Zayn Malik is stepping out of the spotlight—albeit temporarily.
The One Direction singer was photographed arriving at London’s Heathrow Airport early Friday after bowing out of the remainder of the band’s tour dates in Asia. Why did he head home early? “Zayn has been signed off with stress and is flying back to the U.K. to recuperate,” One Direction’s rep told E! News Thursday. “The band wish him well and will continue with their performances in Manila and Jakarta.”
Malik is expected to return for 1D’s March 28 performance in Johannesburg, South Africa.
The “Steal My Girl” singer’s abrupt exit occurred just after he was accused of cheating on his fiancée Perrie Edwards. The pop star denied the rumors on Wednesday, tweeting, “I’m 22 years old… I love a girl named Perrie Edwards. And there’s a lot of jealous f–ks in this world I’m sorry for what it looks like.”
Contrary to reports, Malik is not at odds with band members Niall Horan, Liam Payne, Harry Styles and Louis Tomlinson. “He gets on with everyone, so this is nothing to do with a bigger problem within the band. They are all good,” a source tells E! News. “But Zayn is a very artistic person. He’s passionate and sensitive. And he can be quite shy. Being on tour can be hard. And being under the spotlight can be difficult. When you are on the road it can be hard to turn it off. He is very close to his mom. It’s good that he is able to take a breather. Ultimately he is a really lovely guy. I wouldn’t read too much into this.”
Since One Direction’s formation in 2010, Malik is struggled with life in the limelight.
“He is just a kid. He wants to make music, but the spotlight that comes with it is hard,” an insider says of the “Kiss You” singer. “Fame is kind of catching up with all if them. It’s been a grueling and intense few years and it’s having a snowball effect now. Zayn would be happy with a low-key life. He has a problem with the fame—he doesn’t handle the attention very well, and every so often he has a little wobble.”
Allegations that he was unfaithful to Little Mix‘s Edwards were particularly hurtful. “He is completely in love with Perrie. What happened in Thailand was completely blown out of proportion,” the insider says.
For Malik’s mental health, it was important to “have a break.”
To his credit, Malik has tried to embrace his celebrity status. As he explained to E! News‘ Jason Kennedy in 2013, “It took a bit of time for me to get my head around, which obviously is normal for anybody, I guess. It’s not something that is a normal thing to be doing…but I am used to it now, and it’s fun.”
After finishing the tour, the insider says, Malik will likely consider if he “wants to remain in the band.”
After it was announced that Malik will be M.I.A. for a bit, a pained Payne tweeted, “What a day.” Horan, however, is soldering on. “Can’t wait to see you all in Manila this weekend! Gona be a cracker,” he tweeted Friday.
One Direction has performed without Malik before. Most recently, in November 2014, he came down with a “tummy bug” and missed a performance on NBC’s Today to promote the boy band’s album, Four.