Zayn Malik has more to share than just his pillow talk. In his new memoir, Zayn, the singer, 23, opens up about his departure from One Direction, his crippling anxiety and his eating disorder.
Most important to him, he clears the air of any generalizations and stereotypes. “I guess that’s why I’m writing this now,” writes Malik, who dates supermodel Gigi Hadid. “Not because I think I’m so great, or because the whole world needs to know about Zayn Malik, but so that, if you’re at all interested, you can understand a bit better why I did the things I did and where I’m at now.”
Here, Us Weekly rounds up the 10 revelations from the book, out now:
1. One Direction wasn’t allowed to sing what they wanted.
Formed in 2010 on U.K.’s The X-Factor, One Direction — made up of Malik, Harry Styles, Liam Payne, Louis Tomlinson and Niall Horan — was strictly a pop-song-singing boy band. “But it’s no secret that that kind of pop music really isn’t my thing,” writes Malik. “I was becoming more and more desperate to express my own style and write lyrics about stuff that I really believed in, rather than melodies and beats that were being made for us in One Direction.”
In fact, the band members had very little say in their music at all: “If I suggested singing a line or a hook in a more R&B way, that would get smoothed out into a more poppy approach, because that was the music that was expected of us.”
Over the years, simply nodding his head and smiling became increasingly difficult. “It was a struggle for me, the fact that we didn’t share the same musical taste,” admits Malik. “I felt a bit like being forced into a mold I would never fit. I wanted to be in the studio singing lyrics that resonated with me, not just repeating someone else’s lines.”
2. He never had a master plan to go solo.
In fact, striking out on his own barely crossed his mind. But while traveling with the band on their worldwide tours, he began to find the musician inside him. “I’d lock myself away and just write and write on my own,” he pens in his memoir. “Whenever I saw a window to write I’d grab it, even if it meant working really late into the night and even if I knew it wasn’t material that we would end up using as a band.”
Around early 2015, he didn’t quite realize his time in the band was coming to an end. But soon, he did start visiting recording studios solo “just to mess about and experiment,” reveals Malik. “It felt important to be more in control of my time, doing less of what other people had decided was right for me, or for them, and more of what I felt was right.”
Looking back, the experience helped him discover who he was. Writes Malik, “Being in One Direction gave me the opportunity to understand what it was that I needed to do — and that was to find my own sound.”
3. His epiphany to quit the band came to him while onstage.
Perhaps timing isn’t his strong suit. In March 2015, the guys were in Hong Kong on their On the Road Again tour, their fourth in just four years. Malik missed his home, his family and his normalcy. And, on top of that, his three-year relationship with then fiancée Perrie Edwards was crumbling.
“I had been in a bad place for a while and I didn’t see myself getting out of it unless I made a change,” he writes. “My relationship with my fiancée, Perrie, was breaking down. To make matters worse, there were so many crazy stories flying around in the newspapers about us, and it felt like such an invasion of privacy, it made me want to disappear for a while.”
Suddenly, something clicked in his gut. “Literally, while I was on stage, I realized I wasn’t going to do it anymore,” reveals Malik. “I wasn’t going to spend another minute doing something which made me ill and which I no longer believed in. I couldn’t see that there was anything left for me to give or to gain from staying.”
Though he says the “night was a blur,” he finally came to the realize what he had known deep down for some time: “I was leaving the band and going home.”
4. His parents helped him make the final decision to leave One Direction for good.
After all, Mum knows best. “My mind was made up but the deciding factor was an honest conversation with my parents,” writes Malik. “Obviously, my mum and dad were both kind of concerned that I was choosing to leave One Direction, but I was physically and mentally exhausted — beyond exhausted. I was spiraling down into a very unhappy, very unhealthy place. I needed to reconnect with my family and feel some normality again.”
His mom, Trisha, gave him the reassurance he needed to follow his heart. “She said, ‘If it doesn’t make you happy, just don’t do it,'” he writes. “That simple. I felt like that was the permission I needed to do what I needed to do. It reminded me that, at the end of the day, even if everyone else in the world hated me, my mum would always be there for me.”
On March 19, he left packed up his bags and left their world tour. Just one week later, on March 25, he announced he was officially leaving the band.
5. He felt lost and alone after quitting.
Yeah, that shocked him too. “You might think that leaving the band was this time of massive excitement for me, because I was finally free to do what I wanted, but, if I’m straight with you, it didn’t feel that way,” Malik admits in his memoir. “To tell the truth, I was pretty lost. I definitely knew I wanted to make my own music — that was the only path for me — but I felt like I was adrift.”
Still, he knows that emptiness — though necessary — was a consequence of his decision. “I take responsibility for leaving, of course, but it was still massively disorientating,” he writes. “All of a sudden, it was just me and my thoughts, and that was f–king terrifying. I would spend long hours on my own, just trying to process what the hell I was going to do next. Looking back on it, I think I needed that time, that introspection that comes when everything you’ve known for nearly half a decade falls away.”
6. He struggled with anorexia.
The workload, the pressure, the traveling, the uncontrollable factors in life. Everything mixed together and began to affect Malik’s eating habits.
“When I look back at images of myself from around November 2014, before the final tour, I can see how ill I was,” he writes. “Something I’ve never talked about in public before, but which I have come to terms with since leaving the band, is that I was suffering from an eating disorder. It wasn’t as though I had concerns about my weight or anything like that, I’d just go for days — sometimes two or three days straight — without eating anything at all. It got quite serious, although at the time I didn’t recognize it for what it was. I think it was about control. I didn’t feel like I had control over anything else in my life, but food was something I could control, so I did.”
7. He recorded songs to woo girls at school.
The kid’s got moves: At around 8 years old, he joined the school choir, hoping he’d meet girls. Back at home, a young Malik would write and record songs on tape.
“I wrote and sang a couple songs for a girl I quite fancied,” he reveals. “I recorded them and left the tape in her locker at lunchtime. I prayed and prayed she would like them. No comment. Looking back, I guess they were pretty f–king embarrassing. I hope she’s thrown that tape in the bin rather than kept hold of the songs. I’m not sure I’d like to see them pop up online.”
8. He recorded songs in the middle of the woods.
Jungle fever? After Edwards’ dad introduced him to camping, Malik became obsessed with the peace and serenity of the outdoors. “I liked sitting around a campfire, just drinking and hanging out,” he writes. “I often found that it inspired me to write lyrics — lots of them.”
So while working on his debut album, Mind of Mine, Malik and producer Malay grabbed a portable recording rig and headed to California’s Angeles National Forest, where they spent two weeks off the grid, sleeping in one tent and recording in another.
“I wanted a different vibe for the recording,” he explains. “A lot of the time I was working in a studio environment, locked away from the outside world, never really quite sure what time of day it was. I wanted to get out there, feel alive, channel different vibes.”
In the woods, he finalized several songs and even wrote verses for his song "Blue." “We recorded whenever the mood took us, taking the odd break to fire arrows into the trees,” he reveals. “Some of the vocals we recorded out there were the best I’d ever done.”
8. He’s got more tattoos than you think!
The very private star won’t discuss his religion — he’s Muslim — politics, or his most of his ink. “They’re written in Arabic and they’re personal,” reveals the singer, who admits he has not idea how many tattoos he has. “I keep them out of view; they’re in places that not many people are going to see.”
9. His anxiety is crippling — but he’s working to overcome it.
On June 11, Malik pulled out of his set at the 2016 Capital Radio Summertime Ball at Wembley Stadium, which would have been his first solo performance on his home turf in the U.K.
“An anxiety attack hit me like a f–king freight train. I felt sick. I couldn’t breathe,” he writes. “I was in a total psychological lockdown. I would make a move to walk out of the house, to get into a car that would then drive me to Wembley, but I could only manage a few paces before I hit an imaginary wall. It stopped me in my tracks, and I would have to sit down again.”
He couldn’t perform — anxiety had won. But rather than make up an excuse — his team offered to say he was sick — Malik insisted on telling his fans the truth, releasing a statement that explained his suffering. “As a solo performer, I felt much more exposed, and the psychological stress of performing had just got too much for me to handle — at that moment, at least,” reveals Malik. “Rather than hiding away, sugarcoating it, I knew I had to put it all out there.”
Often, the distress comes when he questions himself and his talent. “The only way I can explain the anxiety I experience is that there’s a certain level of expectation I put on myself, and a certain level of expectation I feel from the fan base and the public,” he writes. “I think a lot of the anxiety you see in me, that’s just me not being aware — or maybe being too aware — of what it is that people want from me.”
Now, he says he’s determined to work on his anxiety issues. “I’m on my way,” he writes. “Identifying my stumbling blocks has always helped me over them. But I haven’t been asking Adele for help, like some of the paper reported after the Wembley show!”
10. He’s a feminist!
He actually prefers hiring — and working with — women. In fact, his management is predominantly made up of women.
“I don’t want to generalize too much, but definitely in my experience, I’ve found the whole macho world of male aggression and insecurity to be a lot more difficult to exist in,” he reveals. “That was my first experience in the music industry. Be a man, be brash, don’t speak your true feelings, keep up a wall. Women seem to be able to move their barrier a lot more easily and will do so more selflessly, without always having an ulterior movie. That’s something that draws me much more towards the company of woman than other men.”
For more on Malik, pick up Zayn, on shelves now!
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