Insecure’s Kofi Siriboe Doesn’t Just Want to be a Sex Symbol

Siriboe’s currently on the HBO dramedy and Queen Sugar but he’s also working on fashion — and maybe even music.

Kofi Siriboe.

Kofi Siriboe.

Kofi Siriboe joined the fifth and final season of Insecure to play Crenshawn, a formerly incarcerated fashion designer who clashes with Issa Dee (Issa Rae) over issues of authenticity and reaching out to a broader (ie, white) audience. Siriboe is perhaps best known for his role on OWN’s Queen Sugar, or as the man who had a steamy, hilarious encounter with Jada Pinkett Smith involving a grapefruit in the 2017 film Girls Trip.

Siriboe, who broke into acting alongside his brothers as a young child, says the role of Crenshawn resonated with him as someone who is constantly advocating for authentic Black stories in Hollywood, and as someone who has recently gotten into fashion design. In November, the 27-year-old released the first merch collection for his brand We’re Not Kids Anymore.

During a break from steaming clothes that he’ll need to package and ship to customers, Siriboe spoke to GQ about Insecure, the forthcoming final season of OWN’s Queen Sugar, and his future career plans.

Kofi Siriboe, Courtney Taylor and Issa Rae in Insecure.Courtesy of Raymond Liu/HBO.

I know you were a fan of Insecure and Issa Rae long before you appeared in this final season. Can you speak to the legacy of the series and what it meant to play a role in its sendoff?

That first season aired at the same time as Queen Sugar[‘s debut season]. I feel like my life changed at the inception of Insecure. I’m from L.A. and I think that’s why me and Issa connect. We grew up in the same area. It’s such a powerful show and such a unique perspective on what’s going on in the culture right now. Of course we want more, but I’ll never forget it. Looking back five and ten years from now, the way we celebrate Girlfriends and a lot of the shows we grew up on, that’s the same thing Insecure will be for everybody.

What drew you to the role of Crenshawn?

I just feel like Issa knows me. She had a vision for the character and the season. She’s a crafty one. She might have been paying attention to the fact that I was diving more into fashion, making my sweaters and doing my thing. I would send her samples way before we had anything available. It just aligned. I’ve really been diving into this world in real life.

How hands on are you with this new launch?

We’re still in our infant stages so me and my partner, Julian [Lane], we carry a lot of the weight. From steaming, packing, everything. With that being said, it’s fun.

I definitely underestimated how hard it is to steam stuff. You get the wrinkles out, but then it takes 20 minutes for it to dry and it can’t be wet when you put it in the bag. Then you have to put the stickers on it…it’s a process, but we’re getting there.

How did you come up with the vision for this first collection of clothing?

We gave ourselves the space to be experimental. Everything was emotional. We ended up with an emerald and a mauve color to begin with. I think in retrospect, I realized it just builds contrast. It feels like the duality of childhood. It’s super bright and vibrant, but at the same time there’s a muted-ness and angst of growing up and just trying to find your place in the world.

The overall vision [of We’re Not Kids Anymore] is to build community and to build a space where we’re reflected internally and externally. It’s a Black-owned company. We’re independent. We’ve been using all of our own funds to get things started. It’s a personal love letter to our childhoods. The apparel portion of it just makes it real.

You mentioned the angst of growing up, do you still feel that even as an adult who has established in their career?

First of all, who said I was an adult? Second of all, absolutely. That was kind of where this whole thing started. My life was changing. I was turning 22. I’d just moved to New Orleans. I just remembered having a thought that damn, we’re not kids anymore. Frank Ocean had just dropped Blonde and I was in my feels. It was nostalgic. It was a thought that never left me. That angst, I don’t think it ever goes away. I think We’re Not Kids Anymore gives me the ability to filter, transmute and make good of all of that energy and emotion.

In episode eight, Issa is facing a dilemma where she’s imagining her life if she is able to broaden her company’s reach beyond L.A. and then she’s imagining being the local hometown hero and creating something that sticks within the culture. As an artist, have you had to grapple with that in some ways in your work?

If we simplify it, the language of America is economy. As much as I love somebody, water, shelter, resources cost [money]. It’s a balance between being able to claim our space on a global level while still being able to keep our roots in the community and making sure we’re giving back to the overall cause. I don’t think we should be limited to just only Black stuff. It’s a balance and intention. Never forget what the overall goal is, which is empowerment. You can’t be empowered when you’re broke [laughs].

Kofi Siriboe in Insecure.Courtesy of Glenn Wilson/HBO.

What was it like when you found out Queen Sugar is coming to an end after it’s next season, too?

I saw it coming. It feels right.. We’ve been telling these stories as honestly as we can for as long as we have. It’s bittersweet, but it’s beautiful. New Orleans will always be a part of me.

I’m just looking forward to having a good time. I need Oprah to throw a party at the crib. I need her to go all out for the last season.

You gave an interview a few months ago when you talked about not just celebrating, but also nurturing Black talent. Can you talk a little about where we still have to go in terms of equity in the film & TV industries?

These last few years have built a really great foundation for us to redesign, reimagine and kind of start from scratch without erasing all of our progress. There’s pieces of me I don’t see represented on TV no matter how much Black TV and film is being made. It feels like there’s a ceiling. We can only exist in…don’t even get me started.

I want to see more of us. I want us to be able to tell those stories and have ownership. If we have to go to a white person to greenlight a story about us, naturally it’s going to be diluted. We don’t have to always bend or adjust to what they want us to be. I’m young, in my 20s and living my adult life, but I’m always playing somebody incarcerated.

You were in a romantic film, Really Love, for Netflix earlier this year. Would you want to do more of that?

I think I’m just a hopeful romantic, but I want to do some action stuff. I want to get lethal.

You know, a lot of people view you as a sex symbol, especially when you appear in a music video like Doja Cat’s Streets,” but even in more serious roles. Do these comments feel reductive to the type of acting work you want to do?

Nah. People always need a label to call you. I think it’s love. We can all appreciate beauty, but I know as long as I’m connected to my purpose or my intention, if you tap in long enough you’re going to realize what I’m about. I’m a troll, too, so it’s funny.

Are there any other projects that you have coming up?

If we’re talking about music videos, I’ll just say…there probably ain’t going to be anybody else’s music video [that I will appear in]. It might just be mine. Take that how you want it.

Wait…You’re making music?

…music videos coming soon.

You’re not going to give any other hints?

Nah, I don’t even know what you’re talking about. [laughs]

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