As Zayn quits One Direction, our writer reveals what their most mysterious member is really like
I first met Zayn back in January 2011. I was working with them for their first cover shoot for teen mag Sugar and back then the boys’ time wasn’t as precious so our small team spent a full eight hours with them.
One Direction were fresh off the X Factor, had yet to even go on the X Factor tour, let alone release a single, but it was already clear to see that each of them was a star and on the cusp of something incomprehensibly huge.
Having worked with and met all of them since not one of them has changed, they are still all down to earth, polite, sweet and endlessly charismatic. They’re all completely unique from the others in their personalities, with Zayn being very much the quiet one who told us he enjoys reading and art.
Shyness can often be misinterpreted as moodiness and rudeness, but Zayn Malik is far from it. From the first day I met him he has always come across introspected and thoughtful.
He also seemed hugely sensitive. I’ll never forget that our shoot was January 13th, the day after his 18th birthday. On one of the breaks we surprised him with a birthday cake and everyone sung to him. Rather than looking pleased or excited, he suddenly looked horrified and really uncomfortable. When everyone had finished singing, he apologised and quietly told us it had actually been his birthday the day before. We told him we knew and it wasn’t too late to still celebrate, but he seemed distraught that we’d been mistaken and unnecessarily gone out of our way for him.
And to me that defines such a huge part of his personality – overly sensitive and overly considerate, which makes me think his decision to leave the band would have put him through a great deal of turmoil, despite his personality clearly not being suited to the trappings and scrutiny of fame.
Throughout the years I’ve worked and seen Zayn a few times, although less and less as the band grew and didn’t need to do press.
One time that will really stick on my head though was when I was eating lunch at a Pret in West London with my dad and Zayn walked in. He immediately came over to say hello and we had a brief chat. I introduced him to my dad, who clearly had absolutely no idea who he was and accidentally called him Zack (I was mortified), but Zayn didn’t care, he politely spoke to us and had none of the ego or airs that you’d expect a lad in the world’s biggest band to have.
And that’s the thing with Zayn, he’s incredibly normal and almost too sweet and not tough enough for craziness that comes with being in a band of that magnitude.
His statement read: ‘I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight. I know I have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall. I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.’
So when people talk about what he’ll do next, what the odds are that he’ll have a number one and question if he’ll be the next Robbie Williams, part of me thinks he won’t.
He says he wants to relax and have private time and I’ll think that’s exactly what he’ll do. He doesn’t crave fame or chase it, that’s obvious in the fact that you never see him leaving night clubs that are hot pap spots, and during interviews he usually just sits quietly at the back.
I reckon if Zayn had it his way, he’d marry Perrie Edwards and career-wise occasionally appear on the odd track, but maybe work more behind the scenes in producing.
And I wish him luck. He’s a good guy who’s been thrust into a life that he probably never really wanted, He deserves to finally be himself.
What do you think about Zayn Malik leaving 1D?