From runway model to cover star, Zaya Wade is coming into her own.
The last few years have been a whirlwind for Zaya Wade, and she’s only 15 years old. The teen is the daughter and stepdaughter of Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union, respectively, and she’s grown up in the spotlight—albeit not everyone has been supportive. The Wades shared that Zaya was transitioning when she was just 12, and it didn’t take long for critics to jump in. Zaya received a warm welcome from her LGBTQIA peers, especially those within the transgender community, and her family has been firmly standing by her side.
As Zaya gets older, she recognizes the significant impact of her visibility. “It means to me that I’m a microphone,” she told Dazed during an interview for her cover feature. “I am my own person and I have my own experiences, but for me, as a role model, I try to use my personal experience to broadcast the positives and also the negatives in life, because a lot of LGBTQ+ youth go unrecognized in every way. I think I am here to share those experiences: to voice them, but also to enhance them. So the world can know, ‘We are here, we are queer, we are here to stay, and we aren’t going anywhere.’”
At every turn, Dwyane and Gabrielle have vocalized their avid support of their daughter. The world can be a cruel place, and the Wades have experienced that firsthand. People have written think-pieces about the teen and have called her vicious names because of her transition. The negativity has only strengthened Zaya’s resolve, but it has caused her to remain cautious. She told Dazed she has to filter her social media to keep her mental health intact.
“There are some highs and some lows,” said the model and activist. “I mean, a lot of attention equals a lot more hate, a lot of transphobia, and [there is] a lot of pressure on me, but I’m also able to reach more people. The positives of having such an inclusive platform completely outweigh all of the negativity online, which my support system has enabled me to filter out. It has allowed me to let in the positivity and distribute it to all of the trans people in the world who need a voice and give them a platform to get inspired to live with themselves without being afraid.”
During her interview, Zaya also answered a few questions written by admirers. One person wanted to know what advice she had for other trans kids. “You’re not alone! There are so many people out there. I wish I knew that as a kid because I felt so isolated, thinking there was no one else like me,” she said. “And the percentage of trans adults versus trans children is such a wide difference. [When you’re] a child at school you’re like, ‘I’m trans, and I don’t see many trans people, so I feel isolated, I feel different from anyone.’”
“But that is not the only community,” Zaya further stated. “There are thousands of communities waiting [for you], and the trans community is forever growing. Even if you can’t have direct contact with them, just seeing their experience is so accessible because of social media. Other people can inspire you.” Check out more from Zaya Wade’s photoshoot with Dazed magazine above.