All About Dwyane Wade's Daughter Zaya Wade

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Dwyane Wade's daughter Zaya Wade is a model and LGBTQ+ advocate

At only 16, Zaya Wade has already made a huge impression on the world. The model and influencer came out as transgender in 2020, and, along with dad Dwyane Wade and stepmom Gabrielle Union — has been an impactful voice about queer rights.

Since coming out publicly at age 12, she's been inspiring teens to live their truth by confidently and self-assuredly being her true self, despite the criticism that she and her family face. Zaya has also become a fashion influencer and, as of March 2023, a runway model.

Zaya has the full support of her NBA star father and actress stepmother. "She's the strong one in this family. She's a hero," Dwyane said in June 2021. "It's our family's job to make sure that we listen to her. We listen to the doctors. We ask questions and we formulate our own ideas of how Zaya should be and should be raised in this world and we don't allow others to do that for us."

Dwyane and Union have been vocal in their support of their daughter, using their platform to have important public conversations about transgender youth. "We've been through so many different things that other people and other families go through and they say, 'Thank you for speaking out on it. Thank you for being the face and the voice of it because we can't,' " Dwyane said on Good Morning America. "And that's what we're trying to do. We know there's other families out there that's dealing with their kid, finding themselves and learning who they are."

In April 2023, on an episode of Headliners with Rachel Nichols, the retired athlete explained that his family moved from Florida partly out of support for Zaya.

"That's another reason why I don't live in that state," he said when asked about Florida politicians who are proponents of LGBTQ policies. Dwayne added, "I mean, obviously, the tax [situation] is great. Having Wade County is great. But my family would not be accepted or feel comfortable there. And so that's one of the reasons why I don't live there."

From her budding modeling career to how she's inspiring people with her self-confidence, here's everything to know about Dwyane Wade's daughter Zaya.

She's a model and influencer

Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty
Victor VIRGILE/Gamma-Rapho via Getty

Zaya has been making waves in the fashion industry since launching her modeling career. In the fall of 2022, Zaya modeled for Tiffany & Co.'s new all-gender bracelets, and around the same time, she shared some outtakes from another fashion shoot.

In March 2023, Zaya made her runway debut for Miu Miu at Paris Fashion Week, with her parents sitting in the front row. "Thank you @zayawade for showing me what it means to believe in yourself," stylist Thomas Christos Kikis captioned a post of Zaya's appearance on Instagram.

Later that month, Zaya's first magazine cover hit newsstands. DAZED printed a black-and-white photo of the model who was dressed head-to-toe in Miu Miu.

Wade, the doting dad that he is, later boasted about receiving the "first signed copy" of the magazine. Zaya had penned a sweet note that said: "To dad: I love you."

In July 2023, Zaya was featured in Miu Miu's campaign for their fall/winter collection. She modeled an oversized corduroy jacket and matching skirt that was paired with kitten heels and a brown leather handbag.

She comes from a blended family

Zaya Wade/instagram
Zaya Wade/instagram

Zaya is being raised by her father and stepmother, along with her siblings. She has an older brother, Zaire, and two half-siblings: Xavier, whom Dwyane had with Aja Metoyer; and Kaavia, the child of Dwyane and Union. Dwyane also has custody of his nephew Dahveon Morris.

"I never wanted kids," Union told PEOPLE. "Then I became a stepmom, and there was no place I'd rather be than with them."

In her cover story for DAZED, Zaya opened up about her relationship with Union, sharing that her stepmom has taught her that "beauty is in yourself."

"It's about being you and expressing yourself the way you want to. She tries to teach me that beauty standards are arbitrary and that they don't mean anything," Zaya explained. "They don't matter anymore; what people thought was the standard is not. And just that being myself is the best technique out there."

She's an advocate for LGBTQ+ teens

Speaking to PEOPLE about the Dove Self-Esteem Project, in which she appeared with her step-mom, Zaya revealed that living her truth has improved her relationships. "I can be truthful and honest with myself and therefore, truthful and honest with other people. That helps better everyone's connections and relationships with each other," she said.

In 2021, Zaya hosted a Q&A for teen readers of Michelle Obama's Becoming with the former first lady. She started by asking Obama's advice for teens "who want to be themselves and thrive like you have and currently are."

"Well, like you have and currently are," Obama replied. "I am just so proud of you, you know, being just an amazing role model and embracing your truth."

"We all think that we thrive with people who are just like us, but I think getting a different perspective from someone else who isn't like you really helps," Zaya later said in the chat. "That definitely helped me in becoming me and defining my truth."

Her parents have also been outspoken about standing up against hate speech. "Our home will never be a safe space for bigots," Union told PEOPLE. "I look at problematic language as violence and I'm never going to expose anyone I love to violence, whether that be verbal, physical, emotional or spiritual. Jerks exist in every area of life. And we function from a place of truth in our household. But if you come at us, oh, be very prepared."

In May 2024, Zaya and Dwyane launched Translatable — a digital platform that provides LGBTQ+ youth a safe space to express themselves.

Zaya's parents say they're learning from her

Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic
Axelle/Bauer-Griffin/FilmMagic

During an interview with Good Morning America, Dwyane opened up about what it was like learning Zaya identifies as trans, and the ways that she's leading the conversation in their home.

"It was a process for us to sit down with our daughter and find out who she is and what she likes, and not put something on her," Dwyane said. "As parents, we put our hopes and we put our fears on our kids. With Zaya, we decided to listen to her. And she's walking us on the journey."

"I'm not going to sit here and act like we have all the answers," he added. "I'm not going to sit here and act like before our child sat us down that we weren't ignorant parents. When I say we're learning from our 12-year-old, we're literally learning from our child."

In June 2023, Wade elaborated on the "landmark moment" when Zaya came out to him as transgender. He recalled seeing "fear" in his daughter's face.

"I came home and I just remember my child being scared to talk to me, like hiding in my wife's arm in a chair," Wade said during an event in Ojai, California. "I think I'm this dad that's like, 'Hey, come and tell me anything! I'm a cool dad.' And so I had to check myself."

He continued: "In a lot of work as parents — and as people — what we do is we put our fears and everything on our kids. And I guess I was doing that. So, I had to go look myself in the mirror and ask myself, 'What is it about my masculinity that has my child afraid?' "

She and her family are fighting for societal change

Zaya Wade/instagram
Zaya Wade/instagram

Dwyane and Union have become advocates for trans youth since Zaya came out. When she came out in 2020, Union posted a video of Zaya, captioning it, "Meet Zaya. She's compassionate, loving, whip-smart and we are so proud of her. It's OK to listen to, love & respect your children exactly as they are. Love and light good people."

Zaya and her family have faced an enormous amount of criticism, not just about Zaya coming out about her gender identity, but about her parents supporting her on her journey.

"For those people who have spoken out so publicly against our family ... I'm not standing on my own," Union told Variety in 2020. "The cavalry is arriving, and they are unafraid to stand in their truth and not be compromising when we look at right and wrong."

Zaya said she got criticism from people who also expected her to fit into a specific view of femininity. "As a trans person, once I came out, there was a lot of hateful comments about how I should grow my hair out long or fit into a certain version of femininity, even though that's not true at all," she told the Dove Self-Esteem Project. "That kind of advice is just trying to break you, but don't let it." To protect her from online trolls, Dwyane restricted comments on Zaya's Instagram in September 2022.

When Union and Dwyane accepted the President's Award at the NAACP Image Awards in February 2023, he gave a shout to Zaya in the speech. "Zaya, as your father, all I've wanted to do is get it right. I've sat back and watched how gracefully you've taken on the public scrutiny," he said. "And even though it's not easy, I watched you walk out of that house every morning as yourself. I admire how you've handled ignorance in our world. I admire it that you face every day. To say that your village is proud of you is an understatement."

She has a strained relationship with her mother

Dwyane has had custody of Zaya and Zaire since divorcing their mother, Siohvaughn Funches-Wade. When Dwyane and Union filed paperwork to legally change Zaya's name and gender, Funches-Wade submitted court documents objecting to the change, alleging that Dwyane is "positioned to profit" from the change and "may be pressuring" Zaya for financial gain.

Dwyane reacted to his ex's filing on social media, writing in part, "While none of us are surprised by Siohvaughn's attempt to fight Zaya's identity and her unwavering attempt to drag my name through the mud, I'm very disappointed that she continuously find[s] ways of centering herself and HER needs, without regard to her children."

He later added, "This isn't a game for my family and definitely not for Zaya. This is her life."

In the second petition filed by the NBA player to legally change Zaya's name, Dwyane called Funches-Wade's objection "libelous" and "nonsensical."

"While it certainly would have been preferable for Zaya's mother to be supportive of this important part of Zaya's journey, Zaya should not be forced to put her life on hold while she waits for Siohvaughn to acknowledge and accept her truth," the documents stated.

On Feb. 24, 2023, Zaya was granted an official name change and assignment of gender.

She's a high school student

Zaya Wade/instagram
Zaya Wade/instagram

Though she has accomplished a lot in her life and has a lot of public attention on her, Zaya is still a teenager enjoying her high school years. In January 2023, she attended her high school's winter formal, and her proud parents shared photos on social media.

As she prepares for high school graduation, Zaya has been going on college visits that include Dwyane and Union, who are already "stressed out" about her leaving the nest in the fall.

"We're stressed out about her being away from us...[Parents all have the] same nerves and anxieties about sending your babies away. It's tough," Union told Entertainment Tonight in April 2024.

She also added that Zaya has already chosen her major.

"She wants to major in astrobiology, so there's only so much help we can offer, to be honest...I was a sociology major, [so I'm like], 'Girl, you're on your own,' " she said.

She's proud of her dad

<p>Mike Lawrie/Getty </p>

Mike Lawrie/Getty

In August 2023, Wade was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was joined at the ceremony by Zaya, Union and several other family members.

"My dad is a Hall of Famer 🖤 I’ve never been more proud in my life to know someone as kind, loving, and accepting as he is," the model wrote on Instagram alongside a series of photos with her dad. "He is one of my best friends. I love you dad."

In February 2024, Wade told PEOPLE about the moment he was able to tell Zaya that he'd been nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary Short for The Barber of Little Rock.

"She said, 'Wait a minute. My friends have been talking about it. They've watched it, they've seen it.' So that was a cool moment to be able to let my daughter know that I'm on that side of the world, and we're telling some, and highlighting some really cool stories that are meaningful and impactful," he said.

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