Gabrielle Union on Being Photographed by Zaya Wade For Self Magazine: “She Has a Story to Tell”

Zaya Wade

It’s no secret that Gabrielle Union makes quite the cover girl, however, 13-year-old Zaya Wade is clearly one heck of a photographer. For the most recent issue of Self magazine, the 47-year-old mom had a full photo shoot with her stepdaughter behind the lens. Gabrielle took the time to open up about raising Black children in America, as well as how to support children in the LGBTQ+ community.

“As a family, we are all trying to cope,” she told Carolyn Kylstra, Self‘s editor-in-chief, regarding the violence that Black Americans have endured. “We are open with each other about the mixed feelings we are having and talk about the ways in which we can help bring attention to the lives that have been lost but also how we can help create real change to a system so inherently wrong across the board.”

Related: Dwyane Wade and Gabrielle Union Threw Zaya a 13th Birthday Party Fit For Royalty – See Photos

When asked whether or not raising her kids was more difficult during the pandemic, Gabrielle had a sobering response.

“I read somewhere on Twitter today, somebody said that Black folks and marginalized folks have been sheltering in place for centuries because we know it’s always been safer at home than out in the streets, and we were doing that before the pandemic,” she said. “It’s that fear that so many marginalized mothers have, when their children are physically outside of their eyesight. And in these times, there are no rules. Nothing makes sense. Laws are not enforced, or they’re unevenly enforced, and people are getting away with breaking the law with impunity. You don’t even know what to say, because the hypocrisy is just rampant.”

“It’s that fear that so many marginalized mothers have.”

Given recent events, Gabrielle believes it’s more important than ever to talk to kids about the realities of being Black in America.

“You cannot price your way out of, educate your way out of, move yourself away from racism, anti-Blackness, discrimination, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia,” she said. “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.”

For Gabrielle and husband Dwyane Wade, teaching their kids to be their authentic selves is paramount. “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,” she said. “And that is absolutely enough, and if it’s not enough for someone, that’s not someone that you need to be worried about.”

Now that Zaya has transitioned, Gabrielle has been enjoying exploring what truly being a woman means with her stepdaughter. “There’s no one way to be a woman. There’s no one way to be a Black woman,” she explained. “There’s no one way to be beautiful. There’s no one way to dress or to love your body.”

“I’m just interested to see myself through Zaya’s eyes.”

She also has advice for parents who have children in the LGBTQ+ community: “You can lead with humility,” she said. “It’s okay not to have all the answers. The most important thing is to make sure your child knows you love and accept them. You can legit say, ‘Okay, 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.'”

For Garbrielle, working with Zaya on the photo shoot was a once-in-a-lifetime experience. “I’m just interested to see myself through Zaya’s eyes,” she said. “I think that’s really . . . interesting. Because I trust her. And she has a story to tell.” Of course, Zaya thoroughly enjoyed the opportunity, too. “The only emotion to describe the way I felt during the photoshoot, is pure bliss,” explained Zaya. “I finally felt like I was doing something that I loved. It was a great experience.”

Keep reading to see the breathtaking photos of Gabrielle taken by Zaya.

Related: A Man Shared Empowering Birth Photos to Normalize Trans and Nonbinary People Giving Birth

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