Coco Jones talks earning Grammy nods, overcoming obstacles after Disney fame, Hollywood’s pay equity

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Coco Jones was so obsessed with improving her singing skills that she tried to imitate Beyoncé's Olympic-style singing workout by running on a treadmill.

Jones didn't own a treadmill, but her father and former NFL player, Mike Jones, owned an elliptical machine that she often used as an alternative. Since her days as a child star at Disney, the singer-actress has been determined to apply the same work ethic as the best in hopes of succeeding on her terms.

For Jones, this period now follows several pivotal moments: After starring in the Disney Channel musical “Let it Shine” in 2012, she struggled to maintain her stardom and fell out of the spotlight until that she creates a new buzz through viral TikTok videos before revealing it. reshaped image as Hilary Banks in Peacock's “Bel-Air.”

Jones went on to earn five Grammy nominations with his well-received EP “What I Didn’t Tell You.” It was anchored by his hit ballad “ICU,” which received a remix from Justin Timberlake. She is up for Best New Artist, R&B Album, Traditional R&B Performance, R&B Song and R&B Performance.

In a recent interview, Jones spoke with The Associated Press about her tough times, whether EGOT status might be on her vision board and her thoughts after Taraji P. Henson's impassioned words about the pay disparity in Hollywood.

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AP: When you recorded your EP, did you anticipate Grammy nominations?

JONES: I definitely wasn't thinking, “How far could this go?” » I was only focused on what was in front of me, who I wanted to present myself to as before the world. I hadn't released music with a label since I was 16, so my expectations were all over the place. I don't even think I really understand how it works as an adult to release a project and what it means to have a deployment. I was a child when all these conversations were happening way above me. My expectation was within me and I left everything in that stand every time. I give the world the most fearless version of myself. …My expectations were blown out of the water.

AP: How much of a role did your fame from “Bel-Air” play in your recovery?

JONES: It really opened a lot of doors, because before my music came out, “Bel-Air” came out. It's always very helpful for people to see a rebranded version of you, especially if you're trying to change, if you're trying to give something new. A very powerful way to project oneself onto the world is through television, cinema and music. All of this has helped shift the narrative that I'm not that little kid on the Disney Channel anymore. I can be that upper echelon girl from Bel-Air, and I can be an artist, and you're going to respect them both because they're both going to hit it big in different ways.

AP: You went through a phase after “Let It Shine” where you were releasing music without fanfare. How did you maintain your confidence?

JONES: Finding confidence in the middle stage was only possible because of God. I had placed my value in this industry. If I had a good show, a good movie, a good song, something worth talking about, then yes, you should have confidence. Look at what you did. Look at what you present to the world. When I didn't have these things, I didn't really know what to say or what to sing. I didn't really fit the roles assigned to me. I didn't know when my next perfect match would be an opportunity that I didn't feel forced or that I could do better. I didn't have much to brag about. I had to find another version of value that truly came from my passion and my tenacity.

AP: Who helped you through these difficult times?

JONES: I leaned on my mother the most during difficult times in my career. My mother was my first thing. She was my first vocal coach, first stylist, hair and makeup, glam manager, tour manager, first co-writer, first co-producer. She was everything. When there was no one to believe in me, she helped me prove myself and continue to overcome those obstacles.

AP: What is your greatest passion: singing or acting?

JONES: If we're talking in general, singing or playing. Yes, singing, of course. It's not about playing a role. It's truly therapeutic to just peel back all the layers and tell the rawest, most real version of your truth. I think it's the most comfortable second nature. But act. There are movies and shows that just eat up content and quality. …You can relive a film that holds you tight. It's also really awesome. I love them for different reasons. I like acting because it's a challenge and it separates you personally from work. Sometimes it's a nice little break. I'm looking forward to playing a role where I'm like crazy because I feel like I'm very calm. I'm a bit of an idiot, but I can go crazy. One day I will be able to do it while playing.

AP: You have dealt with colorism throughout your career. What did you think after hearing Taraji P. Henson shed tears regarding the gender and racial pay gap in Hollywood for black women?

JONES: Everything can and will improve. But the situation will not improve if we do nothing, if we say nothing, if we are not transparent and honest. I think hiding and pretending everything is fine will perpetuate stagnant energy. But being honest and speaking out about the things you want to change can still bring about change and still inspire. It just makes sense for your platform. That's why I try to talk so much about colorism and be patient in your journey because we're black women, and it takes a different path with us to get to where we rightfully deserve to be.

I am so grateful to women like Viola (Davis) and Kerry (Washington) and Angela Bassett and Taraji. They all paved the way for me, and it will only get better with time because they will continue to kill it at every opportunity and speak out unafraid to fight back, be honest and demand more. They will teach us the same thing. Then we will teach the next generation. And one day, maybe when my kids are my age, it won't be so surprising that we're all the same. You see black women as much as you see white women and you see any color of women. It's just normal because it's the real world.

We are all these different stories that deserve to be represented in music, on television and in film. In time, we will get there. We just need to continue to insist on the narrative.

AP: When should we expect your debut studio album?

JONES: If it were up to me, I'd want my first album to come out in March or April because I'd want to tour when it's warmer. It was so cold this tour. We need to warm it up, but it's just me.

AP: You have a photo of Beyoncé holding multiple Grammys, but you replaced her face with yours. Have you created a similar vision board for an EGOT?

JONES: I told myself that (this new) year, I had to raise my goals higher. I've done pretty much everything I wanted to do so far. I have to believe bigger. I have to expect more from myself. Being an EGOT is a huge, huge, huge flex. I've done theater before. I could do it again. I don't see why not. Maybe it will be on the vision board, maybe it will be added. I really want to go bigger and dream bigger.

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