Fourteen-year-old Zaya Wade has a firm understanding of the role that mental health plays in her life. The daughter of retired NBA player Dwyane Wade and Siohvaughn Funches, and the step-daughter of actress Gabrielle Union, she leads a private existence under the wings of her famous parents. Celebrity can be excruciating, adding to the complexity of being a teenage Black girl, but Zaya manages it with a warm sense of self and fierce boundaries.
In 2020, Zaya publicly came out as trans, receiving support from her family and being championed by young LGBTQ+ individuals globally. Showing up in the world as who she is has been fuel for others to do the same. She is uplifting and encouraging generations, while remaining a beacon of positivity for herself.
This week, Instagram asked Zaya to be a part of their #It’sOkToNot program, a live series of conversations centered around individuality. She opened the sequence with a session called “How We Heal from Here,” and after the event, we talked to Zaya about self-love, social media, boundaries and more. See our conversation below.
ESSENCE: What are some of the positive affirmations you use on a consistent basis?
Zaya Wade: I would say every morning and every night I look in the mirror and I tell myself, ‘I’m beautiful, I’m worth it and this day is going to be great.’ And at night I say, ‘I’m still beautiful and still worth it. And tomorrow is going to be great.’ And I have to tell myself that every day. I think it’s really helps me get through each day and start off another day on a positive note.
ESSENCE: How and when did you realize that having an optimistic mindset would influence your external world?
Zaya Wade: I would say probably during the start of COVID when my mindset went a lot more negative and I could just tell, even in my household, just everything seemed a lot more drab and there was a gray [cloud] and I just realized that I have to start thinking on a positive note. I started diving into passions and focusing on how things are going to go instead of how things are going. And I realized that having a very optimistic mindset really helps other people have their opportunities to have an optimistic mindset as well.
ESSENCE: What is growing up as a Black girl in the digital age like for you?
Zaya Wade: Honestly, it’s normal and it’s only because I decide for it to be normal. There is a lot of hatred for Black girls, especially with social media and how easy it is to spread across messages of hate. I decide to not focus on that. I decided to focus on the positive and…those people don’t matter. Their opinions don’t affect me. So I decide to be positive in life.
So growing up as a Black girl in this very, very insane time, especially with social media, it is normal and positive for me because I make the decision every single day to not let negativity into my mind.
ESSENCE: Can you talk about the necessity of boundaries?
Zaya Wade: I think that [they] are essential for my emotional and mental health. I think without boundaries, you start to overwhelm yourself and you start to feel so much like excessive stress. And I think setting boundaries are so important just for you to feel comfortable in this environment that we’ve all been thrown into. And I just think that it’s really great for my mental health to set my boundaries and let people know this is as far as I can go and I’m not going farther.
ESSENCE: That’s a great point that you made about overworking yourself because I’ve been reading that it’s easier for people to overwork themselves in the pandemic than it was before, especially since a lot of people are working from home. I think having those strict boundaries in place can really be the difference between you feeling well and feeling down. How do you establish what’s best for you and stand by it?
Zaya Wade: Honestly, I do it with like, I don’t want to sound like mean, but with like blunt force. I have to just let people know and let myself know, my subconscious, just, this is what I believe works best for me. And I have to tell them and I have to figure it out myself, but I have to tell everybody like, this is how I am. This is what works for me. And this is not going to change and you can’t change me from it. I just have to really sit down, take a deep breath and really dig deep and think about what works for me and what makes me feel good.
Keep up with Zaya by following her on Instagram.