The first thing you notice about Queen Sugar star Kofi Siriboe when he walks into the lobby of New Orleans's Windsor Court Hotel is his shirt—a short-sleeve button-down in an exuberant, African-inspired stripe pattern—and you're not the only one. "Excuse me," says a professorial, gray-haired man who seems an unlikely admirer. "That's a really cool shirt."
The next thing you spot is Siriboe's chest, made easier by the fact that the aforementioned garment is halfway unbuttoned. Peekaboo pecs have become a signature look for the breakout star, and no one's complaining—especially not Oprah Winfrey, who was snapped with her hand on Siriboe’s bare sternum at a recent party.
Being so comfortable in his skin is relatively new for Siriboe, who plays Ralph Angel in the acclaimed Ava Duvernay-directed series on the OWN. As a teen, he was embarrassed to take his shirt off at pool parties because he was overweight, he reveals in an interview in the November issue of InStyle.
"I'm not confident," he says. "I was overweight as a kid. I got up to 210 pounds. I never wanted to go to pool parties, and when I did, I wore a shirt in the water and got made fun of. I didn’t have a girlfriend, I didn't have sex. I didn’t do anything."
When he was 16, he vowed to get in shape by his 18th birthday.
"It was not a Peter Parker moment where it just happened overnight," he says. "I tried it over and over again. I was a child actor, so by the time I was a teenager I had a bank account with a couple of thousand in there. I got a 24-hour gym fitness membership right down the street. Then I started creating meal plans."
Siriboe, 22, stays fit by running 100 to 150 miles a week and limiting carbs. "To this day, with 6 percent body fat, I still have moments when I think, 'Does this shirt make me look fat?' "
Check out the lusty comments on any of Siriboe's Instagram posts and you'll get the answer. He still seems surprised to have so many admirers. "I don't see myself as a sexy guy," he says. "I see myself as a free guy. Free is sexy."
Siriboe was really, really free in a recent scene with Jada Pinkett Smith, his co-star in Girl Trip, an upcoming film about a group of girlfriends going to Essence Fest in New Orleans. "I'm not just going shirtless," he confesses. "I'm getting absolutely butt naked!"