Zaya Wade is using fashion to express herself and boost her confidence. The 16-year-old daughter of Dwyane Wade has been working as a model with some of the world’s top designer brands. She appeared in Miu Miu’s latest Fall/Winter campaign and made her runway debut for the fashion house earlier this year.
The model has worked with brands such as Marni, Tiffany & Co., and Puma. In April, she made her magazine cover debut as she was featured in the Spring 2023 issue of DAZED.
“My confidence has grown. I’ve stepped into myself, especially starting out,” Zaya told ELLE about her foray into the fashion industry. “I obviously came out as trans, and it was a very confusing time. I didn’t know everything about myself, but having that expression through clothing allowed me to come into my own. It gave me a level of confidence that I have needed and will probably need forever. It gave me the confidence to thrive.”
Zaya came out as transgender in 2020 and immediately received support from her father and Union. Last February, she received legal permission to change her name and gender.
“It’s a way to show the world that all the negativity isn’t going to bring me down,” she said about her relationship to fashion. “To me, it’s about showing the world and myself that I’m just me. I’m still who I am and who I continue to want to be.”
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In addition to fashion being a way to express her identity, Wade points to her family’s flair for style as an inspiration for her current career.
“It was so inspiring because I feel like I am able to channel a lot of their energy and personality through clothes,” Zaya added. “Fashion is one of the most successful ways for me to express myself. I really wanted to get into the fashion world because I’m not much of a painter. I was like, art is not for me — but what I can do to express myself is wear a great outfit. I decided to get into this world, and I’ve been growing and learning and experimenting and trying to express myself every day through my clothing.”
The 16-year-old says Union introduced her to the idea that fashion can give way to confidence. She has kept her advice close each time she puts on an outfit.
“It’s more about how I carry myself with the clothes that I wear and less about the literal clothes that I wear. Because I think a lot of outfits can be pulled off with just attitude,” she said. “My stepmom [Gabrielle Union] has given me that conversation about what confidence can do for you and how the clothes that you wear can help you get there.”