Hollywood's Poor Treatment of Ethnic Hair

On Jan. 20, Insider Magazine published an interview with Lucas Grabeel and Monique Coleman celebrating "High School Musical's" 15th birthday. The article went viral, but not for the reasons you might imagine.

 

Coleman told "Insider" that her character's iconic headbands weren't a fashion statement; she had to wear them to cover the poor job the hairstylists on set had done on styling her 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 told Insider. "But 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."Coleman suggested that they utilize headbands — rather than try to cover her hair — and make that part of who Taylor was. And the trend continued throughout the "HSM" sequels." (the full article can be read on Insider)

 

Though High School Music premiered 15 years ago and Coleman claimed that the industry has grown in terms of the needs of African American actresses,  when the article came out  Twitter users started to remember examples of other African-American actresses who had to style their own hair because the hairstylists on set weren't prepared to do it.

 

woman against a wall wearing a sweater Photo by Brooks Leibee from Unsplash

One of the actresses who has spoken out about this issue is Tati Gabrielle of "Chilling Adventures of Sabrina". For example, who shared on a social media platform that she was responsible for creating Prudence's iconic wavy look. 

 

Jaz Sinclair, who also starred on "Sabrina", has also talked about her experience. She is one of the actresses who had to style her own hair before going into the set, as she told "Glitter Magazine" in Nov. 2020. 

"Sometimes you get people who are equipped, and sometimes you get people who are not equipped, and it’s freaking stressful. And I actually had a conversation after the first part of Sabrina with some of the execs. And I just said, 'Hey, I’m waking up early and doing my hair before I come to set, and it’s not fair that my white costars get to roll out of bed and feel taken care of and that I don’t have that same luxury. So I would really love it if you guys could have someone on set next season who is experienced with ethnic hair or is Black, therefore experienced with ethnic hair.'" (the full article can be read on Glitter

 

What Coleman, Gabrielle and Sinclair experienced is not unusual, and is something that happens often in Hollywood. Some other actresses like Vanessa Morgan, Candice Patton, Ashleigh Murray, Trina McGee and Yvette Nicole Brown have also spoken up about their experience styling their own hair before coming on set because the artists on set didn't know how to style ethnic hair. 

Some of them have also mentioned having to do their own makeup because on-set makeup artists didn't have the right foundation shade.

 

cottonbro via Pexels

 

Black women in Hollywood experience different struggles everyday. They don't get as many lead roles as white women, a lot of the roles they do get are stereotyped, their performances are ignored by Awards shows (remember the #OscarsSoWhite trend in 2015?) and they can't count on people on set being capable of styling their hair, among other struggles. 

 

Many Hollywood producers and directors think that having one black character on their show is enough to show diversity, when their treatment of black actors and actresses is still very much problematic. 

 

We need more women of color both on-screen and off-screen. We need them working as directors, writers, producers, makeup artists, hair stylists and more to display proper representation in Hollywood. 

 

In addition, white directors and producers must start doing the bare minimum, which includes casting black women in important roles, as well as offer them the support they need off-screen. 

 

Hollywood needs to make sure that future black actresses don't experience the same struggles and obstacles that actresses like Coleman, Sinclair, Gabrielle and many others have faced in their careers. 

Sources: @ctrlgrlz on Twitter, Insider, Glitter