Coco Jones’ journey through the industry has often tried to be silenced by the masses, but she never allowed her voice to go unheard. From early exposure as a child star on Disney Channel’s Next Big Thing competition and Let It Shine with Tyler James Williams and Trevor Jackson to using her personal platform to advocate for darker-skinned Black women at the hands of colorism, the R&B crooner hasn’t shied away from the opportunity to be seen in spaces that weren’t meant for women like her.
However, there was once a point in time when young Jones didn’t have the same amount of confidence in her decisions. Surprisingly, Jones admitted to me that her relationship with boundary setting and even the word “no” was not always a close-knit relationship.
“Over the past few years, I have grown to love the word 'no,'” she told xoNecole. While she admitted that she used to think it was a “very bad word” associated with being difficult to work with and diva-like behavior, she now knows that there’s nothing negative about setting boundaries and doing what’s right for yourself. “I literally would not [say 'no'] because I didn't want to be perceived that way, but I think knowing your worth makes a 'no' [a] very useful word. Being confident that the opportunities that are for you will be for you makes ‘no’ a safe word.”
Jones continued, “I think standing firm on your boundaries helps with being courageous, and being courageous is similar to being confident. I think they go hand in hand. You have to believe that you will [still] have good things. You have to believe that the right people will come into your life when you push out the wrong people. That takes courage, which I think in turn builds your confidence.”
Courtesy of Pure Leaf
While the word is only two letters long, it carries a lot of impact, and when using said word, sometimes you have to deliver it subtly sweet. Enter stage left, Jones' partnership with Pure Leaf for a second year in a row to dismantle the myth that saying "no" has to be a sour, instead of sweet, experience for the person delivering the package and receiving it.
Last year, Jones introduced viewers to the Subtly Sweet "Hotline," where the singer helped callers achieve the perfect balance of sweetness and bold boundary-setting. Fast forward to 2023, Jones is seen taking her acting chops to the small screen as she stars in "As Seen on Pure Leaf" – an in-faux-mercial promoting the power of "no," via Coco's TikTok and on Peacock's Streaming Service. When presented with the idea of partnering with Pure Leaf, Jones was instantly aligned with the brand based on her industry experience and "what it takes to really survive as yourself and to not lose yourself," she explained to xoNecole.
"Overall, it just really is a useful tool. I think so much of our lives, we feel this pressure to succumb to what people say we have to be or to people please," Jones continued. "I love that me and Pure Leaf are very aligned when it comes to saying no and being okay with staying true to your boundaries."
As a Black woman in the industry, Jones is no stranger to the trope of being labeled as the angry Black girl or the difficult diva in the entertainment world just because she wanted to say the once-deemed ugly two-letter word. Now, Jones uses her platform loud and proud to show her fans and followers the power of standing firm in your power and setting your boundaries. As a public figure, she recognizes that she has a sense of responsibility to the younger generation following her to be as true to herself as possible.
“I am on a platform, and I think my fans and honestly, the world, can really tell what's authentic and what's forced, especially with social media and all of the constant content that's out there,” Jones added.
“People would be steered incorrectly if they were to see me succumb to the pressures and be somebody that I'm not authentically, after all of this time.”
For Jones, choosing the road less traveled in an effort to remain authentic and true to herself is more satisfying than being someone that the industry would attempt to mold her into. “It was more important to choose the longer route, if it meant saying 'no' to the necessary things so that somebody watching my journey can feel motivated to continue to be their truest self in their journey, no matter how long it takes,” Jones added.
Joe Scarnici / Stringer/Getty Images
While she was growing up in the public eye, Jones admitted to xoNecole that she didn't experience much pushback because she was "so happy to be doing any of the roles." Rather than standing her ground, Jones did not want to jeopardize the opportunity to be in the room. Fast forward to her adulthood, she uses the strength that she has accumulated to become more in tune with herself and her voice to set her boundaries and subtly, sweetly "put people back in line."
Day by day, Jones practices boundaries by working on herself internally - including all aspects of emotional, spiritual, and mental well-being - and being aligned with the "why's" in her life. "I think one of my non-negotiables in general that is across the board is dishonesty. Especially being a child of this industry, I'm so traumatized by lies. I just can't," Jones admitted.
"I need honesty in all regards, even if it's a harsh truth. I respect people telling me truths that are not that easy to say because I hold honesty in very high regard. That's one of my non-negotiables in everything - personal, friendship, relationship, business."
For her supporters who may want to practice setting their own boundaries but don't want to sound too brash, Jones suggests practicing with yourself before going straight into the lion's den with others. "Honestly, practice in the mirror as well. That's something that I do. I will write down my points, and they will be very articulate, very educated, and then you can't push back because I've already practiced in the mirror," she added jokingly.
Specifically, when it comes to her role as Hilary Banks in Peacock's Bel-Air, Jones admires her character for being someone who doesn't fool around when it comes to her boundaries being crossed. While the original Hilary, portrayed by Karyn Parsons, didn't originally look like Coco Jones, the "ICU" singer adored the Zillennial fictional Bel-Air princess for her confidence, decisiveness, and not taking shit from anyone when it comes to following her own dreams.
Tim Mosenfelder / Contributor/Getty Images
"One thing about Hilary, she knows how to set her boundaries very subtly [and] sweetly. She might be a little salty too, but that representation can change the outcome of someone's lives. I wasn't necessarily intimidated; I was more honored that I got to do that," Jones said. "I really do learn from Hilary how to be a boss, to be decisive, to be self-assured in places where you have to stick up for yourself."
Retrospectively, before Jones and I closed out our conversation, I asked her where she could personally improve on her boundary-setting practices. "Lord, is this therapy?" she laughed. While I assured her that our conversation is a safe space, as it always is whenever we chop it up, she thought back to the notion of mixing business with pleasure and the idea that the political is always personal.
"I need to work more on my boundaries with friendship and business. I think a lot of the times, you get so comfortable working with glam and people really close to you. They'd start off as business, and then you become friends, and you're like, Let's hang out, but then it's like, Okay, now I can't say the thing that bothered me in the business side because now we're friends. What do I do?" she added. "I need to work a little bit more on my boundaries of keeping those lines clear and not blurry."
For more of Coco, follow her on Instagram @cocojones.
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The beauty industry has seen significant shifts that have taken the limitations off of the Black haircare experience.
In just the last decade alone, hair aisles dedicated to curly and kinky customers have expanded far beyond a singular section filled with heritage brands and products with harsh chemicals. Now, with the changing of guards from transitional haircare lines to new, diverse, and full-range options that cater to all textures and colors, breakthrough brands are taking their stake in the beauty industry like never before. And leading the pack is the Australian-born founder of BREAD Beauty, Maeva Heim.
Since its launch in 2020, Heim’s groundbreaking hair brand, BREAD, has taken the beauty industry by storm with a “carefree and easy” hair lifestyle at the core of its brand. With traditional messaging around textured hair being “anti-frizz” and seeking “tame” the way our hair naturally grows, BREAD aims to create products that redefine those existing stereotypes and remove the challenge from our haircare routine.
“Our main goal has always been to demystify and simplify textured haircare, eliminating extra time and products from our routines,” Heim tells xoNecole. “We also speak from a place of kindness and understanding when it comes to textured hair; ‘tame’ is not in our vocabulary, but frizz is — in the best way possible!”
Launching her brand in the midst of the pandemic was no small feat. Faced with supply chain challenges and an uncertain future, Heim shares that three years into her entrepreneurial journey, her success is due in part to her ability to embrace change and adapt quickly. “Even when things feel out of your control, most things are controllable,” she reflects. “And if you take charge of what you know, you can change yourself and your business, you can overcome anything."
Courtesy of BREAD
Today, BREAD celebrates its third anniversary in the beauty industry and is commemorating its dedication to fostering diversity and inclusivity within the beauty and wellness sectors with a new partnership with Fearless Fund, a venture capital fund focused on empowering women of color entrepreneurs.
Fearless Fund is reshaping the entrepreneurial landscape by creating opportunities for women of color and fostering a more inclusive business environment. By supporting BREAD, they aim to bring about positive change and empower individuals to embrace their natural beauty, and sustainable packaging has resonated globally with consumers.
“We’re so happy to be supported by Fearless Fund – and the fact that it’s a venture capital firm that specializes in early-stage, women-of-color-led businesses makes it hit home even more,” Heim says. “We’re utilizing the funding for research and development, especially in the textured and afro hair fields, and bringing even more products for overlooked hair types to the table.”
xoNecole: How has Black and Australian hair culture influenced your outlook on beauty and hair care?
Maeva Heim: For Black hair culture, I grew up in my mum’s African braiding salon in Perth – so I was surrounded by Black hair trends, imported products, and community. Being in such a concentrated environment of Black hair, then realizing how uncatered to it is in the hair industry as a whole was the catalyst to creating BREAD.
Australian hair culture has always favored the ‘Aussie beach babe’ aesthetic — that being blonde, surfy, effortless. Growing up here, I obviously never fit that mold, and so much of what you see expressed in BREAD’s branding is about creating a new ideal or new norm of what it means to have ‘effortless’ hair. We’re really on a mission to make it feel accessible to everyone — not just people with straight hair.
xoN: Your participation in the Sephora Accelerant Program and placement in Ulta are significant milestones. What impact have these opportunities had on BREAD’s growth?
MH: The Sephora Accelerate program was really the initial door that opened for BREAD. It allowed them to go full-steam ahead and really plant a stake in the ground in prestige hair with a brand that hero’s textured hair with premium ingredients that are more accessible.
Launching into Ulta online last year and in 250 stores this year (recently expanding into a total of 470 doors) is nothing short of huge, especially as Ulta has one of the most renowned haircare sections in the industry. We get to reach even more current and future 'breadheads' both in real life and online, and partnering up with Ulta means plenty of fun events and happenings down the line too.
Courtesy of BREAD
xoN: Elaine Welteroth played a pivotal role in the early days of BREAD Beauty, and her support led to several key opportunities for the brand. How did that initial meeting with Elaine in Australia shape your vision for BREAD and the importance of mentorship as a founder?
MH: Elaine really helped to pave the way for our very first Sephora meeting, which ultimately landed us a partnership. She invited me to the very first Teen Vogue conference as a guest, where I was able to connect with a senior Sephora merchant who set up the meeting for me.
I think that relationship with Elaine and the opening of that door really is a testament to how important it is to be in the room - but even more so, how important it is to be invited into the room by someone who is ahead of you. That’s how you equal the playing field, and as a founder a few steps ahead of others, I definitely feel a duty to open doors and invite people into the room so that doors can open for them too. Visibility is everything.
xoN: What advice would you give to aspiring entrepreneurs who want to enter the hair industry or start their own beauty-related businesses?
MH: I think in the current climate, where oversaturation is really at its peak, I would definitely implore new founders to think really carefully about what differentiates their brand from everything else. That differentiation can come from lots of different things - whether it’s product formula and positioning, price point, distribution, etc. As long as it’s super clear, and there is a real need, then the sky's the limit, and there’s room for everyone to succeed.
Courtesy of BREAD
xoN: Looking ahead, what are your future aspirations for BREAD as you continue to evolve and grow in the hair industry?
MH: I just want to continue building this company into a powerhouse beauty brand that makes people feel good — about their hair, their bodies, and the skin they're in. That has always been the ultimate goal — giving people their time and energy back so they can spend less time worrying about ‘beauty’ and more time doing anything else their hearts desire.
Featured image courtesy of BREAD