Zaya Wade shoots Gabrielle Union's 'Self' cover: 'Seeing yourself through a child's eyes is quite illuminating'

Taryn Ryder
Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Zaya Wade just turned 13 and she already landed her first major fashion gig. The budding photographer shot Gabrielle Union for Self magazine — including the cover — and the results are stunning.

Union, 47, proudly shared the images on social media calling her stepdaughter Zaya "a tremendous artist" and writer. “I’m so happy everyone gets a glimpse of what she can do. Seeing yourself through a child's eyes is quite illuminating & im grateful we got this opportunity from [Self],” she wrote on Instagram.

In February, Dwyane Wade publicly revealed his then 12-year-old child now used female pronouns. Union told Self that her husband wanted to send a message to other families going through similar journeys, “That you can openly and honestly and unapologetically love your kids and accept your kids, exactly as they are.”

When asked if she had advice for other parents with children in the LGBTQ+ community, Union urged people to “lead with humility.”

“You can legit say, ‘OK, I don’t have all the answers, but what I do know is that I love you, and I’m going to be on this journey with you, and we’re going to learn together,’” she noted.

The Bring It On star is a mother and stepmother to five kids in a blended family with the retired NBA star. Union got candid when discussing what it’s like to raise Black children in America. She explained her parents believed assimilation would provide her protection — like speaking the “Queen’s English,” and dressing “appropriately.” The actress learned that’s not the case.

“You cannot price your way out of, educate your way out of, move yourself away from racism, anti-Blackness, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia,” she shared. “All of those things exist no matter how successful you are. No matter how you speak. They exist. So this idea of teaching our children to constantly be shape-shifting to make themselves more palatable or less scary for people who are committed to oppressing you anyway, no matter what you do, I rejected it. I started to reject that.

“Is it our job to constantly shape-shift and comport ourselves to make someone else, who’s committed to misunderstanding or oppressing us, more comfortable?” Union asked. “That seems actually a** backward.”

Union said she and Wade are teaching their kids to be “good people,” but not to “shape-shift” in order to make others feel comfortable.

“I didn’t want to put the same thing on our kids as what was put on me. When you realize how many decades I wasted trying to be something else, and centering fear that is unfounded, and rooted in racism and anti-Blackness. So I’m not putting that on my kids. And having the talk is to now have really brutally honest conversations, you know, about what it is. And also to be really clear about [the fact that] real friends don’t need you to prove your goodness by sameness,” she stated.

“What I teach them is to always center joy, peace, grace, compassion, understanding, and to be a good neighbor and global citizen, but that you are worthy and deserving and validated by birth, by the fact that you exist,” Union added. “And that is absolutely enough, and if it’s not enough for someone, that’s not someone that you need to be worried about. … You can do all of these things and constantly be monitoring yourself and worrying about what you’re saying or doing, and the reality is that if someone has racist or bigoted or anti-Black sentiments, it’s actually not going to change if you have a three-piece suit on, or you have a Harvard sweatshirt on, or if you’re driving a nice car, or if you speak the Queen’s English. It’s not our job to be educating people who could easily google, because they are committed to being willfully ignorant. I free you of that.”

Watch Zaya Wade shares inspirational message after Dwyane opens up about her transgender journey:

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