Monique Coleman’s headbands in “High School Musical” were more than just an accessory.
The 40-year-old actress, who played Taylor McKessie in the Disney film franchise, told Insider that her character wore headbands to cover up the fact that the crew didn’t know how to style black hair.
“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 said.
“But the truth is, is that they had done my hair, and they had done it very poorly in the front.”
Monique Coleman as Taylor McKessie in “High School Musical.”Disney Channel
With no time to fix the stylists’ botched job, Coleman recommended that they “incorporate headbands into her character” and “just make that a part of who she is.” Luckily, she said, the Disney team was “very open to [the] feedback.”
Following the star’s suggestion, her character was rarely seen onscreen without a colorful headband to match her outfit.
Despite having to cover for the crew’s inexperience with styling black hair, Coleman said she loved the opportunity to serve as a role model for young women of color.
“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,” she said.
Monique Coleman as Taylor McKessie and Corbin Bleu as Chad Danforth in “High School Musical 3: Senior Year.”Walt Disney Co.
“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.”
Continued Coleman, “They loved her because she was smart and supportive. 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.So knowing that this generation got to look up to her really is special for me.”