Photo: © Sony Music

Zayn Malik needs no introduction. Everyone knows (unless of course you were sleeping under a rock) that he was a member of the hugely popular boy band One Direction. While many criticized him for leaving the band citing him as the cause for the split, Zayn had his own reasons for the exit.

While not many singers who left girl or boy bands have had successful solo careers, names that come to mind would be Justin Timberlake (NSYNC), Ronan Keating (Boyzone), Robbie Williams (Take That) and Beyoncé (Destiny’s Child). We cannot put a tab on Zayn as he is just one album old, but he’s a promising star to watch out for.

Zayn was born on 12 January 1993 in Bradford, England, to an English-Pakistani family. Christened Zain Javadd Malik, his father is English-Pakistani while his mother is English and part Irish. He has an older sister, Doniya, and two younger sisters, Waliyha and Safaa. The family belongs to the Muslim faith (his mother converted to Islam after marriage); Zayn celebrates both Christmas and Eid.

Growing up, Zayn enjoyed his school life and as a teenager took performing arts courses and appeared in school productions whenever he got the chance. He grew up listening to his father’s record collection that consisted of R&B, hip-hop, reggae and, of course, being of Pakistani descent, a bit of Bollywood music too. He sang on stage for the first time when singer Jay Sean visited his school for a cultural programme. He had never really thought of a music career and was originally planning to pursue an English degree at University.

In 2010, aged 17, he auditioned for The X Factor. He sang Let Me Love You for his audition and was through to the next round. He was eliminated before the final round of the competition, but judges Nicole Scherzinger (of Pussycat Dolls fame) and record producer Simon Cowell saw a future in the charming lad and grouped him with four male competitors, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson, to form a new act for the remainder of the show. Cowell gave them a name — One Direction. The group became one of the most popular finalists on the show. They finished in third place and were signed to Cowell’s Syco music label for a reported £2 million. They subsequently signed in North America with Columbia Records (Sony Music in India).

One Direction topped the U.K. pop music charts with their first single What Makes You Beautiful (2011) while their debut album Up All Night was a bestseller in the U.K. and the U.S. Zayn toured extensively with One Direction, meeting their young female fans around the world and becoming one of the darlings of the band.

The band’s second album, Take Me Home (2012), went No. 1 in 35 countries. The lead single, Live While We’re Young, became One Direction’s highest peaking song in several countries. Their third album, Midnight Memories’ (2013) No. 1 debut on Billboard 200 made them the first band in history to have their first three albums all debut atop the Billboard 200. A year later Four (2014) was also No. 1 the world over.

But in March 2015 Zayn surprised fans by dropping out of the band’s world tour. Their management tried to play down the sudden exit, but soon Zayn announced that he was leaving for good. In a statement on Facebook, he wrote: “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.”

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Verus Ferreira is a music journalist for over three decades. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book and the founder of

Verus Ferreira

Verus Ferreira is a music journalist for over three decades. He is the author of The Great Music Quiz Book and The Great Rock Music Quiz Book and the founder of