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Monique Coleman says 'High School Musical' crew styled Black hair ‘poorly’

Elise Solé
·3-min read
Monique Coleman attends the WE Day event in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Phil McCarten
Monique Coleman attends the WE Day event in Los Angeles, California, U.S., April 27, 2017. REUTERS/Phil McCarten

Monique Coleman, the star of High School Musical, revealed a hairstyle secret from the 2006 television film: The signature headbands worn by her character Taylor McKessie compensated for the crew’s inability to style Black hair.

On Tuesday, the 40-year-old actress, who also starred in Disney’s High School Musical 2 (2007) and High School Musical 3: Senior Year (2008), spoke to Business Insider in honor of the film’s 15th anniversary on Jan. 20. "We've grown a lot in this industry and we've grown a lot in representation and we've grown a lot in terms of understanding the needs of an African American actress," she said. "But the truth is, is that they had done my hair, and they had done it very poorly in the front."

According to Coleman, the wardrobe crew’s inexperience and short deadlines led her to suggest an easier solution: To "incorporate headbands into her character,” which they fortunately embraced.

Monique Coleman, who depicted Taylor McKessie in the "High School Musical" franchise, says she conceived her character's signature headbands. (Photo: Everett Collection)
Monique Coleman, who depicted Taylor McKessie in the "High School Musical" franchise, says she conceived her character's signature headbands. (Photo: Everett Collection)

A representative from the Disney Channel did not immediately respond to Yahoo Life’s request for comment.

In the musical drama that also made Zac Efron, Vanessa Hudgens and Ashley Tisdale household names, Coleman portrayed McKessie, a decathlon captain who hopes to become the first female POTUS and favors headbands in a variety of styles and colors.

The role was important for Coleman, she told Business Insider, because it didn’t typecast. "It means the world to me, particularly because Taylor is such a dynamic character and the smartest person at school and all of that at a time where, often, Black girl characters tended to be the ones who had an attitude or to be sassy,” she said. And because the character was born before the presidency of Barack Obama, “we didn’t have people to look up to.”

In 2019, Gabrielle Union, Wonder Woman 1984 actress Natasha Rothwell and Community’s Yvette Nicole Brown and other Black actresses spoke of the same on-set problem.

This week, Tati Gabrielle, who plays the witch Prudence Blackwood on the Netflix series Chilling Adventures of Sabrina, wrote in an Instagram video caption that she personally styles her character’s platinum blonde hair. She did not indicate why, however, according to Vogue, “Prudence’s hair was in fact conceptualized by Gabrielle, who wore the character’s signature finger waves to her audition. The showrunners liked the look so much they decided to keep it."

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