“I had an awkward phase when I was 13, 14 years old,” the Moana star, 44, tells PEOPLE. “I was trying to find my identity and trying to settle into my identity.”
He also struggled with acne, which took a toll on his self-confidence.
“I loved sweets. Every day after school I would go get doughnuts and I would go get cookies. I have an adverse reaction to sugar and chocolate, where I would break out in all these pimples,” he says. “You could just imagine that, with my curly half-Afro.”
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Watch the full episode of Sexiest Men Alive: Through the Years, streaming now on People/Entertainment Weekly Network (PEN). Go to PEOPLE.com/PEN, or download the app for Apple TV, Roku, Amazon Fire TV, Xumo, Chromecast, Xfinity, iOS and Android devices.
Johnson says learning to accept himself has been an ongoing process. “Being comfortable in my own skin just took a lot of time,” he says. “When you finally are comfortable with who you are, warts and all, it really allows for a greater confidence in life. Being comfortable with who I am was probably one of the greatest and best breakthroughs that I’ve ever had in my life.”
The superstar credits that confidence for enabling him to wear that fanny pack in the 90s. “It takes a lot of confidence to rock a fanny pack. Put your thumb in the fanny pack. I’m giving a look,” he says laughing. And now as Sexiest Man Alive? “The confidence and the comfort level now,” he says jokingly, “it is, what we call in the industry, game over.”