Welcome to Byrdie's new series, Next Gen, where we profile Gen Z celebrities, influencers, and entrepreneurs. As a collective, members of Gen Z are dynamic trendsetters and culture shifters. And when it comes to beauty and wellness, they have ushered more creativity, inclusivity, and transparency into the industry. In this column, we're stepping into the minds of some of the most notable Gen Z'ers to learn more about how they are redefining beauty, the products they swear by, and their plans for the future.
Twelve years ago, the world was introduced to Coco Jones' powerful voice via Radio Disney's Next Big Thing. The then 12-year-old's debut singles "Real You" and "U B U" proved she was destined for stardom. Now 24 years old, Jones is continuing to make waves in music. She recently released her debut project, What I Didn't Tell You, which secured a spot at the top of the R&B streaming charts.
As if her singing success isn't enough, Jones also showcases her love for entertainment through acting. Over the years, she's landed roles in hit Disney projects like Let It Shine, So Random!, and Good Luck Charlie. And currently, she's gearing up to reprise her role as Hilary Banks in the second season of Bel-Air, a reboot of the '90s classic The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Ahead, Jones opens up about becoming a rising star in Hollywood, manifesting the music career she's always dreamed of, and her favorite beauty products.
You just performed on the 2022 BET Soul Train Awards' Amplified Stage. What was that experience like for you?
I was nervous and thinking about how far I'd come. As I was walking behind the stage, I was like, Oh lord, we are really doing this. This was my first live television performance since I was maybe 16. It's just crazy how full circle this moment was. I felt like I was 14 again, and Let It Shine just came out. The journey has not been easy, but I'm grateful. So many little pieces had to fit together for me to be here again.
You were also nominated for a Best New Artist award. What does the nomination mean to you?
It means the things I've been praying for are coming to fruition. All these years, one of my goals has been to be noticed for singing first. Acting is something I could always do, and it was more consistent. But music was always what I needed to do. I want to be recognized as a singer who's on a TV show.
You recently got to collaborate with Teyana Taylor on a music video. What was it like working with another music industry powerhouse?
She directed my "Caliber" music video. My goal is to do what women like Teyana and Beyonce have done, which is to get here and stay here. They've made their name in the world, and it's something no one can take away. Watching how Teyana operated, her creative choices, and her confidence was inspiring.
What are your thoughts on the reception of your debut project, What I Didn't Tell You?
When I saw that my EP was number one on the R&B charts, I was crying. I was overwhelmed because people didn't know I edited a picture of myself into a number one slot on my vision board. Even when I talk about it now, I feel [my emotions] overtake me. It's validating to have all of these people who believe in me and have seen my journey. They know I'm not just here for fun. I'm here to stay.
What do you hope to communicate through your music? What do you want listeners to know about you?
I want them to know we all live the same human experience, just through different lanes. I want them to feel like they can have whatever they want if they work toward it. I want them to know I love myself, and I want all the girls to love themselves. What I Didn't Tell You is not a "Come love me, sir" type of project. It's about getting on my caliber or moving aside because I have goals. I bring great things to the table, and if you are just going to take from me, you will have to take yourself somewhere else.
Many people have said R&B is dead. What are your thoughts?
It seems unrealistic for any genre to be dead. As long as there's music, it can be categorized into all different genres. R&B stands for rhythm and blues. Everybody's going to want to hear a beat, and everybody's going to feel sad sometimes, so that's just impossible. How can a feeling be dead? How can rhythm be dead? That doesn't make any sense. I think R&B is evolving and doesn't look like a big ballad. It's fluid and fits in different channels.
How has your role on Bel-Air challenged you? What has your journey been like reemerging as an actress?
Playing Hilary has taught me a lot about myself. Because I play a character in a TV series, it is a huge commitment and the first priority. Before working on this EP and signing with Def Jam, I was working on Bel-Air. I thought, Okay, great. Everything else will fit into this perfectly. But that's never how anything goes. This experience taught me about challenging my work ethic because I knew I wanted to have music out when the series premiered. So, I was in the studio after I'd been on set for 15 hours.
I have to say no to many music opportunities because I have a whole network telling me where I need to be. I'm not speaking down on it at all, but when I prayed for Bel-Air, I didn't think about what would happen when my music popped off. I'm learning a lot about balancing things to ensure nothing clashes with my schedule.
One thing I've always loved about you is your fearlessness about being vocal about colorism in the entertainment industry. How do you believe colorism shows up in the beauty industry as well?
Things have gotten a lot better as far as colorism. There are so many beautiful, dark-skinned women all over your favorite campaigns, magazines, and shows. But every shade should have plenty of platforms so that nothing is a surprise. It's not surprising to see a typical Eurocentric-leaning woman in a campaign. But when I see a dark-skinned girl, I'm like, Hey, Okay! Yes! I want it to feel normal because it should be normal. That is where we still have a ways to go.
What does diversity look like to you in entertainment and beauty?
Diversity looks like different shades of people in power positions because it all starts with the gatekeepers at the top, and everything else trickles down from them. This world would be much more diverse if the people at the top didn't all look the same.
When you look at your Gen Z peers, what do you love the most about them?
We are hilarious—from our memes to our sayings. We also hold a lot of power to influence for good and are more vocal about the not-so-cute parts of our life, like mental health and self-love. If we, as a generation, didn't have the courage to be like, No, not everything is giving what it needs to give, other people wouldn't feel so heard. Seeing young women and men advocating for mental health, inclusion, and all those things is dope.
What are some of your favorite beauty products to use on set?
My brows are the most important thing. If I don't draw these things on, I'll look like I'm always confused. I like the Anastasia Beverly Hills Brow Pencils. I also really love the Too Faced Born This Way Concealer. I also use Fenty Beauty products—like their Match Stix Contour Stick ($28) and Gloss Bomb ($20).
When you have a day off, what does self-care look like?
I might do nothing, depending on how much I've been running around. That is self-care to me. I like to cook and try new recipes when I have free time. I might go out with my girls or stay in. We've been having "girl's nights in," where we talk and play card games. I also love to journal. I have a running email thread that's like my journal. I'll be like, "Hey, girl. It's been a long time." And the next time, I'll be like, "Girl, why would you do that?" I'm talking to myself, but it's fun.