Tessa Thompson Is Not the Only Gay Reason to See Creed III

Imagine me as a friend with baited breath, fresh out the movie theater on a run… ON A RUN… to tell you this news the minute I got out, because I could not hold it in one second more. Do not read past this point if you have not seen Creed III, but still intend to. There will be spoilers. I repeat SPOILER WARNING… Ok for the rest of us… no, seriously look away now… for the rest of us… Kehlani is in Creed III.

Is it a mere two minute cameo? Yes.

Did that stop me audibly screaming this morning in an empty theater? No, it did not.

(And yes, that IS embarrassing, I do wish I had not told y’all, but it’s too late to go back now.)

For context, if you’re interested, here’s how Kehlani gets there: If you recall, Tessa Thompson’s Bianca (the love interest of Michael B. Jordan’s Adonis Creed) has been an alt R&B singer/songwriter, in the vein of Solange or SZA, since the franchise’s first movie. She has progressive hearing loss and wears a hearing aid (their daughter, Amara, was also born deaf and it was important to Michael B. Jordan that the third movie fully integrate ASL into Amara’s life). In Creed III we learn that after a few gold records to her name and also a few hearing loss incidents on stage, Bianca’s now stopped performing altogether and has since focused on producing. And as such, here enters Kehlani, singing one of Bianca’s songs at an industry release party.

Kehlani, who is Creed III, performs during the 2023 Adult Video News Awards at Resorts World Las Vegas. They have on a knit black top and matching black pants.

TECHNICALLY, this is not Kehlani performing in Creed III, but I trust our imaginations (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)

While the performance itself is pretty small (we’re not getting any L Word multi-episode arcs of Ivy sleeping with Shane in a parked car on Halloween night), Kehlani manages to get in at least two verses and chorus on stage — all of which have Tessa Thompson gazing upon them in that extremely intense only Tessa can way . It’s enough to make a girl blush (it was me, I was the girl).

I have no idea how Kehlani’s name came up for this Creed III cameo. It might be because of Creed producer Ryan Coogler’s longstanding pride of his Oakland roots, but I personally choose to believe that Tessa rang up the Black queer phone tree and a Kehlani apple popped out.

To be honest, for a series that’s ostensibly about cis men beating the hell out of each other and daddy issues, the Creed franchise has always felt pretty bisexual to me? It might be that everything Tessa Thompson breathes life into is bisexual, because she quite simply cannot help herself. Or possibly because Bianca is based on maybe-Sapphic SZA and noted queer icon Rihanna. It also doesn’t hurt to have Michal B. Jordan’s face (even our Managing Editor Kayla Kumari agreed to be quoted for this post, “MBJ is indeed one of the male celebrities who I’m like… as a lesbian I do understand this one man’s appeal”).

But Kehlani really seals the deal.

You should go see Creed III because as the antagonist, Jonathan Majors is electric and captivating; because — my quibbles and nitpicks aside — MBJ’s directorial debut is surprisingly confident and the fight scenes benefit from his well established geeky love of anime; and yes, because Tessa makes everything better by her sheer presence. But also, because Kehlani.

Did I mention you can hear Kehlani’s entire song from the scene on the Creed III soundtrack? Here’s a present:

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Carmen Phillips

Carmen is Autostraddle's Editor-in-Chief and a Black Puerto Rican femme/inist writer. She claims many past homes, but left the largest parts of her heart in Detroit, Brooklyn, and Buffalo, NY. There were several years in her early 20s when she earnestly slept with a copy of James Baldwin’s “Fire Next Time” under her pillow. You can find her on twitter, @carmencitaloves.

Carmen has written 714 articles for us.

9 Comments

  1. I saw the premiere of Creed and was very surprised to see Kehlani. It was a beautiful surprise given how underrated she is an artist. I think more people should know about her and this movie will do that. She is as talented as she is beautiful. The movie was good too! Lol

    • I think Rihanna is just ~vibes and beloved by queers, she’s never given any audible confirmation. SZA however!!! Shes definitely left some breadcrumbs on purpose.

  2. I honestly thought Sapphic SZA was another term for us lesbians and had to follow the links in the article to discover (and be quite embarrassed to realise) that SZA is a performer…

    I quite liked the idea of being a Sapphic SZA…

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