Fans were devastated when One Direction’s Zayn Malik left the hugely popular boy band back in 2015. Now, the singer has alluded to the reasons behind his sudden exit. 

Speaking to ES Magazine, Zayn spoke about his Pakistani father and Irish mother and his tumultuous experience in growing up as a mixed-race child, and later, as a member of one of the world’s most successful music groups.

Describing his youth, Malik explained that he always “saw dad as Dad and mum as Mum. I didn’t see colour, I didn’t see religion, I didn’t see race.”

He continued, “I was lucky that my mum and dad would always explain it to me: ‘This is just the way it is, this is some people’s belief, this is the way that they’ve been brought up. You’re brought up differently so you’ve got to respect everybody and hope that people respect you in return’,” he said, adding that he often felt like an outcast.

Zayn added that being the constant target of bullies regularly lead to brawls, saying: “nine times out of 10, the fights were due to racial things.”

“I never really dwelled on this in the past, but I do believe it is something that people should know — this is who I am, this is where I’ve come from. It’s not so much that it hurts — it’s what builds you as a person. What you learn from that. I have an understanding of certain issues,” Malik said.

“Just because I don’t dwell on those issues, doesn’t mean I don’t know. I am aware of what things go on. I am aware that people grow up in racially segregated communities.”

Upon the ‘Pillow Talk’ singer leaving One Direction, fans suspected it had been due to growing Islamaphobic attacks on social media, including several shocking racist tweets made by rapper Azealia Banks in 2016, which lead to her being dropped as a headliner of the Born & Bred Festival.

Zayn has since found success as a solo artist, with his debut single ‘Pillowtalk’ debuting at No. 1 on the Hot 100 upon its release in 2016.

Check out ‘Pillow Talk’ by Zayn Malik: