Coco Jones is finally blossoming into the multi-talented star she should have been a decade ago. Cut from the Disney cloth that also produced fan favorites like Raven Symone, Selena Gomez, Miley Cyrus, and Zendaya, Jones was destined for that same success. For her, however, Disney quickly went from the stepping stone it should’ve been and was for the aforementioned names, to a roadblock that eventually detoured her from achieving her dreams. Promised TV shows and movies were nixed and a record deal arrived and departed all while attempting to make the Tennessee-raised actress and singer something she wasn’t. They say good things come to those who wait, but for Coco Jones, her wait was actually an example of the entertainment industry’s mistreatment of dark-skin women.
The bright side is that the lows that Jones spent years hoping she would finally be able to climb out of are finally behind her. She stars in Bel-Air, Peacock’s reimagined version of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, as Hilary, a role she thrived in from the show’s start in February 2022. A month after the season one premiere, Jones signed a record deal with High Standardz and Def Jam Recordings, and in November of that year, she released her major label debut EP What I Didn’t Tell You which is highlighted by standout records like “Caliber” and “ICU.” It shouldn’t have taken this long for Jones to be granted her moment, and though she’ll certainly agree, she’s found her silver lining through it all. “I think what helped me to overall just take a breath and let things be is understanding that my journey has never worked out in the specific ways that I wanted it to — always better,” she tells me over a Zoom call. “Better in ways that I would have never known to pray for.”
Some of these ways include the opportunities to work with some of the industry’s most gifted names. She collaborated with Babyface on “Simple” from his Girls Night Out album and Teyana Taylor, under the moniker Spike Tey, directed Jones’ sultry and enticing video for “Caliber.” Despite these bright moments, Jones describes the flowers she’s received from the industry over the past year as “bittersweet,” and it’s for a reason you can’t really blame her for. “It’s kind of hard to describe,” she admits. “One part of me kind of feels like, ‘Oh wow, this is amazing.’ But then the other part of me is like, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been doing this. I tried to wake y’all up literally years ago!’” Still, whether it be Babyface, Teyana Taylor, or Janet Jackson, Jones is appreciative of the love they’ve shown her as there was once a time that it didn’t come her way from them and others. “She posted my whole performance of her song, ‘I Get Lonely,’ and that was crazy,” Jones said about Jackson. “That’s a legend. That’s somebody that I learned from.”
Coco Jones has been waking up the entertainment world for a little over two years now. In the fall of 2020, she took to YouTube to detail the negative experiences, much of which were in relation to colorism, that she had in the industry in response to a fan who asked, “What happened to Coco Jones?” Since then, she’s been honest about the trials and tribulations she faced in her career, re-introducing them to her God-given gifts that now have people diving into an open verse TikTok challenge to “ICU,” and highlighting the other pieces of the puzzle that make Coco, Coco. Slowly but surely, they finally acknowledged the alarm she’s been ringing. What I Didn’t Tell You spent its first week at No. 1 on Apple Music’s US R&B/Soul Chart, an accomplishment that Jones manifested prior to the EP’s release. “I was literally crying because I had edited a picture to make it look like it was my album that went No. 1, and I put that on my vision board,” she says. “So to see that in real life… like all I had to do a screenshot it.” It was a reaffirming moment for Jones, who admits to sometimes putting a ceiling on her aspirations to cushion an anticipated fall from an industry that’s knocked her down too many times. “Because I’ve had so many rejections, I get scared to have big expectations sometimes. So even seeing that [it’s like], Courtney, you really need to tap back into the nine-year-old you who was like, I’m literally going to take over the world.” In her words, this takeover could very well include a Coco Jones theme park, Coco Jones french fries, and/or the Coco Jones chicken nuggets she joked about during over conversation. “Whatever it’s going to be, it will be.”
The next instance of Coco Jones continuously waking up her past doubters begins next month as season two of Bel-Air returns on February 23. The actress is expectedly tight-lipped about what we can expect for season two, but she confirms love is in the air for her character Hilary. “You can expect Hillary to be in love. Her and Jazz are definitely boo’d up, and without spoiling too much, someone from her past comes into play and shakes things up.” The similarities between Jones and her character Hilary are hard to ignore. Just like Jones, Hilary possesses the Gen-Z quality that makes us equipped to never settle for less than what we think if rightfully ours. “If I didn’t really love what I was doing, I would have given up [one of] the first 17 times I wanted to give up,” she notes. “I think for me, it was more like what if I go back home and start a completely different life and one day regret it? What if I was literally almost there? Now, I actually am almost to the place where I’ve always seen myself since I was nine years old.”
When I ask Jones what advice she’d give a young Black girl who was to ever find herself in a period of doubt like she was once in, she recalled something she was told during a conversation she had with SZA. “It was something about having this delusion, about how things are just going to work out,” she says. “Just live in your own world, where these things that you want for yourself will happen.” Jones continues, “Move and speak and think as if this is your world, and you can have anything […] and maybe sometimes it’s gonna look delusional, because the timeline is taking longer, and people on the outside who live in fear are like, ‘Girl maybe it’s time to give it on up and cash in your chips,’ but they don’t live in your world. They live in theirs.” To SZA’s point, there’s a moment where this delusion becomes something real and attainable. So after collaborating with Teyana Taylor and the legendary Babyface, it’s no surprise that Coco Jones is aiming higher and wider. She hopes to one day make records with Brandy, Bad Bunny, Wizkid, Burna Boy, Tems, gospel artists like Cece Winans, and even country artists. She also aspires to have a career that can be most compared to Rihanna’s. The world is Coco Jones’ and she’s coming after everything she’s owed and then some.
What I Didn’t Tell You is out now via High Standardz/Def Jam Recordings. You can stream it here.