Rejection can be redirection, and this is the testimony of Grammy winner Coco Jones, who took home the win for 2024 Best R&B Performance.
The South Carolina-born actress and singer claims music is her first priority, however acting would be her window of opportunity to make her mark in the music industry. With acting taking a front seat, she went on to land roles on Disney shows and movies, which included “So Random!” (2008-2011), “Good Luck, Charlie” (2009) and “Let It Shine (2011-2012), according to TV Insider.
Jones showcased her musical talents by singing on multiple tracks for the “Let It Shine” movie, where she played Roxie and co-starred with “Abbott Elementary” actor Tyler James Williams. This elevated her visibility in the music realm and established a more secure position for her in the industry as an actor, she said during the 2024 Grammy In The Schools Fest (GITS Fest).
“Acting would be something that I saw around music, especially on Disney Channel, when typically if you’re doing a project you’re singing, then you might put out an album, and you might have a show,” Jones said at the event. “It all kind of is around the same world, but music was always the main goal for me, but I didn’t know how to get there at all. But what I knew is that I could audition for things. You could literally go in and try out for the job. So I would just do that while I was figuring out the music industry. Acting kind of took off first, and I kind of liked acting because it was way more consistent and stable than the chaos that was music.”
In 2012, Jones would receive another head nod, signing to Disney’s Hollywood Records, the Los Angeles Times reports. She released an EP titled “Made Of” in 2013, but her joyous moment would be overshadowed by her departure from the label in 2014.
In hindsight, Jones describes her exit as her “greatest no” as it allowed her to elevate creatively and break free from the perceptions and expectations of being a childhood star and actress.
“My greatest no is being dropped from my first record label. At the time, I felt like the world was actually coming to an end,” Jones explained during GITS Fest. “But looking back on it, I probably would’ve been in that situation ’til I was an adult. And I wasn’t my best version of myself. I could’ve kept being this alternative version that I think would’ve done well, but I would’ve just been empty. By the time I got to an adult, I would’ve realized I had no life, real life experience. I just knew how to sell records. That would’ve been my core identity.”
She added, “I had to learn through that rejection that there have to be other ways that I qualify myself as valuable, ’cause this is just too inconsistent for me. I think also I didn’t have that situation where I had no ownership of myself anymore because they had let me go. I was good. I was taking my name on whatever else I write and whatever else I sing on. I had that ownership. It wasn’t like I had to get out of some crazy contract. That was probably one of the greatest noes of my life because I creatively got to find my voice and find who I am as an artist. And now I can sit here and be proud of the projects that I have because they are my truest version of myself ’cause I found myself.”
Jones’ departure from Disney was not easy, yet she had the support of her mother throughout her journey, as previously noted by AFROTECH. Jones would attempt to secure other gigs with some successful. However, she reached a dead end and began to contemplate working a traditional 9-to-5 job as her savings was diminishing, Teen Vogue reports.
“My money was getting funny, girl,” Jones told Teen Vogue. “It started getting hilarious.”
Jones’ future would begin to shine bright in 2020 after she responded to a fan who had inquired about her whereabouts. The response, which went viral, showed a more humorous and relatable side to Jones, per Business Insider. Taking advantage of the increase in exposure, Jones released several covers, which caught the attention of an acting manager.
She would appear on The Terrell Show and make headlines in 2021 for landing a role on Peacock’s “Bel-Air,” starring as Hilary Banks. The following year, she signed to Dej Jam and released her EP, titled “What I Didn’t Tell You.”
“ICU,” one of the leading singles on the EP, took listeners back to old-school R&B. It also helped Jones grab the top spot on Billboard’s Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop chart in 2023, per BET.
The hit single has earned Jones her first Grammy nominations as well, for Best R&B Performance and Best R&B Song. She walked away with the win for Best R&B Performance, thrusting her onto the global stage to bask in the fruits of her labor.
“It feels like all of the uncertainty can really be answered by God’s timing for you,” Jones expressed backstage at the 2024 Grammy Awards. “I’ve been pursuing this since I was 9, and to reap the benefits at this time makes way more sense than I could have ever imagined. I’m just truly grateful for all the obstacles that made me who I am today.”