A Black Woman's Struggle in the Film Industry

Written by Gianna Adonteng

Hollywood’s lack of diversity among their industry is nothing new, and this idea is only being strengthened as the industry progresses into the future.

Although diversity and inclusion has grown to become an important factor among all professions, it’s become apparent that in film production, “recycling” what works is better than becoming accommodating and adapting to new things that might surface. And I’m not implying that diversity is absent in Hollywood, because that's not the case.

Actors representing many different cultures are constantly being represented in films, but the issue is that they’re not receiving the same treatment and privileges as other actors. On screen they may be praised and celebrated, but off-screen they’re forgotten and tossed to the side, only to be used in television shows and movies as “that black friend”.

In the collection of movies known as “High School Musical”, Monique Coleman played Taylor McKessie, the hardworking best friend of Gabriella who is the captain of the Scholastic Decathlon Team and aspires for greatness. The iconic high schooler is an inspiring character to her young Black viewers, and she can be easily recognized by the signature headbands that she frequently wore throughout the film.

Although her fashionable and vibrant headbands seem like a simple styling option that were probably barely noticed by an audience when watching the movie, Taylor’s headbands were a necessity due to the upsetting truth that the hired stylists were incapable of properly caring for Black hair.

Unsurprisingly, Monique Coleman is not the only Black woman who has had to provide for themselves on set and learn ways to look beautiful on set. The actress Yvette Nicole Brown tweeted, “Most black actresses come to a new set with their hair done or bring their wigs and their clip-ins with them. It’s either that or take a chance you will look crazy on set.”

All hair stylists hired to work on sets with people of color need to know how to style all types of hair on all people. Tiffany Haddish, Lorraine Toussaint, and Tia Mowry-Hardrict are just a few women who have spoken out about these struggles and deserve an industry that’s in their favor and will accomodate for their hair and makeup needs just as they would for any other actress.

Television shows and movies should incorporate Black women and all people of color into their movies and shows, but it’s also important that they are respected on and off the screen. Just because Black women are being given big roles in acting, and while that’s amazing and great to help boost them in their career, it can begin to feel performative when they aren’t supporting them in all aspects, especially when fans can find them upset on social media because their hair stylist failed to do them justice.

Women in the industry shouldn’t feel they are on a show to give the show “diversity”. They also shouldn’t have to experience and work with professionals who aren’t able to work with their hair types. It’s not fair that in the new year, black women still need to fight for simple needs in the workplace. As Queen Latifah said, “As African-Americans, we have all different shapes, sizes, colours, textures, and you got to be able to work with that. We are always in a position to be able to work with what white people do. That’s just how it’s been, but it has to be reversed. It has to be some respect over here.”

Hair is so important to Black women, and for so many, their hair correlates with their culture and their background. Our hair was so important to our ancestors, and it was more than hair- it represents our strength. Hairstyles are used as a form of personal expression and embracing it helps show our identity, so it’s critical that the influential Black women on television and in films rock their amazing curls, to show to the younger and upcoming generation that it’s only an addition to what makes them unique and who they are.

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