Image Source: Getty / Vivien Killilea
Coco Jones knows that everything happens on its own timeline. Now an R&B star on an upward trajectory, Jones started off her entertainment career strong, landing a starring role on Disney's "Let It Shine" at the age of 14. She seemed squarely on the path to musical stardom, but efforts to launch her own music career faltered as her label tried to pigeonhole her. Then they dropped her. Jones soon found herself wondering about her place in the world.
"I moved to LA at 17. I think I was trying to self-soothe with partying, so I was out a lot with my girls," she tells POPSUGAR. "We were all kind of young and confused, so I didn't feel like that was only me."
Still, she was struggling. At the time, losing the record deal seemed like a failure, but in hindsight, the freedom of those years gave her valuable opportunities to experiment and grow. "I would work with up-and-coming producers, other guys that were just trying to make it, too. We would be really creative and had no time limits. . . . We were really, really growing," she says. She was also volunteering at a homeless shelter, trying to keep everything in perspective, and working on her sound in solitude.
"I remember the first time during that period of confusion that I cursed on a song," she laughs. "And I was like, so scared. I was like, oh my gosh, I really do come from Disney? Why am I so scared that I did this?"
Success in the conventional sense didn't come again until she started posting on TikTok during the pandemic. She quickly went viral, sparking label attention, and the rest was history. But in their own way, those uncertain years were their own kind of success, Jones acknowledges — allowing her to build a foundation that's enabling her to create her career on her own terms.
"I used to look at the old Disney days like, why did I experience such a peak at such a young age, and now it's fleeting and gone?" she says. "But now I look at it like, that was preparation. All of this momentum and all of the things that I'm balancing — filming and music, press, tours, studio and everything — it's all renaissance feels. It's déjà vu. I feel like I learned how to balance it all as a kid, and now I get to do it again as a woman, fully as myself. And I'm really grateful."
Jones undeniably has a lot going on. She stars as Hilary Banks on Peacock's "Bel-Air," and her major label debut EP, "What I Didn't Tell You," has been a resounding success, with her track "ICU" debuting at the top spot on Billboard's Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop charts. On July 14, Jones built on the momentum by releasing a remix of the single with none other than Justin Timberlake.
Time and experience, as well as some therapy, have provided Jones with a lot of wisdom about more than just her career. She's learned a lot about love over the years, for one thing. "My confidence went up and down for sure," she recalls of her early twenties. A breakup, in particular, shook up her self-esteem and taught her more than a few lessons, including the importance of letting the past be in the past.
"I had to get rid of those memories — I'm not looking at your page anymore," she says. The experience also helped form the advice she gives anyone regretting the end of a relationship: make sure you're considering the full picture instead of looking at it through rose-coloured glasses. "Write down the good and the bad of that relationship. You can appreciate the good of it, but don't romanticize what it was. There's a reason that you guys didn't work out," she says. When things do end, she advises, "allow yourself to feel upset, but don't stay there. Don't drag your friends into the complaining tornado. The pain is gonna be the pain. So feel it, but don't repeat yourself."
At the time of the breakup, though, she was hard on herself. "I think that when me and my first boyfriend broke up, I felt really low and not confident, because I associated my relationship being unsuccessful with my value," she says. "I'm like, okay, maybe I was the problem. But when you break up with somebody, it's really because you both are not a match. It's not just one person."
She's applying similar wisdom to her relationship with her parents, who she says are separating. Through therapy and reflection, Jones says, she's been focusing on learning to "look at each parent, not for what happened in their relationship, but how I've been in my relationship with them. I think it's so important to not get dragged into either side. There's no sides." Her parents taught her how to work hard, she says — her mom is a session vocalist and her dad 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.
As for how she stays so grounded in herself nowadays, Jones also has some valuable tips. In addition to exercise, she says, she uses affirmations to build herself up. "I get a lot of my confidence from self-affirmations. I have this app called I Am, and I love the daily reminders to think highly of myself," she explains. "I really feel like it changes my point of view on myself. I try to do that every day."
Sometimes, even if you don't fully believe in yourself, she adds, you just have to fake it until you make it — a strategy also sometimes referred to as the law of assumption, or "lucky girl syndrome," depending on what circle you're in. "Being in an industry where beauty is so hypersensitive and hyperfocussed . . . how you look and comparison to other girls can make your confidence a little shaky," she says. "But I think sometimes I just had to be a little delusional. Like, I'm just gonna pretend that I'm not thinking about how any of these other girls look compared to me. Because if you walk in the room and you're not confident, then they can tell, too. And so I just had to own it until it really was mine."
Jones communicated a similar message on her candid 2019 single, "Depressed," which is about social media and the comparison game it often triggers. "We end up comparing ourselves and going through these black holes of diving into somebody else's life, when that is just one piece of people's lives. It's just the highlight reel," she says. "I was really telling the story in that song to remind people that life is not all glitter and gold. Comparing your life to somebody's highlight reel is only gonna be harmful to you."
Instead, Jones says, she'd rather focus on gratitude and her connection to spirituality, which both inform her approach to life and her music. "I did grow up in gospel, and I do feel like a lot of my emotion comes from the spirit," she says. "I feel like my heart and my spirit are the same. God is in my heart, and the journey of where I've been is in my heart, too. And so I sing from that place of gratefulness."
Jones is clearly deeply generous with her wisdom, which is also on purpose. "I look at these interviews like stamps in history, and one day people will be looking at them to learn more about my journey," she says. "So I do try to be intentional with what I say."
So what stamp on history does Jones want to leave readers with? "I think I'm just excited," she says. "I wanna look back one day on all of this and really feel like I didn't hold back." Ultimately, Jones wants people to remember that past failures are meaningless, and every moment is a new chance to be the architect of one's own life. "At the end of the day, I'm the only one really responsible for how my life plays out," she says. "So I want to dream big, and I want everyone listening to look at my journey and see that I didn't give up, and see how big I dreamed, and dream big for yourself too. Shoot for the moon; at least you'll hit a couple stars."
It certainly seems like Jones is well on her way to the stratosphere. "Bel-Air" season three may be delayed due to the writers' and actors' strike, but it's coming, as is a tour and her first full-length major-label album. Jones says her EP was meant to be an introduction to the real Coco Jones — "I think that's why it's called 'What I Didn't Tell 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, she's ready for the next step.
"I'm more confident," she says. "I feel like the EP was like, 'I'm a freshman in high school and just got here into this music industry. Do you guys like it or not?' And now, with my album, I'm more like, 'I know how this high school runs. I've been around here. Let me show y'all the move.'"