One Direction is officially down a member — for good. Zayn Malik announced in a statement on Wednesday that he will be leaving the boy band, five years after they were formed on the U.K.’s version of The X-Factor.
“My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined,” the 22-year-old said. “But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I’d like to apologize to the fans if I’ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right. I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.”
The news comes nearly a week after questionable photos of Zayn and a 19-year-old female surfaced online, leading to rumors that he cheated on fiancee, Perrie Edwards. Originally, the singer opted just to take a brief hiatus from the 1D World Tour, and was expected to return to the stage this Saturday.
Fellow band members, Harry Styles, Niall Horan, Liam Payne and Louis Tomlinson, added a statement of their own. “We’re really sad to see Zayn go, but we totally respect his decision and send him all our love for the future. The past five years have been beyond amazing. We’ve gone through so much together, so we will always be friends. The four of us will now continue. We’re looking forward to recording the new album and seeing all the fans on the next stage of the world tour.”
Likewise, Zayn made sure to make it clear that he has no hard feelings toward his bandmates. “I know i have four friends for life in Louis, Liam, Harry and Niall,” he added. “I know they will continue to be the best band in the world.