High School Musical marked 15 years since its release and to celebrate the film's anniversary, Monique Coleman and Lucas Grabeel spoke with Insider to reflect on some iconic moments and share behind-the-scenes facts.
Monique Coleman revealed that not only did her character's iconic headband, Taylor, look like her idea, but that it was a solution so that people on set couldn't comb a black girl's hair. She suggested that they "just make it a part of who she is," and honestly, a lot of over-achieving Type A characters have replicated the headband style like Blair Waldorf and Rachel Berry.
It is not the first time that black women in Hollywood experience this problem. Actors like Yvette Nicole Brown, Gabrielle Union, or Halle Berry have recounted a moment when they had to deal with a hairdressing department that was not equipped to do black hair, sometimes even having to take their hair with their own hands. It is a bit absurd that personnel is absent for people of color since they have actors like that in their studio, racism or comfort?
"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," Monique said.
"The truth is, is that they had done my hair and they had done it very poorly in the front. And we had to start filming before I had a chance to fix it. I was very lucky because the wardrobe department was very open to our feedback."
Often, if a movie or TV show has limited diversity (which is often the case), the powers that be don't make it a priority to hire a stylist who can handle black hair and get it right. Combing that hair is not always an easy task, each type of hair entails a different technique, and the fact of not having a team can generate irreparable aesthetic errors because there is time for recordings.
And yet, despite the hair obstacle, Monique loved being a part of HSM and appreciated that Taylor was not a stereotypical black girl, her character was different from the stigma that characterizes black girls in the movies it was quite the opposite and very well represented.
"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 I appreciated that that wasn't why people loved Taylor. 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."
"I'm really grateful to have been someone who was able to bring representation at a time where there wasn't very much," she 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."