Zayn Malik, a past member of the planetary famous boy band One Direction, made every teenage girl in the world cry when he announced he was leaving the group. A talented man with a bad boy reputation, the Bradford born star is working hard on his solo career that will most likely prove to be more successful than his beginnings.
Zayn Javadd Malik, as is his full name, was born in Bradford in West Yorkshire, England. His family belongs to the working class, and although they were never rich when Zayn was growing up, they had enough to get by and raise a happy, loving family. Zayn’s father, Yaser, is British of Pakistani descend and his mother Tricia is English and partly Irish. Tricia was raised Christian, but she converted to Islam when she married Zayn’s father, and the whole family is now of Muslim faith.
Zayn is the only boy out of his parent’s four children: he has one older sister Doniya and two younger ones, Waliyha and Saffaa. ‘I’ve got three sisters, five aunties and my mom. It must have had an influence on me growing up’, he says about his childhood upbringing as he feels he was surrounded by women.
As a child, Zayn was far from being quiet and well-behaved, which is something that reflects in his bad boy image today: ‘I was a bit of a handful when I was a kid because I was quite hyperactive.’, he says about his childhood self. ‘Even in the house my mom used to put me in my pram because I was so full-on.’ He also commented on his discipline at that time: ‘Whenever anything went wrong at home, because I was the only boy, I would get blamed for it straight away. Girls stick together.’, he comments on his sisters.
Zayn attended both primary and high school in Bradford. He first got interested in music when listening to his father’s records of urban genres like hip-hop, and artists like Chris Brown, R. Kelly, Usher, Donell Jones, Prince, 2Pac, Biggie, Gregory Issacs and Yellowman, as well as Bollywood music.
While still in school, Zayn began writing rap lyrics. As a teenager, he began appearing in school productions and taking performing art courses. He even starred as the leading character of the musical Grease, Danny Zuko, in one of the school plays. He says he was already quite confident and self-aware at that time and that was why he didn’t feel he needed to hold back his artistic interests.
Aside from these beginnings of his love for music and the stage, Zayn also trained boxing for two years and planned on going to university to study English language and become a teacher. He also was, and still is, very artistic and drawing is his big hobby. He has stated he always loved comic books art. As a 17-year-old boy, Zayn decided to try his luck in one of the most popular musical competitions in the world: The X Factor. He went to Manchester to audition, singing ‘Let Me Love You’ by Mario. He got accepted into the next round. Although Zayn says he was only looking for an experience, what followed was a planetary successful career of a boy band member.
Zayn was eliminated after the second round of The X Factor competition, but he made such a big impression on the show’s judges, Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell, that they decided to form a boy band along with four other competitors: Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson, and let them continue the competition in a new form, entering the ‘Groups’ segment. The boys got together for two weeks to practice and get to know each other. Harry Styles came up with the name One Direction. Simon Cowell, seeing them perform later on, said that he saw them behaving as a group of friends, confident yet fearless at the same time.
One Direction finished the competition in third place but quickly gained popularity so Cowell signed them with a £2 million record contract. They soon became known and popular worldwide all thanks to social media, so much so they released a book titled One Direction: Forever Young (Our Official X Factor Story) in 2011. In the same month as the book release, they performed throughout the UK as part of The X Factor Live Tour. Later that year, the band released their first studio album Up All Night.
But it wasn’t before the release of their second album just one year later, in 2012, titled Take Me Home, that One Direction reached the stars and became what we now know them for. The record became number one in 35 countries and sold half a million copies in US in the first week. The lead single ‘Live While We’re Young’ held the record for being the US best-selling song by a non-US artist at the time. A year later, in 2013, another album followed, called Midnight Memories. It got to number one on Billboard 200 and made One Direction the first band ever to have their three albums all debut at the top, extending the record to four consecutive number-one albums with their forth one named Four (which a lot fans call prophetic) released, again, one year later – in 2014.
On 25 March 2015, every teenage girl in the world cried their eyes out as Zayn announced he was quitting the band. Just like it happened with Spice Girls years before, and every boy band to this date, millions of people felt like nothing will ever be the same because of the change in the group’s dynamics. Zayn said he wanted to be a normal 22-year-old and out of the spotlight. He said he had the support of other band members although his decision seemed spontaneous as they were then on the On The Road Again tour. In a statement he wrote on Facebook, Zayn said: ‘After five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I’d like to apologize to the fans if I’ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart.’ The group continued to exist without him.
Zayn didn’t keep out of the spotlight for too long as he was soon seen with producer Naughty Boy. Although there were songs recorded and some even leaked, Zayn stopped his collaboration with him and no album was made. In July of 2015, Zayn confirmed that he had signed a deal with RCA Records and was working on new material, based on what he’s been through in life and especially in the past five years. In January of 2016, the world heard the lead single of his first solo album, called ‘Pillowtalk’ with its accompanying music video. The song became number one in a number of countries, including the UK Singles Chart. Soon, he released the album titled Mind of Mine, which received mostly positive reviews from music critics, calling it a complete work of art.
In December 2016, Zayn released a collaboration with Taylor Swift for the film Fifty Shades Darker, a song called ‘I Don’t Wanna Live Forever’. Currently, Zayn is said to be writing his autobiography.
While a member of One Direction, Zayn was regarded as the bad boy, due to his behavior, scandals that followed his image and his numerous tattoos. ‘I like the term: misunderstood. But I am a bit of a bad boy’, he says. ‘I have tattoos and I mess around. That’s part of my image, so it’s cool.’ The first tattoo he got was his maternal grandfather’s name in Arabic (Walter) and now he has almost a whole sleeve of his arm covered in them.
In 2011, in the beginning of One Direction’s success, Zayn was ranked number 27 on Glamour magazine ‘World’s Sexiest Men’ list. In 2016 he moved up the list to being number five. Forbes estimates Zayn’s online social media following to be as many as 47 million users. Zayn has been the target of anti-Muslim hate talk which led him to deleting his Twitter account in 2012. ‘The reason I don’t tweet as much as I used to is because I’m sick of all the useless opinions and hate that I get daily. Goodbye Twitter.’, he said. ‘’You can say whatever you want about me, I’m not really bothered. But when it starts to upset people I care about or I hear about it from my mom, then that’s a problem’, he added. Coming back to Twitter, Zayn tweeted #FreePalestine during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, which resulted in him receiving death threats and him avoiding to publicly express any more political views.
Zayn also does a lot of charity work. He is an official ambassador of the British Asian Trust, working to improve the lives of disadvantaged people in South Asia. As a member of One Direction, he contributed to African fundraising events with Comic Relief. In 2016 he bought a box at Bradford City for underprivileged children to watch football.
Zayn has dated three former X-Factor contestants: Geneva Lane in 2010, then Rebecca Ferguson and Perrie Edwards in 2012. In 2013, he and Perrie got engaged but in 2015 Zayn confirmed, through his representative, that the engagement was over. It was speculated that the reason they broke up was the fact that Zayn cheated on her with an Australian waitress at an after party. Fans believe he hints about this in his song ‘She Don’t Love Me’. Since November that year, Zayn has been in a relationship with the famous model Gigi Hadid.
What Zayn cannot do is – swim. He had to get over his fear of water when he was shooting a music video for the One Direction’s song ‘What Makes You Beautiful’ since it had to be shot at the beach. Zayn is also uncomfortable when it comes to dancing. During the boot camp rounds of The X Factor, he would often hide during the dance routines as he didn’t feel comfortable dancing in front of people. Simon Cowell convinced him to give it a try anyway, otherwise he would risk his further success.
Zayn has a very supportive family. ‘Our parents are obviously proud’, he said when he was still a member of One Direction, ‘but they’re still trying to get used to the fact that we’re in a band. I have a feeling my mom would actually like One Direction if I wasn’t in it!’ He does feel he missed a lot, though, since becoming famous and moving out of home. ‘It’s pretty strange because you have images of people in your head when you left, then you just think they’re going to be the same when you come back, like time freezes. I have sister and from the ages of 11 to 13 – it’s a big change for girls.’, he once said. ‘I do feel like I’ve missed out a bit because I was really close with my sisters when I was at home. It must be weird for them but they cope really well.’ About his career, he concludes: ‘If anyone had told me I’d be doing half the stuff I’m doing, I wouldn’t have believed it.’ It is said that Zayn is planning on going on with his dream to pursue a degree in English, all as he prepares his next album.
- One Direction: Forever Young, Our Official X Factor Story
- One Direction: Who We Are: Our Official Autobiography
Written by: Tamara Djordjevic