Trailblazing trans teen model Zaya Wade proves the power of supportive parenting

Gabrielle Union stands besides Zaya Wade as they both smile at the Cheaper by the Dozen premiere

Zaya Wade is fast becoming a well-known name around the world thanks to her striking looks, openness about her trans identity and flourishing modelling career, which included a runway debut at Paris Fashion Week in March 2023.

The teenage rising star is the daughter of former NBA player Dwyane Wade and Siohvaughn Funches-Wade. She is also the step-daughter of actress Gabrielle Union, who married Wade in 2014.

Despite her tender age, Zaya has already amassed more than 658,000 thousands followers on Instagram, where she often shares images of her modelling work.

Zaya’s trans journey has sadly led to conflict between her father and birth mother, with Funches-Wade attempting – and subsequently failing – to legally block Zaya’s legal name and gender change in 2022.

Who are her famous parents?

Zaya was born on 29 May 2007. Her parents are former US pro basketball player Dwyane Wade and businesswoman Siohvaughn Funches-Wade.

Dwyane, 41, spent his 16-year sporting career playing for NBA team The Miami Heat, with whom he won three NBA championships. 

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According to People, Dwyane met Siohvaughn when he was nine, and the pair married in 2022. The couple had two children together, Zaire and Zaya. 

Dwyane met Siohvaughn divorced in 2007 after five years of marriage and Wade eventually received full custody of their kids in 2011.

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Siohvaughn, also 41, has penned two books: The True Story for God’s Glory: The Life of Siohvaughn L. Funches-Wade and You Gotta Let God Finish!

According to her LinkedIn profile, she’s attended Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School and went on to form her own company The Mediation Matters Firm. She is also owns a real estate investment firm and is founder and president of A Women’s Worth Foundation, which is a non-profit Christian organisation offering on issues that impact women, including domestic violence. 

In 2014, Wade married Gabrielle Union, who is best known for her roles in 90s and 00s teen films She’s All That, 10 Things I Hate About You and Bring It On.

Zaya Wade, Kaavia James Union Wade, Gabrielle Union, and Dwyane Wade attend the premiere of Disney's Cheaper By The Dozen
Left-right: Zaya Wade, Kaavia James Union-Wade, Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade. (Getty)

The pair happily married to today and together they raise a blended family of five kids, including their daughter Kaavia James, 4, who they welcomed into the world in 2018. 

When did Zaya come out as trans? 

Dwyane Wade announced publicly that Zaya had came out as trans in 2020 during an interview with Ellen DeGeneres, where he revealed how his daughter had come out to him and Union.

Dwyane recalled how a then-12-year-old Zaya came home and told her parents “‘Hey, so I want to talk to you guys. I think going forward, I’m ready to live my truth and I want to be referenced as ‘she’ and ‘her’ and I would love for you guys to call me Zaya.”

Dwyane explained that he told Zaya that the family had an “opportunity to allow you to be a voice”, and that while researching how best to support her stepdaughter, his wife Gabrielle Union reached out to the cast of trans-centric TV series Pose for advice.

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have been vocal supporters of their trans child

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union have done everything in their power to support Zaya through her transition. However, Zaya’s transition has has led to some legal conflict with her mother Siohvaughn.

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In 2022, Dwyane stepped up a legal battle to protect his trans daughter from his ex-wife, who reportedly wanted to block her legal name and gender change.

Both Dwyane and Gabrielle said during a heartfelt interview on the Met Gala red carpet that they trust and support Zaya to know herself.

Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union accept the NAACP President's Award.
Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union set the bar when it comes to trans parenting. (Getty)

Despite Siohvaughn’s opposition, in 2023 Zaya’s name and gender change were legally recognised.

Dwyane has been vocal about conflict with his ex-wife and has hit back at her accusations that he is “pressuring” their daughter for financial gain.

In February 2023, Gabrielle and Dwyane accepted the President’s Award at the 54th annual NAACP ceremony, which was award to the pair because of their unwavering support for Zaya.

In an acceptance speech dedicated to Zaya, Dwyane declared: “As your father, my job isn’t to create a version of myself or direct your future, my role is to be a facilitator to your hopes, your wishes, and your dreams.”

Zaya is making waves as a trans model in the fashion industry

At just 15 years old, Zaya has already made waves in the fashion world, and in 2022 she secured a campaign with the prestigious jewellery brand Tiffany & Co., which saw Zaya elegantly posed with a gold Tiffany bracelet.

Zaya made her runway debut in March 2023, walking in Miu Miu’s womenswear fall/winter 2023 to 2024 show.

Zaya posted a carousel of content from the show on Instagram, including a video of her being embraced by her supportive dad, Dwyane. 

Dwyane commented on the post: “To witness your grace is something @zayawade Iam Proud of you,” 

The proud father also posted an overview of the show on his Instagram account, captioned “she’s arrived”. 

Alongside modelling, Zaya is is also making a name for herself and an activist and advocate for trans rights. 

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