Zayn’s Transformational Past Year In 11 Photos

Has it really only been a year?

Friday (March 25) marks one year since Zayn Malik left One Direction. It also just so happens (JK, it was deliberate and we all know it) to be the day that Zayn’s debut album, Mind Of Mine, drops.

So, how did we go from Zayn Malik, the quiet, most mysterious member of the world’s most popular boy band, to Zayn, the often shirtless solo artist who sings about sex? It didn’t happen immediately — his transformation may have seemed fast, but in reality, it’s slowly developed over the course of the past year.

Here’s an abridged timeline to help you figure it out AND fill the hours until the album enters our lives. Enjoy!

  1. April 2015 — First post-1D public appearance

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    Less than a month after announcing he was leaving One Direction, Zayn made his first public appearance at The Asian Awards with — gasp!!!!!! — a shaved head. No 1D and no hair — this was our first glimpse at the new Zayn.

  2. June 2015 — Resurfaces at Fashion Week, for some reason

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    Following his initial appearance, Zayn slipped back under the radar for two months until, out of nowhere, he popped up at the Valentino show during Fashion Week with platinum blond hair. We never would’ve expected 1D-era Zayn to attend a fashion show — that was more Harry’s thing — but the new Zayn was unpredictable.

  3. July 2015 — Signs with RCA

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    Though Zayn had cited the reason he left 1D as a desire to live life as a normal 22-year-old, he signed a solo deal with RCA in July. Zayn tweeted a confession: The real reason he had left was to show everyone the real Zayn. The world — or maybe just Directioners, same diff — couldn’t help but wonder just who that would be.

  4. September 2015 — First solo (and shirtless 😉) magazine cover

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    Though dedicated fans — WHATTTTTUP — were not entirely unfamiliar with Zayn’s bare chest, seeing it flaunted on the cover of a magazine was, um, totally unexpected. We had no idea that in the coming months we’d see Zayn shirtless more frequently than not 😈.

  5. October 2015 — Debuts a full beard

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    In the fall, Zayn debuted a full — like, scruffy — beard on Instagram. In a recent interview in Complex, he revealed that he wasn’t allowed to have a beard in One Direction, which is why he’s fully embracing his facial hair now.

  6. November 2015 — Confirms relationship with Gigi Hadid

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    After breaking off his engagement to Perrie Edwards in August, Zayn went public with his new relationship with Gigi Hadid in November. Things escalated quickly from Instagram posts to music videos — that’s how most relationships progress, right? — with Gigi starring in Zayn’s “Pillowtalk” music video.

  7. January 2016 — Announces first single

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    Before Gigi could star in the video, though, Zayn had to announce “Pillowtalk” as his first single, which he did at the beginning of the year. Besides another shirtless photo for the growing collection, the single art confirmed what his social media handles had done for a while — as a solo artist, he was going by his first name only.

  8. February 2016 — Pink hair, don’t care

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    By February, with a debut single and video, magazine covers, and multiple solo interviews under his belt, Zayn seemed more comfortable working a red carpet by himself. So comfortable, in fact, that he rolled up to a pre-Grammy Gala with pink hair.

  9. February 2016 — Unveils Mind Of Mine Album Art

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    Zayn’s debut album art pays homage to his roots, the ones that came before One Direction. After facing some criticism for ripping off Lil Wayne’s album covers, he released an alternate cover, on which — believe it or not! — he is shirtless.

  10. Marc 2016 — Tricks everyone into thinking he got a face tattoo

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    Perhaps the most telling sign that Zayn had shed his boy band past was when he posted a photo of himself with a face tattoo and, generally, everyone believed it was real. Like, no member of One Direction would ever have a face tattoo, but Zayn — not to be confused with Zayn Malik — very well might. Thankfully, it turned out to be fake.

  11. March 2016 — Shaves head and brings us full circle

    Days before the release of his debut album, Zayn returned to his first post-1D hairstyle — a shaved head. He may look the same as he did following his departure, but, damn, we’ve come so far in 365 days.

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