fund),” Owens, 57, told TMZ in a statement.
“I am extremely grateful to Nicki Minaj for enabling struggling actors to continue pursuing their dreams,” he concluded.
And Minaj, 35, appears to be in full support of his decision.
“I’m happy to be a part of a great cause,” she told the website. “I wish Geoffrey much success and want him to know how loved he is. Rest in Peace to Earle Hyman.”
“Bravo and Brava! Thank you to Geoffrey Owens for paying forward his gift from Nicki Minaj and making a very generous donation of $25,000 to our work,” Brian Stokes Mitchell, Chairman of The Actors Fund, said in a statement obtained by PEOPLE. “I’m greatly humbled and truly inspired that Geoffrey and Nicki would take action to help their colleagues when they need it most. This donation will help us provide essential programs and services to thousands of entertainment and performing arts professionals in need across the country every year.”
“It will help us continue to provide supportive services including The Actors Fund Home, a skilled nursing, assisted living and short-stay rehabilitation facility for professionals who, like the great actor Earle Hyman, have dedicated their lives to the arts — and where we will be dedicating a room in Earle’s honor thanks to this gift. It will also help support our ongoing social services and emergency financial assistance, health care and insurance counseling, affordable housing, and secondary employment and training services,” Stokes Mitchell’s statement continues. “The staff of The Actors Fund take great pride in fostering stability and resiliency in the lives of everyone in performing arts and entertainment, and providing a safety net for them in times of need. We thank you, Geoffrey and Nicki.”
“This man is a whole f—ing legend,” the rapper said during an episode of Queen Radio on Beats 1. “That man is now getting so many opportunities, I personally want to donate $25,000.”
Minaj also called out Karma Lawrence, the woman who took Owens’ photo at a Trader Joe’s in New Jersey where he was bagging groceries.
Calling Lawrence a “stupid f—,” the star accused her of “trying to embarrass this hardworking man,” who played Elvin Tibideaux on The Cosby Show from 1985-92.
WATCH: Geoffrey Owens on Being Shamed for Working at Trader Joe’s: ‘No One Should Feel Sorry for Me’
Speaking with PEOPLE, Owens said that his first thought following the news of his Trader Joe’s job going public was how his son would feel about it.
Detailing his fear that his 19-year-old child would be humiliated, the father of one recalled, “I texted my son and warned him about the story breaking. I actually apologized to him for embarrassing him, because I knew that he’s in school away from us. I knew his classmates would see it and he’d be humiliated and embarrassed. I apologized to him.”
Owens, who worked at the grocery store for 15 months, added, “Even before the wave of support rolled in within an hour or two, he sent me a beautiful text back about how proud he was of me. I cried, I just broke down. He felt the opposite of embarrassment. He was so proud that I had taken the job. It was beautiful.”
He said the attention he’s been receiving ever since has been overwhelming.
“It really hurt. I felt really humiliated,” Owens said. “I tried to envision the worse case scenario just to prepare myself and then it was just a little bit worse. If that was possible.”
But the experience turned into a learning moment for the actor.
“It’s because I kind of hung in there and persevered that all of this amazing stuff has now happened. I am someone who generally does persevere, but this confirmed to me how important it is to just hang in there,” Owens said. “I think that’s so important for so many people in my industry. You just have to hang on!”