The New Hilary Banks Wears Telfar
With an enviable wardrobe of colorful blazers and on-point accessories, Hilary Banks, Will Smith's wealthy Valley Girl cousin on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air (played by Karyn Parsons), was a '90s style icon. Now, 30 years after the show debuted, Hilary is back onscreen in Bel-Air, a dramatic reimagining of the beloved sitcom.
Coco Jones gives Hilary a fresh new spin, playing her as a lively influencer whose style slyly updates the original Hilary's looks with Instagram baddie flair. A talented singer/actress, Jones has been working steadily since her early teen years, and with Bel-Air, her star will only continue to rise.
We spoke to Jones about the challenges of taking on a well-loved role and the joys of Hilary's playful outfits.
InStyle: You were born two years after The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended. What was your relationship with the original show?
Coco Jones: In a sense, I grew up with the show. My parents watched it, and as I got older I became interested in it as well. I feel like it's a classic for a lot of Black families.
Did you meet with Karyn Parsons at any point?
I did get to speak with Karyn. She's lovely. We bonded over Hilary and how different our auditions were. She isn't as similar to her version of Hilary as I am to mine. So it was interesting getting to talk about our different journeys with the same character, as well as her passing that torch to me and giving me her stamp of approval on what I was doing with Hilary.
What was your audition like?
In my initial audition, I was very similar to Karyn's version of Hilary. I thought it needed to be similar and that was what they were looking for. But then as I got closer to booking the role, I had more conversations with Morgan Cooper, our director. He kind of redirected me, and reassured me that who I was, and what I was portraying, was enough. It was so exciting when I got the role, especially since I get to play a dark-skinned version of a character iconically known as a lighter-skinned woman and rebrand her in a way that in 2022 is really needed in terms of representation.
You've used social media a lot to speak out and you have a big following there. Did you draw from your own experience to create this influencer character?
A couple years ago, I told my whole story [on social media] of my journey from child actress to adult, and being on multiple channels and labels and everything that went on in my life. It was really risky, but to see the support that my fan base had with me, just being honest with them was something I pulled on a lot when I was playing Hilary.
Do you have a favorite costume that you wore on the show?
There's this blue Balmain two-piece look that I love. It's a classy preppy look meets modern with the crop top and the high-waisted skirt, and I think it's just a great accumulation of all that Hilary is. Hopefully it becomes the Hilary Halloween costume for this year, that'd be cute.
Do you have a favorite costume that the original '90s Hilary wore?
There was this black dress — a sexy, classy evening gown. And of course she's had so many killer looks, but what I love is that my fans took this picture from the original Hilary, as well as a picture of me from when I was performing in a similar black dress, and it just spread like wildfire. That was my first time seeing us right next to each other. It was a moment for me.
What other designers have you been wearing on the show?
They did a great job of including up-and-coming designers as well as established ones. There was some Balenciaga, and there were also Black designers like Brandon Blackwood and Telfar, and then we also had some custom pieces. My stylist [Fernando A. Rodriguez] had Riley Knoxx, a Black designer, create a dress from scratch — the sea-foam green leather dress with one long-sleeved arm, it's so cute. She created it based on my measurements and sent it overnight so it would be ready in time and it turned out beautifully.
How do you feel like the character relates to your personal style?
I'm not always in a full look like she is, that takes a lot of time, and sometimes I just don't have the energy. Hilary dressing girly can really affect me personally depending on my mood. Sometimes self-care is just putting on a cute outfit, so in a way it kind of made me carve out more time to really represent myself in a more thought-out way before I leave the house. I feel like it just does something good to my day.
Bel-Air is streaming exclusively on Peacock.