The High School Musical cast recently passed 15 years since the Disney Channel phenomenon premiered and all these years later it has grown to become a dominant thread in popular culture. Among the core cast, it’s tough to forget chemistry club president Taylor McKessie, played by Monique Coleman. The character made headbands the signature part of her looks throughout the trilogy. But there was an unfortunate reason behind said styling.
While reflecting on the making of the High School Musical movies for the recent milestone, Monique Coleman spoke to the inception of Taylor’s iconic look. And it turns out that it wasn't a character-driven choice. In her words:
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. But the truth is, 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.
So basically, the headbands were more so a product of the on-set stylists not having the knowledge to properly do Monique Coleman’s hair. As the now 40-year-old actress told Insider, back in 2006 there was not yet enough representation within the industry to think about this detail and she therefore turned to those fabulous headbands for her screen time.
Moving forward, Monique Coleman decided to make the headbands a key part of Taylor’s costume. The character wore them to some degree for each and every one of her looks from the first movie to graduation for High School Musical. The actress did applaud the wardrobe department for being “very open” to the young actor’s feedback and she apparently got to contribute to the character’s creation.
Monique Coleman went on to be a contestant on Dancing With the Stars back in 2006 and after the movies ended, she left the industry, traveled around, got married and even worked alongside the United Nations before dipping her feet back into Hollywood. The actress has built out her resume in many different directions since High School Musical, but her Disney role made a major impact on young girls all over the world who looked up to Taylor when Gabriella and Sharpay’s drama in the film may not have resonated. Check out Coleman now:
It’s a shame that Monique Coleman’s iconic look actually stemmed from a necessity for the star to cover up mistakes hairstylists made with her hair, but it’s a solid reminder that representation is important not only in front of the cameras but behind the scenes from the makeup and hair department, to producer and director and studio executive roles. If everyone or most of the people in the room look fairly alike and come from similar backgrounds, there’s going to issues that pop up even if there’s the most diverse cast in the world at the center of the project.
The legacy of High School Musical recently continued with Disney+ series High School Musical: The Musical: The Series, which has already found a star in the chart-topping artist, Olivia Rodrigo. The High School Musical films and the series are available to stream on Disney+.