It may have only been a year since the 23-year-old dark-haired hunk bid farewell to his teenage boy band, but it seems the singer is already light years away from where he was 12 months ago.
With supermodel Gigi Hadidat his side, Malik has blossomed into a full-fledged performer with the license to express himself however he sees fit—even if that means singing about "a place that is so pure, so dirty and raw" with frosted silver tips in his hair. If the "Pillow Talk" singer was still in the band today, his hairstyle simply would not exist.
"There were certain restrictions in terms of the way that we could come outside of that young teen boy look. Mainly my beard, honestly. I wasn't allowed to keep it. Eventually, when I got older, I rebelled against it, and decided to keep it anyway. That was just because I looked older than the rest of them," he revealed in the April/May issue of Complex. "That's one of the things that is now quite cool. I get to keep my beard. I also wanted to dye my hair when I was in the band, but I wasn't allowed to."
Ultimately, the subtle restrictions involved with being a member amounted to one major problem for Malik.
"It was about denying the authenticity of who I was, and what I enjoyed about music, and why I got into it," he declared. "That was always there. It was one of the things that wasn't going to go away, so I had to go away."
He's certainly turned up the heat since his departure, thanks to sexy new songs and sultry accompanying music videos. With almost 300 million views, his clip for "Pillow Talk" starring Hadid has cemented his post as music's bonafide bad boy. According to the crooner, making that music video didn't require much rehearsal with Hadid at all.
"We were just messing around," he told the magazine. "It wasn't even, like, part of the shoot. You know when they say, 'action?' They didn't do that. It was just rolling."
No matter what they're doing, the cameras are constantly rolling on the twosome—one of Hollywood's most curious couples yet. While his personal and professional lives are engulfed by chatter, Malik does the best he can to dull the noise.
"I try to keep the two very separate. I try to, as much as I can. But there's only so much you can do. I'm learning to deal with it," he admitted. "It's just one of those things now, in the background. I just leave it as a bit of a noise in the background."