“Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” scene-stealer and style icon Hilary Banks (played by Karyn Parsons) always dressed for the job she wanted — even if she wasn’t quite sure what that was just yet. Fittingly, Coco Jones dressed for the job she really wanted when she auditioned for the role in Peacock’s gritty, dramatic reboot of the series, “Bel-Air.”
“I paid a lot of detail to my accessories,” says the actor, singer and songwriter. “I had on this nude dress, and I put on a big cheetah-print headband, these really big earrings and all this jewelry.”
The 24-year-old made the right call in predicting one of the new Hilary’s style signatures: Along with designer clothing (Balmain and Dolce & Gabbana in the premiere alone), killer accessories are part of the Bel-Air royalty’s personal style.
“She’s always iced out: pink ice chains, blue ice-y things, big ass diamond rings. It’s so fun,” says Jones, excitedly. “But, yeah, I did pay a lot of attention to the detail, just so that I can really embody her fashion sense and the way she dresses to impress.”
As part of “Fresh Prince” lore, Hilary, a young adult still living in the family mansion, takes a circuitous route to find her own professional — and personal — path in life. The original Hil’s journey involved a stint as a local affiliate weather reporter (and a failed live proposal) before landing her dream job as a television talk show host. But in real life, Jones has been laser-focused on her multi-hyphenate career since 2006: In elementary school, she joined a Radio Disney competition with her single, “Real You”; once in the Disney fam, she made her 2011 television debut with a regular guest-starring role on the “Sonny With a Chance” spin-off sketch show, “So Random.” She’s been steadily working on-screen and in the music studio ever since.
Growing up, Jones, of course, watched all six seasons of “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” with her family. “It was a huge part of my upbringing,” she says. “I loved that Hilary, first of all, was always stunning. I love her outfits.”
The 2022 Hilary also has a strong fashion sense, fusing her personal style and charisma to, again, resonate with her audience, this time through Gen Z-appropriate channels: social media, as a chef and #foodfluencer. Her art history professor mom, Vivian “Aunt Viv” Banks (Cassandra Freeman), pushes Hilary to excel through a more traditional outlet, involving a Bon Appétit Test Kitchen–esque old media property. But the fictional Haute Cuisine doesn’t appreciate Hilary’s colorful wardrobe or spicy family recipes.
“With all due respect, I don’t think your family is our target audience,” sniffs a (white) editor.
With her finger on the pulse of technology — and thumb on that IG Live record button — Hilary rallies her two million-strong “Hilaristas” to drag the brand in the menchies.
“One thing that I really loved about Hillary, that I feel like I tapped into for my version, is her confidence. She knew exactly who she was and what she was bringing to the table. Even if she veered off of the path, she still realigned and centered herself, and always remembered that she was that girl,” says Jones. “That’s something that I also took from the original Hilary and made mine.”
Jones also hopes to leave her own fashion legacy with Hilary, just like Parsons did. Thanks to costume designer Blair Levin, this Hilary’s staples include takes on suiting, like bustier-silhouetted blazers in jaunty plaids and Instagram-friendly two-piece sets. The actor hopes that playful interpretations of natty houndstooth will become a new Hil Banks signature, pointing to the sharp-shouldered mini-dress (above) Hilary wears in the premiere to style a newly-arrived Will (Jabari Banks) in a growth-spurt-less Carlton (Olly Sholotan)’s suit.
“That’s a Balmain dress,” says Jones. “Thank you, Hilary.”
She also wears a Balmain — a chic cropped tank and skirt set in a pastel blue bouclé, with feathery fringe and pearl-embellishments — to cater a cocktail party for her mom’s accomplished friends, who ultimately support her dragging of Haute Cuisine.
“I’m really excited for my version of Hilary to represent a different version of sexy,” says Jones about her Hilary’s fashion legacy. “There’s a great balance that the wardrobe team and I did that was just creating these elegant, classy, modern looks that are sexy in a refreshing, classic type of way.”
Jones points out that Hilary, again, “dresses for the occasion” — in this case, in a self-possessed way of expressing her creative passions and professional goals to her followers.
“She loves a good two-piece set,” says Jones. “Because she’s an entrepreneur, a boss, an influencer and social [media] chef, and she’s creating this platform herself. She loves to mix and match business with ‘girly.’ She has a great balance of that.”
As for researching for her social media-savvy character, Jones didn’t have to look that far: She’s an influencer in her own right, with 940K Instagram followers, 567K subscribers on YouTube and over 3 billion views on TikTok (and counting).
“I take a lot of my own personal journey of being an ‘influencer,’ but really just being more transparent with my audience,” says Jones, who refers to a video she posted in September 2020 on her YouTube channel, frankly discussing her experiences and disappointments with Hollywood and the music industry following her big break in the Disney movie “Let It Shine.” The video, titled “What Really Happened,” received over 1.5 million views.
“It was really raw and honest, and I got such a positive reception,” she says. “I took those moments of truth and being transparent, and I applied them to Hilary for when she has these groundbreaking moments and great opportunities in her career, but they come at a cost, where she has to not be true to herself.”
When Jones isn’t redefining an iconic television role, she’s recording music and on the cusp of releasing her latest single, after being signed to Def Jam. “Basically, the song is about the push and pull of being in a relationship,” says Jones, who’s already planning the fashun involved in the single’s imagery and video. “Style is a huge part, because it’s just another way of expression. With music, it’s fun because it’s not me playing a character. It’s just however I feel, so I like to dress based on whatever the song is, honestly, and how the song makes me feel I kind of correlate that with the outfits that I choose.”
So, the big question remains: Will Hilary add singing to her list of professional experiments on her way to fulfilling her professional dreams — and, of course, have the most fabulous outfits to support her along the way?
“I don’t want to give anything away,” says Jones. “But you guys will be pleasantly surprised with some of the things that Hillary does.”