Zayn Kinda, Sorta Wishes He’d Never Joined One Direction

He would have traded his early fame for ‘a few more years of anonymity’

Zayn Malik contains multitudes. In a new interview with ES Magazine, he reveals a few facets we haven’t seen much of before — namely, his ambivalence about having been a part of One Direction in the first place.

Though Zayn didn’t go so far as to say he regrets joining One Direction, he has gained some perspective he didn’t have at the band’s formation. If he could do it all over again, he might not opt for fame after all — and he definitely would wait a few years before climbing the celebrity ranks.

“I was very ignorant at 17,” Zayn told ES. “I thought going on X Factor meant you won a million pounds and got a contract at the end of it. And I was like: ‘Shit. All my problems are solved.’”

It turned out that signing a record deal created more problems that Zayn couldn’t even imagine as a teen. When asked what advice he would give his 17-year-old self, Zayn first quipped, “Don’t do it.” But then he clarified: “Do your research and be a bit more prepared about certain situations before you make a decision.”

Though he’s “super thankful” for his years in 1D, he says he ultimately would have let himself do a bit more growing up before leaping into the limelight. “I probably wouldn’t have [signed] — I would’ve waited a couple more extra years. Just so I had that time to just get my head around being a famous person. I’ve never been able to have, what’s the word? Anonymity,” he said. “If I could go back, I’d have a few more years of anonymity.”