Explore the trajectory of the One Direction star turned brooding R&B singer
Alexandra Pollard

12:19 13th January 2016

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Yesterday (12 January) Zayn Malik, one of the most famous popstars on the planet, turned 23. He's achieved more success in those 23 years than most other people put together - and yet, he was never content with just being one fifth of One Direction.

Since quitting the biggest band in the world six months ago, Malik has been working on his solo material - music he hopes will suit his own tastes better than 1D ever could. In anticipation of his new music, and slightly belated celebration of his 23rd birthday, here's a timeline of his life and career. 

  • 2010: 17-year-old Zayn Malik almost sleeps through his audition for The X Factor, but his mum forces him to get out of bed at the last minute. He sings Mario's 'Let Me Love You', and makes it to the next round.

  • 2010: Malik falls foul of Simon Cowell after storming off during the dancing audition because he "feels like an idiot." He eventually reluctantly returns.

  • 2010: Malik is eliminated before the competition's final round, but judges decide to group him with fellow competitors Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson - none of whom know each other - to form a band.

  • 2010: After gaining a fanbase of an unprecedented size and fervour, One Direction finish third in the competition. Zayn Malik tells presenter Dermot O'Leary, "This isn't the last of One Direction." He's right.

  • February 2011: One Direction sign to Simon Cowell's label SyCo in a 2 million pound deal.

  • August 2011: The band's first single, 'What Makes You Beautiful', becomes an international hit, and introduces the band to the US.

  • November 2011: The band's debut album, Up All Night, becomes the UK's fastest selling debut album of the year, and reaches No.1 in the US.

  • December 2012: One Direction finish their first full year as a band with two of the year's top five best selling albums in the US, after the release of their second album, Take Me Home.

  • April 2013: Malik's Pakistani heritage and Muslim identity are used as ammunition for racist online attacks. Twitter users bombard him with racist slurs and terrorist jokes, and he temporarily deletes his Twitter account.

  • November 2013: The band's third album, Midnight Memories, goes to No.1 in the UK and US - making them the first band in history to have their first three albums all debut at No.1 in the Billboard 200.

  • December 2013: Malik becomes engaged to Little Mix's Perrie Edwards.

  • July 2014: Amidst Israel's deadly assault on the Gaza Strip, Malik tweets, "#FreePalestine" to his 13 million followers. He is immediately met with death threats, but refuses to delete the tweet. It is retweeted more than 340,000 times.

  • March 2015: Malik announces that he's quitting the band six days after signing off their tour due to stress, citing his desire to live like a "normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight."

  • March 2015: Malik is seen at a London recording studio with producer Naughty Boy, leading to speculation that the pair are working together.

  • May 2015: Despite describing his former bandmates as "friends for life" when he quit the band, Malik gets into a Twitter argument with Louis Tomlinson over the latter's snide comments about Mac filters. "Remember when you had a life," Malik tweets to Tomlinson, "and stopped making bitchy comments about mine?"

  • July 2015: Malik's short-lived collaboration with Naughty Boy comes to a bitter end when Naughty Boy leaks the music they've been working on. Malik tweets: "You fat joke stop pretending we're friends no one knows you."

  • July 2015: Malik announces that he's signed a deal with RCA Records, home of Sia, A$AP Rocky and Foo Fighters.

  • August 2015: Malik calls off engagement to Perrie Edwards.

  • November 2015: Malik renounces his former band's music in an interview with The Fader: "If I would sing a hook or a verse slightly R&B, or slightly myself, it would always be recorded 50 times until there was a straight version that was pop, generic as fuck, so they could use that version."

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Photo: WENN