Zain Javadd Malik (; born 12 January 1993), known mononymously as Zayn, is an English singer and songwriter. Born and raised in Bradford, Malik auditioned as a solo contestant for the British music competition The X Factor in 2010. After being eliminated as a solo performer, Malik was brought back into the competition, along with four other contestants, to form the boy band One Direction. Malik left the group in March 2015 and subsequently signed a solo recording contract with RCA Records.
Adopting a more alternative R&B music style with his debut studio album Mind of Mine (2016) and its lead single, "Pillowtalk", Malik became the first British male artist to debut at number one in both the UK and US, with his debut single and debut album. His subsequent releases, including "I Don't Wanna Live Forever" with Taylor Swift, "Dusk Till Dawn" featuring Sia, and his second studio album Icarus Falls, were also hits.
Zain Javadd Malik was born on 12 January 1993 in Bradford, West Yorkshire, England. His father, Yaser Malik, is a British Pakistani; his mother, Tricia Brannan Malik, is of English and Irish descent (she converted to Islam upon her marriage). Zayn Malik has one older sister, Doniya, and two younger sisters, Waliyha and Safaa. He had an Islamic upbringing, now he believes whatever people’s religious beliefs are is between them and whoever or whatever they’re practicing.
Malik grew up in East Bowling, south of Bradford city centre, in a working-class family and neighbourhood. He attended Lower Fields Primary School and Tong High School in Bradford. Malik has stated that he started taking pride in his appearance after moving schools at the age of twelve, and as a teenager he took performing arts courses and appeared in school productions. He grew up listening to his father's urban music records, primarily R&B, hip hop, and reggae. He starting writing raps when he was at school, and sang on stage for the first time when singer Jay Sean visited his school. Malik also boxed for two years, from the age of 15 to 17. Before beginning his music career, he had planned to pursue a career as an English teacher.
In 2010, 17-year-old Malik auditioned in Manchester for the seventh series of reality-television competition The X Factor. On the morning of the audition, Malik became nervous and did not want to attend, but his mother eventually forced him out of bed and coaxed him into going. He sang "Let Me Love You" by Mario as his audition song and was accepted into the next round. Upon auditioning for The X Factor, Malik stated that he was "looking for an experience". He was eliminated before the final round of the competition, but judges Nicole Scherzinger and Simon Cowell grouped him with fellow competitors Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson to form a new act for the remainder of the show, the boy band that would become known as One Direction. The group quickly gained popularity in the UK, finished in third place, and were subsequently signed by Cowell to a reported £2 million Syco Records record contract. They subsequently signed in North America with Columbia Records.
A book licensed by One Direction, One Direction: Forever Young (Our Official X Factor Story), released in February 2011, topped The Sunday Times' Best Seller list. The same month, the boy band performed for 500,000 people throughout the UK as part of the X Factor Live Tour. The group's debut studio album Up All Night was released in November 2011 in the UK and Ireland. Released internationally in March 2012, they became the first UK group to have their debut album reach number one in the United States. It topped the charts in 16 countries. The lead single, "What Makes You Beautiful", was an international commercial success, reaching number one in the UK and number four in the US; it has since been certified four and six times platinum in the US and Australia, respectively. Subsequent singles, "Gotta Be You" and "One Thing", became top ten hits in the UK. Following the release of the album, the band embarked on the Up All Night Tour. Initially intended to be solely a UK tour, various dates in North America and Australia were added due to demand. Up All Night: The Live Tour, a video album documenting the tour, was released in May 2012. That same month, One Direction's first book to be licensed in America, Dare to Dream: Life as One Direction, was published and topped The New York Times Best Seller list.
In September 2012, One Direction released "Live While We're Young", the lead single from their second album, and it reached the top ten in almost every country it charted in and recorded the highest one-week opening sales figure for a song by a non-US artist in the US. It recorded the highest one-week opening sales figure for a song by a non-US artist at the time. The album's second single, "Little Things", spawned the band's second number one single in the UK.
One Direction's second studio album, Take Me Home, was released in November 2012. The record sold 540,000 copies in its first week in the US and went to number one in 35 countries. Reaching number one on the Billboard 200, the group became the first boy band in US chart history to record two number-one albums in the same calendar year alongside becoming the first group since 2008 to record two number-one albums in the same year. The group headlined their second concert tour, the Take Me Home Tour, in February 2013, playing over 100 shows in Europe, North America, Oceania, and Asia. The tour was commercially successful, grossing $114 million. In August 2013, One Direction: This Is Us, a 3-D documentary concert film was released, accumulating a box office gross of $68.5 million. One Direction's third book, One Direction: Where We Are: Our Band, Our Story: 100% Official, was released that same month. In November 2013, the band's third studio album, Midnight Memories, was released. It was the best-selling album worldwide in 2013 with 4 million copies sold globally. The album's number one debut on Billboard 200 made One Direction the first band in history to have their first three albums all debut atop the Billboard 200. The lead single from the album, "Best Song Ever", is the group's highest charting single in the US to date. They embarked on the Where We Are Tour, their first all-stadium tour in 2014. Tickets sold out in minutes, and more shows were added due to "overwhelming demand." The band averaged 49,848 fans per show. The tour grossed over $290 million and was the highest-grossing tour of 2014, the 15th highest-grossing concert tour of all time, and is still the highest-grossing tour of all time by a vocal group. In September 2014, One Direction's fourth book, One Direction: Who We Are: Our Official Autobiography was released. The group's second concert film, One Direction: Where We Are – The Concert Film, was released in October 2014.
In November 2014, the group's fourth album, Four, was released. The album was their fourth consecutive number-one album, debuting at number one in 18 countries while selling 3.2 million copies. Singles "Steal My Girl" and "Night Changes" both achieved platinum status in the US among other countries. In 2015, the group set off on the On The Road Again Tour. On 18 March 2015, following the band's 16th show of the tour, it was announced that Malik had become overwhelmed with stress, and would be absent for the remaining shows of the Asian leg of the tour. A week later, on 25 March 2015, the band announced his departure. In the band's official statement, Malik cited his desire to live as a "normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight". He denied rumors of any rift between the members, explaining that the band had been supportive of the decision.
In March 2015, Malik was seen at a London recording studio with producer Naughty Boy. Following his departure from One Direction, Malik alluded to the potential of a solo career, with the release of his first solo studio album to be released under the Syco label in 2016. The same month Naughty Boy released on SoundCloud an early demo of Malik's song "I Won't Mind". In June 2015, UK rapper Mic Righteous leaked Malik's "No Type", featuring Mic Righteous and produced by Naughty Boy, a cover version of Rae Sremmurd's hip hop song. Malik also worked with grime rappers Krept & Konan during this time, but the material was never released after Malik parted ways with Naughty Boy. Though unreleased, his work with Naughty Boy and Krept & Konan helped Malik gain a new urban audience in the UK.
By July 2015 Malik announced he had signed a recording deal with RCA Records. Later that year, Malik gave several interviews where he talked about his debut solo studio album and revealed part of the track list. Talking with The Fader, he stated "life experiences have been the influences for the album and just stuff that I've been through, especially in the last five years". In a conversation with Billboard, Malik's main collaborator for the album James "Malay" Ho said they have gone to unusual lengths in pursuit of inspiration during recording sessions, for one "we went camping for a week in the Angeles Forest – set up a generator and a tent so we could track in the woods." In his first solo on-camera interview with Zane Lowe for Apple Music's Beats 1, Malik revealed Mind of Mine as the album's title.
The album's lead single, "Pillowtalk", was released in January 2016. The song debuted at number one in a number of countries, including the UK Singles Chart and the US Billboard Hot 100; on the latter, it became the 25th song to debut at number one, making him the first UK artist to debut at number one on the Hot 100 with a first charted single. The single's performance propelled Malik to number six on the Billboard Artist 100 chart. Worldwide, he had the highest first-day and weekly streams for a debut artist. The album's second official single, "Like I Would", reached number one on Billboard's Dance Club Songs chart. The end of February 2016 also saw the releases of the "Pillowtalk (Lil Wayne Remix)", which features American rapper Lil Wayne, and Chris Brown's R&B song "Back to Sleep (Remix)", featuring Usher and Malik.
The album was released in March 2016 and includes songs co-written by Malik and a team of professional songwriters, whittled down from 46 tracks he reportedly considered; one of the songs on the album features American R&B singer-songwriter Kehlani. Primarily R&B and alternative R&B, the album blends elements from a number of genres. Despite the variations in the sounds and genres, Mind of Mine is structured in an "album-as-complete-work" form, maintaining a tightly knit cohesion throughout the record, with an almost seamless transition between and across songs, while maintaining a recognizable, mostly downbeat, "hazy" tone throughout. This gives the album a continuous flow, and gives the impression that it all came from one person's "mind." It has received generally positive reviews, with praise for Malik's new musical direction, his vocals, and the music production.
Mind of Mine debuted at number one in a number of countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, and United States, where he became the first British male solo artist to debut at number one with his first album. Zayn debuted atop the US Billboard 200 earning 157,000 equivalent album units in its first week, with 112,000 coming from pure album sales. Zayn is also the first UK male artist to debut at number one in both the UK and US, and the third artist to debut at number one on both the Billboard 200 and Hot 100 with debut entries on each chart (along with Lauryn Hill and Clay Aiken). He also topped the Billboard Artist 100 chart, replacing Justin Bieber at the summit, and surpassing One Direction's number-two peak on the chart.
The promotional tour for Mind of Mind included his second solo appearance on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, performances on the Honda Stage at the iHeartRadio Theater and at the 3rd iHeartRadio Music Awards. In July 2016, "Cruel", which features Malik, was released by British production team Snakehips. By the end of 2016, Taylor Swift and Malik released a single together called "I Don't Wanna Live Forever", for the soundtrack of the film Fifty Shades Darker (2017), which reached number two in the US, number five in the UK, and number one in Sweden. Malik has reportedly written an autobiography titled Zayn. He found the writing "therapeutic."
On 24 March 2017, Malik released the single "Still Got Time", featuring PartyNextDoor. Malik announced the new single "Dusk Till Dawn", featuring Sia through his social media. The single was released on 7 September 2017. The accompanying music video featured American actress Jemima Kirke and was directed by Marc Webb. Malik began releasing songs from his upcoming second album before announcing the release date and name of the album.
On 12 April 2018, Malik released the lead from the album titled "Let Me". The second single, "Entertainer" was released on 23 May 2018. He released the third single from the album "Sour Diesel" on 18 July 2018. On 2 August 2018, Malik released another track for the album titled, "Too Much", featuring Timbaland. "Fingers" served as the fifth single and released on 18 October 2018. He and rapper Nicki Minaj released "No Candle No Light" as the sixth single and final official single from the album on 15 November. On 30 November 2018, he announced his second solo studio album will be titled Icarus Falls and he also released the album's first promotional single, "Rainberry". On 6 December 2018, he released the second promotional single, "Good Years". On 11 December 2018, he released the album's final promotional and pre-release single, "There You Are". The album was finally released on 14 December 2018. It contains 27 tracks including six previous singles he has been released, while "Still Got Time" and "Dusk Till Dawn" were only featured on the Japanese edition of the record. On 28 August The album received generally favorable reviews from music critics, but was not nearly as commercially successful as his previous album, with Icarus Falls peaking at 61 on the US Billboard 200 and 77 on the UK Albums Chart. On 28 August, he re-released the album, including "Still Got Time" and "Dusk Till Dawn".
In 2019, Malik performed a cover version of "A Whole New World" with Zhavia Ward for the soundtrack to the 2019 film remake Aladdin. A bilingual English and Spanish version, "Un Mundo Ideal", performed by Malik and Becky G, was released on 17 May 2019. In the completely Spanish version he performed the song with Aitana. On 26 September 2019, Malik and indie pop trio Shaed released a remix of the latter's song "Trampoline" with Malik contributing vocals. He followed this up with another collaboration, the electropop track "Flames", which he wrote and recorded with Dutch DJ and producer R3hab and British DJ Jungleboi. The song was released on 15 November 2019.
On 25 September 2020, Malik released the single "Better", which serves as the lead single from his upcoming third studio album. The song marks his first solo release in nearly two years. Malik described the album as "his most personal project to date". No additional details have been announced yet.
In 2016, Malik made his debut on The Business of Fashion's annual BoF500 index, which profiles the most influential people in fashion. In January 2017, he released a shoe line with Italian footwear designer Giuseppe Zanotti. The Giuseppe for Zayn capsule collection featured four shoe styles- two boots and two sneakers. In February 2017 the Versus (Versace) Spring Summer 2017 campaign featuring Malik and model Adwoah Aboah was released. In the same month he co-hosted the CFDA/Vogue Fashion Fund's Americans in Paris annual cocktail during Paris Fashion Week. Donatella Versace, the chief designer of Versace, appointed Malik as the creative director for a men's and women's capsule collection entitled Zayn x Versus, which was made available in May 2017.
In September 2018, Malik designed a backpack line for The Kooples. He also modeled for Penshoppe in their Spring 2018 campaign, and again modeled in their 2019 campaign. He also modeled for Martyre, which was founded by Anwar Hadid, brother to Zayn’s girlfriend, Gigi.
He is an official ambassador of the British Asian Trust charity group, contributing to improving the lives of disadvantaged people living in South Asia. With his former group One Direction, he contributed to African fundraising events with Comic Relief. In April 2014, Malik donated his guitar to the Kean's Children Fund in Dundee, Scotland. The charity founder Charlie Kean was organising an online auction for the guitar and the money raised from the auction will be used to buy iPads for the children's ward at Ninewells. In March 2016, he bought a box at Bradford City for underprivileged children to watch football, named after his maternal grandfather Walter Brannan. In January 2020, Malik donated £10,000 toward a five-year-old girl's medical treatment through GoFundMe page her mother made to raise money.
Malik was raised as a Muslim. He has been a target of anti-Muslim attacks. During the 2014 Israel–Gaza conflict, Malik posted the message "#FreePalestine" on Twitter, resulting in him receiving angry responses and death threats. In 2017, Malik said he identified as a non-practising Muslim, but said he did not "want to be defined by [his] religion or [his] cultural background." He told British Vogue in November 2018 that he no longer considered himself a Muslim.
Malik started dating fellow X Factor contestant Geneva Lane of Belle Amie in 2010 until 2011. Malik dated another X Factor contestant Rebecca Ferguson for a few months until July 2011. He subsequently dated actress Stephanie Davis in the same year. Malik began dating British singer Perrie Edwards of the band Little Mix in December 2011, and they got engaged in August 2013. The couple ended their engagement in July 2015. Malik has been in an on-again, off-again relationship with American model Gigi Hadid since late 2015. Hadid starred in his music video for the song "Pillowtalk". The two appeared together on the August 2017 cover of Vogue. In 2017, Hadid photographed them both for a Versace ad campaign. Malik and Hadid welcomed their first child, a daughter, in September 2020.
Malik cites urban music as his main musical influence, having grown up predominantly with R&B, hip hop, and reggae, as well as bop and Bollywood music. He was influenced by his father's urban records, including Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, R. Kelly, Usher, Donell Jones, Prince, 2Pac, Biggie, Gregory Isaacs, Yellowman and Chris Brown. Malik originally auditioned to be a solo R&B singer, before becoming part of One Direction. His R&B singing style stood out compared to the band's pop rock style; he later cited creative differences as a reason for leaving the band. His solo work leans towards R&B, alternative R&B and electropop, and occasionally other genres, such as electro-R&B dance music ("Like I Would"), hip hop ("Pillowtalk" remix where Malik is rapping and rap-singing with Lil Wayne), neo-soul ("Truth"), reggae ("Do Something Good"), and Qawwali ghazal ("Flower" where he uses Qawwali vocal techniques such as vocal elisions and warbling).
Malik possesses a wide tenor vocal range, and is known for his belting and falsetto singing techniques and hitting high notes with his vocals. He was regarded by Jamieson Cox in Time as the band's strongest singer. Brad Nelson of The Guardian wrote "He was one of the more accomplished vocalists of the group, exhibiting the widest range. He mostly inhabited a silvery, full-bodied tenor, similar to but more sharp and precise than Harry Styles' smoky warble", asserting that his departure would leave "a void of vocal agility".
Malik was known as the "Bradford Bad Boy" of One Direction, due to his mischievous behaviour, scandals, many tattoos, graffiti art, and rock star hairstyles. Since before X-Factor, Malik has been a fan of tattoos, saying that he likes "getting tattoos and that he loves the whole culture behind them." His first tattoo was revealed on his Twitter account. Malik got his maternal grandfather's name inked in Arabic: والتر (Walter). Since then, Malik has had several more tattoos. Discussing Malik's possible solo career after leaving the boyband, Billboard editor Joe Lynch described him as "the quiet one in the group [...] never the one to grab the spotlight during interviews. He typically saved his words for the songs, not for media soundbytes."
In Pakistan, Malik is often listed among notable Pakistanis of the diaspora. In 2011, he was ranked number 27 on Glamour's "World's Sexiest Men" list. In 2014, Malik was voted British GQ's best dressed male. In 2015, he was voted the "Sexiest Male in Pop" in a poll by British radio network Capital, voted as the "World's Sexiest Asian Man" based on a worldwide poll by the British newspaper Eastern Eye, voted second place in a poll of the "World's top ten bachelors" by Manchester's Crown Clinic, and ranked number six on MTV's "50 sexiest men alive" list. In 2016, he was ranked number five on Glamour magazine's "100 Sexiest Men" list. As of April 2016, Forbes estimates his online social media following (across Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, YouTube and Pandora) to be over 50 million users. Malik's fandom is known as Zquad.