Dwyane Wade on How Zaya's Journey Has Helped Him Grow as a Person (Exclusive)

The NBA star opened up to ET at the premiere of his ESPN documentary, 'D. Wade: Life Unexpected.'

Dwyane Wade has learned to keep his mind and heart open. 

The NBA star introduced the world to his 12-year-old child, Zaya, earlier this week, and opened up about the moment Zaya said she wanted to be referred to with female pronouns. In an exclusive interview with ET's Nischelle Turner at the premiere of his ESPN documentary, D. Wade: Life Unexpected, in Chicago on Thursday, Wade shared more about deciding to discuss Zaya's journey publicly. 

"Well, we're not the only family that deals with all the things we've spoken about. We're not the only family that had to deal with surrogacy, to bring our daughter into the world," Wade began, referencing his and wife Gabrielle Union's struggle to welcome their baby girl, Kaavia. "We're not the only family that's had to deal with gender expression, gender identity, sexuality, with their child."

"We understand the position we've been put in, especially in our community, and even though it's not always a popular thing to speak out on issues that people are uncomfortable with or not as educated on, but this is the platform that God gave me and my family," he explained. "So, we use it." 

Zaya's journey has taught Wade a lot about himself. "For me, it's always about being able to adapt and being able to learn, and always being able to grow," he shared. "I think coming from the inner city of Chicago early on, I was kind of closed-minded on a lot of things. And I've been with my wife, traveling the world, meeting people, going to different places, I've learned to keep my mind open, keep my eyes open, keep my heart open, keep my thoughts open."

"That's what I've been trying to do as I'm growing into the man that I've always dreamed of becoming," Wade said. 

Fans will see more of Wade's personal and professional life in D. Wade: Life Unexpected. "I face a lot of different elements in the documentary, so whatever it is that speaks to you, hopefully, it's something that you can pull from an inspiration to inspire, that would be ideal for me," he said. 

Zaya was introduced in a video Union shared to social media on Tuesday, which featured the child speaking eloquently about being true to one's self.     

"Don't even worry about that, just be true to yourself," Zaya said in the video, to those who worry about being judged. "What's the point of being on this earth if you're just going to try to be someone you're not? It's like, you're not even living your true self, which is like, the dumbest concept to me. Be true and don't really care what the stereotypical way of being you is."

During his appearance on The Ellen DeGeneres Show this week, Wade opened up more about Zaya. 

"Zaya, our 12-year-old, came home... and said, '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.' I would love for you guys to call me Zaya,'" the basketball player recalled. "And so internally, now it's our job to one, go out and get information, to reach out to every relationship that we have."

"Once Zion came home and said, 'Hey, you call me Zaya. I'm ready to take on this,' I looked at her and said, 'You are a leader. You are a leader. And this is our opportunity to allow you to be a voice,'" he continued. "Right now, it's through us because she's 12 years old. But eventually, it'll be through her."

D. Wade: Life Unexpected debuts on ESPN on Sunday, Feb. 23 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. 


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