Monique Coleman Wore Headbands in 'HSM' Because There Were No Black Hairstylists on Set
"They had done my hair, and they had done it very poorly."
Though Taylor McKessie's High School Musical headbands have become an iconic part of the Disney franchise, actress Monique Coleman says the hair accessories were actually a necessary and unfortunate addition to her character. Because the hairstylists working on the 2006 High School Musical film didn't know to style Black hair, Coleman suggested using headbands and wraps to better the hair situation and give Taylor a more memorable look.
"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," Coleman told Insider on January 26th. "But the truth is, is that they had done my hair, and they had done it very poorly in the front."
Because crew members were so short on time and inexperienced, Coleman was the one to suggest "[incorporating] headbands into her character" and "just make that a part of who she is."
Though Coleman was put into a sticky situation in the hair department, she told Insider she felt "lucky" because Disney and High School Musical's wardrobe department were "very open to our feedback." In fact, Coleman's suggestion to base Taylor's outfit in the film's final number, "We're All in This Together," on Britney Spears' school girl uniform in her 1998 video for "Baby One More Time" also came to fruition.
"I thought, 'Oh, I think it would be really fun for Taylor to kind of have this sort of awakening moment,'" Coleman continued. "And I thought the tie was a really cute look."
Taylor's headbands and school-girl-inspired tie became much-loved parts of her character and carried over into both 2007's High School Musical 2 and 2008's High School Musical 3: Senior Year.
"I'm really grateful to have been someone who was able to bring representation at a time where there wasn't very much, and I'm so happy when I see this next generation of young artists and there just being so much more room for people of color," Coleman told Insider, noting that she was happy Taylor's character didn't give in to any Black stereotypes.
"They loved her because she was smart and supportive," Coleman said. "And it definitely means a lot to me for people to see her. There was Taylor before the Obamas were a thing. So we didn't have people to look up to."
We're still looking up to Coleman's Taylor in both terms of character and hair accessories.