|What’s all the Coco motion?|
|Wednesday, June 13, 2012|
Lebanon girl strikes Disney star factory’s fancy
By KEN BECK, The Wilson Post
The singer, dancer and actress, who goes professionally by Coco Jones, performs three solo numbers in the hip-hop musical and three duets with co-star Tyler James Williams (“Everybody Hates Chris”).
“‘Let It Shine’ is a teenage version of ‘Cyrano de Bergerac.’ A lot of kids don’t know that story. The movie really urbanizes it, and the gospel and hip hop puts a message in it,” said Jones, 14, during a phone interview from Los Angeles two weeks ago.
The TV movie centers on a Cyrus DeBarge, a 16-year-old aspiring musician who has a gift for rhyme but is too shy to go on stage and perform his rap song to let his longtime crush Roxanne “Roxie” Andrews know how he feels about her. He allows his best bud to take credit for the song and watches as his pal slowly captures Roxie’s heart.
“Roxie has two sides,” said Jones, who fills the role. “In the beginning she’s a bigger-than-life rock star, but when she goes back to her hometown, she can be whoever she wants to be. When she finds out who she is, she realizes ‘I can be me.’ and it works out in the end. Girls need to know that: Just be yourself and everything will work out.”
Born in Columbia, S.C., the blossoming star is the daughter of Mike and Javonda Jones. Her father is a former NFL defensive end, and her mom is a session vocalist. The family moved to Lebanon when Jones was 5.
“Dad was playing with the Titans and he really liked the area, so we decided to stay here,” she said of the family’s decision to make Lebanon their permanent home after Mike retired from pro football.
Jones has three siblings. Brother Steven, 27, is a songwriter and composed the rap song“What I Said,” which Coco performs in “Let It Shine.” Her younger brother Mikey Jr., 13, was born in the same year as Coco. (“My poor mom,” Coco sighed.) And sister Aja is 11.
Coco attended Pixie School (now Cedars Preparatory School) in kindergarten, Friendship Christian School in the first grade and Carroll-Oakland Elementary from the second through the seventh grade and is now home schooled.
“I could sing before I could talk. I began singing professionally when I was 11 and recording my own songs,” Jones said. “My first concert was at Pixie School when I was 6, and I sang ‘America the Beautiful’ in front of everybody for a play.”
Cedars Preparatory School Owner-Director Mary Beard clearly recollects Jones’ debut as a kindergartener at Pixie School in the musical which was staged at Immanuel Baptist Church.
“Courtney could sing. She could belt it out. She was very expressive. We had morning devotionals and her voice stood out,” Beard said. “She started out the program with ‘America the Beautiful,’ and it was as good as anybody ever sang it. I remember everybody thinking,
‘Wow, where did you find her?’ And I told them she was a student.
“She was an awesome singer even in kindergarten. She could sing anything and she loved to have a microphone in her hand. Everybody loved her. She drew everybody to her. She had that gift already, and her mother Javonda is like that also,” Beard said. “I always told her, ‘Courtney, when you get famous remember you were in my school,’ and now she is.”
“I sang the National Anthem at an L.A. Rams football game when I was 9. It was on Youtube and got a million hits, and the radio team at Disney saw it and asked me if I wanted to compete in NBT, and, of course, I said yes,” said Jones, who wound up on Disney Radio’s ‘Next Big Thing.’
“I was at Carroll-Oakland School when things started to blow up for me,” she said. “They (the teachers and administrators) were really helpful and had my back. They would send me my schoolwork.”
During the 2010-2011 school year, Jones filmed her music video for “Sweet Thirteen” on the school campus, much to the delight of the students as well as Principal Carol Ferrell.
“Courtney is just such a shining personality. When she started to school here, she was one of the those kids you knew were going for greatness one day. We had the pleasure of filming one of her first videos at Carroll-Oakland. We got to watch the crew, and they used our gym, hallways and classrooms, the whole nine yards. It was just fun,” Ferrell said.
“She is loving, accepting of everybody and a sweet girl; so willing to please as was her whole family. We called her Courtney, although some of the younger children who have seen her on Disney now call her Coco. But we knew her when. She was just a great asset to her school. She’s still Courtney to me,” Ferrell said.
Jones came by her nickname via her mother, little knowing it would later turn into her professional moniker.
“My mom would just call me Coco around the house. My real name is Courtney. People call me Coco now that I’ve started to do this. My life sort of resembles Hanna Montana (the TV character played by Miley Cyrus). When I come back to Lebanon, people call me Courtney. When people call me Coco, that’s the rock star,” said Jones, who recently signed a contract with Hollywood Records.
Jones currently has two songs playing on Disney Radio, “What I Said” and “Whodunit,” a duet with Adam Hick. This summer she will perform in Indianapolis, New Orleans, Sacramento and Seattle.
“It’s crazy. It’s even more crazy to think I am from Tennessee, and I was a little girl running around in the backyard just a couple of years ago and now I have songs on the radio. I hope it inspires others, too, that no matter where you are, just have that passion and believe in yourself,” said the 5-foot-9 Jones.
As for her music, she describes it as “really fun songs that you love to dance to and it sticks in your head, but also ballads to make you feel for the person singing them and that make you cry, too.”
She is far more mature than the 12-year-old girl, who a couple of years ago had a big, colorful poster at the corner of Hartmann Drive and Leeville Pike pleading for folks to vote for her on Disney’s Next Big Thing. (Her mom made the sign, by the way. “She’s a computer genius,” Coco said.)
“My parents are just behind me, like they’re my rock,” said the singer-actress who has appeared on Disney Channel’s “So Random!” and “Good Luck Charlie” and who has a manager and agent.
But she’s still a child who enjoys paying the wii, sewing, writing music and playing with her dog, a Yorkie named Tiger.
Jones just completed the eighth grade and said, “When school starts back I’ll be in high school. I’m home schooled now. I wish I could be at Lebanon High. My dad knows everybody there. He’s a volunteer coach.”
As for her biggest thrill in show biz thus far, the girl who’s still known by her friends as Courtney Jones, answers, “It’s a tie between doing this movie and signing with Hollywood Records. It’s crazy that these things are happening me. I’m 14 and that this is happening is like one out of a million.”
Photos courtesy of Disney