Coco Jones knows that everything happens on its own timeline. Now an R&B star on the rise, Jones made a strong start to her entertainment career, landing a lead role in Disney’s “Let It Shine” at age 14. It seemed like she was on her way to musical stardom, but her efforts to launch her own music career failed as her label tried to rip her off. Then he left her. Jones soon began to wonder about his place in the world.
“I moved to LA when I was 17. I guess I was trying to calm myself down by partying, so I was out with my girls a lot,” she tells POPSUGAR. “We were all young and confused, so I didn’t feel like it was only me.”
Still she was fighting. At the time, losing the record deal seemed like a failure, but afterward, those years of independence gave them valuable opportunities to experiment and grow. She says, “I would work with aspiring makers, other people who were also trying to make it. We’d be really creative and we’d have no deadlines… We were really on the move.” She was also volunteering at a homeless shelter, trying to keep everything in perspective, and working on her voice in solitude.
“I remember the first time I cursed out on a song during that period of confusion,” she laughs. “And I was like, so scared. I thought, Oh my God, I actually came from Disney? Why am I so scared that I did that?”
Success in the traditional sense didn’t come again until she started posting on TikTok during the pandemic. She quickly went viral, attracting the attention of the label, and the rest became history. But in their own way, those uncertain years were their own kind of success, Jones admits – allowing them to build a foundation that is enabling them to pursue their career on their own terms.
“I used to look back on the old Disney days like, why did I experience something so extreme at such a young age, and now it’s fleeting and gone?” she says. “But now I look at it like it was preparation. All this momentum and all the things that I’m balancing — filming and music, press, touring, studios and everything — it’s all a renaissance experience. It’s a new experience. I feel like I learned to balance it all as a kid, and now I can do it again as a woman, completely as myself. And I’m really grateful.”
Jones undoubtedly has a lot going on. She plays Hilary Banks on The Peacock’s “Bel-Air” and her major label debut EP, “What I Didn’t Tell You”, was a smash success, with her track “ICU” debuting at the top spot on Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart. On July 14, Jones increased the momentum by releasing a remix of the single with none other than Justin Timberlake.
Time and experience, as well as some therapy, have taught Jones a lot about her career and much, much more. For one thing, he’s learned a lot about love over the years. “My confidence definitely went up and down,” she says of her early twenties. One breakup, in particular, shook her self-esteem and taught her many lessons, including the importance of letting the past be in the past.
She says, “I had to get rid of those memories – I’m not looking at your page anymore.” The experience also helped form the advice she gives to anyone regretting the end of a relationship: Make sure you’re considering the whole picture instead of looking at it through rose-tinted glasses. She says, “Write down the good and the bad of that relationship. You can appreciate the good in it, but don’t romanticize what it was. There’s a reason you guys didn’t work out.” When things end, she advises, “Allow yourself to be upset, but don’t stay there. Don’t drag your friends into a complaining whirlwind. Pain will be pain. So feel it, but don’t repeat it.”
However, at the time of the breakup, she was hard on herself. “I think when my first boyfriend and I broke up, I was feeling very down and insecure because I linked the failure of my relationship to my self-worth,” she says. “I think, well, maybe I was the problem. But when you break up with someone, it’s really because you two aren’t the same. It’s not just one person.”
She’s applying similar wisdom to her relationship with her parents, who she says are growing apart. Through therapy and contemplation, Jones says, she is “learning to see each parent not as what happened in their relationship, but as how I am in my relationship with them. I think it’s so important not to get dragged into either side. There are no sides.” Her parents taught her to work hard, she says — her mother is a session singer and her father is an NFL player — and she’s very close to them, and she has had to remind herself that their separation won’t change that.
Jones also has some valuable tips for how she stays so grounded these days. She says that in addition to exercise, she uses affirmations to develop herself. “I get a lot of confidence from self-affirmation. I have this app called I Am, and I love the daily reminders to think good about myself,” she explains. “I really feel like it changes my perspective of myself. I try to do that every day.”
Sometimes, even if you don’t fully believe in yourself, you have to fake it until you make it, she says—a strategy sometimes called the law of perception or “Lucky Girl Syndrome,” depending on what circle you’re in. “Being in an industry where beauty is so oversaturated and hyperfocused on … how you look and comparisons to other girls can undermine your confidence a little bit,” she says. “But I guess sometimes I just have to be a little confused. Like, I’m just pretending I’m not wondering how any of these other girls look compared to me. Because if you walk into the room and you’re not confident, they can tell too. And so I’m going to have to keep it to myself until it’s actually mine.”
Jones delivered a similar message on her candid 2019 single, “Depressed,” which is about social media and the comparison game it often triggers. She says, “We end up comparing ourselves and going through these black holes of diving into someone else’s life, when that’s just part of people’s lives. It’s just the highlight reel.” “I was really telling the story of that song to remind people that life isn’t all shiny and golden. Comparing your life to someone’s highlight reel will only do you harm.”
Instead, Jones says, she would prefer to focus on gratitude and her connection to spirituality, which informs her approach to life and her music. She says, “I grew up in gospel and I feel like a lot of my feelings come from the Spirit.” “I feel that my heart and my soul are one. God is in my heart, and the journey that I have been is in my heart. And so I sing from that place of gratitude.”
Jones is clearly very generous with his intelligence, which is also objective. “I view these interviews as stamps of history and one day people will look at them to learn more about my journey,” she says. “So I try to be very deliberate in what I say.”
So what stamp on history does Jones want to leave for the readers? “I feel very excited,” she says. “I want to look back on it all one day and really feel like I didn’t go back.” Ultimately, Jones wants people to remember that past failures are inconsequential, and that every moment is a new chance to be the architect of your life. “Ultimately, I am really responsible for how my life turns out,” she says. “That’s why I want to dream big, and I want everyone listening to see my journey and see that I haven’t given up, and see how big I’ve dreamed, and dream big for myself too. Shoot for the moon; at least you’ll touch some stars.”
It certainly sounds like Jones is on her way to the stratosphere. “Bel-Air” season three may be delayed due to a writers’ and actors’ strike, but it’s coming, as are a tour and her first full-length major-label album. Jones says their EP was meant to introduce the real Coco Jones – “I guess that’s why it’s called ‘What I Didn’t Told You.'” You’ve seen me as these characters, but what you don’t know is that I’m just like you,” she says of that project — but with her album on the way, she’s ready for the next step.
”I’m more confident,” she says. ”I think the EP was like, ‘I’m fresh out of high school and just got into this music industry. And now, with my album, I’m more like, ‘I know how this high school goes. I’ve been here. Come on let me show you all.'”