"It's so weird because I'll forget about everything and then someone will be like 'It's you!', and I'm thinking, I'm just Zayn Malik, that kid from Bradford who used to stay in his home and play on the computer all the time!"
Zayn Malik – born Zain Javadd Malik on 12 January, 1993 – is the son of an English mother and British Pakistani father. He was raised in Yorkshire along with his three sisters, Doniya, Waliyha and Safaa.
"I was a bit of a handful when I was a kid because I was quite hyperactive," he has said of his childhood. "Even in the house my mum used to put me in my pram because I was so full-on."
He didn't always have an easy time at school. Of that time, he said: "I almost felt like I didn't fit in at my first two schools because I was the only mixed heritage kid in my class.
"When my sister and I moved to a different school it was a lot more mixed so I felt like I fitted in better.
"Also, all of the girls wanted to know who this new kid was, and that's when I became cool."
When he was around 12, Zayn – jokingly referred to as the 'vain' one in the group – started taking pride in his appearance.
"I had a few dodgy haircuts over the years," he has said of his image. "I shaved my head a few times and also had slits in my eyebrows. I thought I was properly gangsta, being into R&B and rap, and that made me look hard!"
Aged 17, he went along to the 2010 auditions for the seventh season of The X Factor
. He sang Let Me Love You
by Mario, and all three judges, Simon Cowell
, Louis Walsh
and Nicole Scherzinger
, gave him a 'yes'.
Unfortunately, he failed to progress as a solo act. But then guest judge Nicole came to the rescue, suggesting that he and four other rejected hopefuls form a band – and One Direction
The boys were a big hit on the show, finally finishing in third place. Immediately afterwards they signed up with their mentor Simon's Syco Records label.
In September 2011, they unveiled their debut single, What Makes You Beautiful
, which entered the UK charts at number one. Then, at the start of 2012, their first album Up All Night
was released around the world.
It became the UK's fastest-selling debut album, and topped the charts in 16 countries, including the US, making One Direction the first British group in US chart history to enter at number one with a debut album.
The boys show no signs of slowing down. They have already embarked on two major tours, picked up numerous awards, performed at the 2012 London Olympics and sang for the Queen, not to mention headlining a sell-out show at New York's Madison Square Garden.
Of course, their personal lives hold just as much interest for their devoted fans as their music.
In 2011, he dated fellow X Factor
contestant Rebecca Ferguson
, who was at 24 some six years his senior.
They met on the show, but according to Rebecca, "It took a while before we looked at each other in a different light. There was no particular moment, it just evolved over time."
Their relationship ended after four months, with Rebecca stating, "Me and Zayn just grew apart, I wish him all the best."
Zayn then began seeing Little Mix singer Perrie Edwards
. At the start of 2013, the couple were rocked by claims he'd been unfaithful, but the pair managed to put the scandal behind them and move forward.