Gabrielle Union says 2-year-old Kaavia’s cheeky looks help set boundaries, inspired new kids book ‘Shady Baby’

After revealing that she suffered multiple miscarriages, Union became a first-time mom to baby Kaavia via surrogate in 2018. (Photo: Gregg DeGuire, WireImage)

Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade’s 2-year-old daughter Kaavia James, the precocious toddler who has earned the nickname “Shady Baby,” was born with side-eye.

“Literally from birth. And then her personality has been consistent,” Union tells USA TODAY. “That’s how ‘Shady Baby’ started because she came out the womb looking like an older person who was over it at all times.”

Many people can relate. Kaavia has racked up an impressive 1.7 million Instagram followers with her “big personality” and signature shade, but her parents learned that her “looks” aren’t necessarily a bad thing. Union says it’s Kaavia’s way of “reacting to things she finds less than stellar” and defining “boundaries,” which is the inspiration for their new children’s book, “Shady Baby.” (HarperCollins, on sale May 18.)

‘Shady Baby’: Gabrielle Union and Dwyane Wade pen children’s book inspired by 2-year-old daughter

The children's book "Shady Baby," inspired by Kaavia James and written by Union and Wade, is due May 18. (Photo: HarperCollins)

Written by Union and Wade and illustrated by Tara Nicole Whitaker, the children’s book  follows Shady Baby, who after a long morning of being “fabulous” heads to the park for a relaxing play session. There, she witnesses some “not so-nice” kids picking on others and takes it upon herself to teach them how to play nice.

“When others push and shove, someone has to save the day! So Shady baby steps up in her Shady Baby way!” 

Union says she and Wade have raised their children to “stick up for people” and “say something,” much like themselves. The couple are outspoken advocates for many social issues, including gender disparity, LGBTQ+ rights and racial equality. Wade boils it down to “leading by example.”

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“Our kids watch everything we do. We can’t tell them to be authentic and be real if we aren’t doing it,” the basketball star says, before referencing to his 13-year-old daughter Zaya coming out transgender in February 2020.

Wade continues, “I’m sure Zaya was very afraid that when that moment came when she was ready that we probably weren’t going to be ready but we were, because we can’t tell her to be her best self but when it comes to the world, we hide her away from the world.”

In addition to Kaavia and Zaya, Union and Wade are raising Zaire, 19, and Xavier, 7, Wade’s sons from previous relationships, and his 19-year-old nephew Dahveon.

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Union and Wade welcomed Kaavia by surrogate in November 2018, and despite her nickname that has spawned a children’s book and hashtag, Kaavia represents so much more: “She’s such a gift.” 

“When she was born her existence was the symbol of a lot of hope for a lot of us who lost it,” says Union, who has been open about her fertility struggles over the years to combat the stigma. (Union previously said she’s had “eight or nine” miscarriages and she suffers from adenomyosis, a condition that impacts fertility.)

Union gently reminds families who are still on their “very lonely” journey to parenthood not to “lose sight of why you want to be parents.”

“Anything is possible but no matter the outcome, it doesn’t define you,” she says. “It doesn’t have anything to do with your character, it has nothing to do with your soul. There’s nothing ‘wrong with you.'”

Union adds, “You are good, you are worthy, you are amazing – no matter how the journey begins or ends.”

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