Anyone who tuned in to the High School Musical film franchise of the early 2000s, remembers Taylor McKessie, portrayed by Monique Coleman, who graced the screen as the scholastically driven brainiac of East High with an exemplary high school resume that was to die for. Her fashion style stood out amongst the cast as her signature matching outfit and headband combo became the hallmark of her style. However, her trademark headband was not just a randomized selection for her look but a resolution to film beauty professionals’ widespread inability to style Black hair.
In an interview with Insider for the first installment of HSM’s 15th anniversary, the 40-year-old recognized the progression Hollywood has made over the years in regard to diversity and the frustrations she still faced on set.
“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,” the actress said.
Coleman later revealed that much to her dismay on set of the film, stylists had done her hair “very poorly.” With crew members short on time to dedicate to her styles, the actress suggested that they incorporate headbands into her character — a resolution that Disney and the wardrobe department was receptive to.
Black actresses, from Halle Berry to Tia Mowry-Hardrict, have faced hardships in the industry with beauty professionals not having the cultural acumen to style coarse textures. For actresses like Coleman, the characters they portray that inspire audiences across the world are often built on aesthetics cultivated by the actress themself.
Despite her obstacles, the actress is appreciative of her ability to advocate for greater diversity going forward.
“I’m really grateful to have been someone who was able to bring representation at a time where there wasn’t very much,” Coleman said. “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.”