Here's Where Zayn & One Direction Stand 4 Years After He Quit The Band
Celebrity relationships and friendships are a rare breed. These famous faces have their lives played out in front of the masses, whether it’s the good, the bad, or the straight-up shady. In Elite Daily’s new series, It’s Complicated, we’re highlighting the biggest celebrity “feuds” that took over Hollywood and dominated our Sunday brunches for weeks on end. We’ll take a deep dive into the lives and social media feeds of our favorite stars and dissect what happened in front of the camera, what went down behind the scenes, and everything you might have missed in between.
When Zayn Malik quit One Direction in March 2015, he called his former bandmates of five years his "four friends for life." But within two months of his departure, the cracks in Malik's BFF narrative started to show. The four and a half years since Malik left 1D have been filled with tons of shade, lots of confusion, a few sweet moments of reconciliation, and a whole lot of drama. So the question of whether or not Zayn is still friends with One Direction is ever-changing.
The first sign of trouble between Malik and One Direction post-split came in May 2015, when Malik was pictured in the studio with British producer Naughty Boy. 1D's Louis Tomlinson poked fun at the photo's retro filter on Twitter, causing all hell to break loose.
Malik called out Tomlinson, tweeting, "Remember when you had a life and stopped making b*tchy comments about mine?"
Malik later seemingly threw shade at the entire band in July 2015. When he signed to RCA records, he tweeted it was his time to make "real music."
"Obviously, I wish him the best of luck. His kid is cute as f*ck so obviously I favorited it," he said about liking Tomlinson's first photo of his son, Freddie. "We're not talking on friend terms obviously, so that’s as far as I can go, by favoriting his picture."
The constant public breakups, makeups, and everything in between had fans confused. So where does Malik stand with his former bandmates now? Based on their most recent remarks about one another, things aren't great.
In November 2018, Malik told British Vogue he left One Direction without any friends. "I have always been a bit like that, though — always a bit of an island. I don’t like to confer with too many people," he said. "I ain’t spoke to any of them for a long time, to be honest with you. That’s just the way it is," he said.
Malik also attributed his severed relationship with his former bandmates to hurtful remarks. "There’s things that happen and things that were said after I left…” he said, before adding, "Snide things. Small things that I would never have expected. That’s just the way it is. People move on, people grow apart, people grow up."
Sadly, over time, the wounds left behind from Malik's exit haven't healed. Payne opened up about his strained relationship with Malik in a November 2019 interview with GQ, admitting he feels there wasn't any closure between Malik and the rest of the members. "I think with Zayn’s particular exit and the way he chose to go, we haven’t really heard from him since he left... He didn’t even say goodbye, if I am being honest. It was a really sordid scenario, from our side certainly. A bit strange. It’s difficult," he said.
Payne isn't the only member revealing his true feelings about Malik. Also in November 2019, it seemed like Styles threw shade at Malik during his opening monologue on Saturday Night Live. While talking about his former days in One Direction, Styles said, "I love those guys. They're my brothers... Niall, Liam, Louis..." before pausing, making it seem like he'd forgotten Malik's name. Styles then named Ringo, a member of The Beatles.
Fans could assume that was just a joke and nothing more, but four days after the show, Styles talked at length (and more seriously) about Malik's abrupt departure from 1D during an interview on New Music Daily, and how he felt blindsided at the time.
"It was kind of like we were sad, obviously, that someone had left, but also sad that he was not enjoying it so much that he had to leave," he said, before admitting Malik's absence actually created a stronger bond between the four remaining members.
"We were about to start recording a new album and stuff and it was like, 'Are we recording this without him?'" Styles said. "But I'd say in the moment, I guess the four of us became closer because we were like, 'OK, this is a hurdle that we weren't expecting.'"
It's probably not what Directioners want to hear, but Malik and his former bandmates aren't (and seemingly never were) as tight as their boyband image had fans believe. But in the end, Malik, Styles, Tomlinson, Payne, and Horan seem to be much happier doing their own thing on their own terms anyway.