Shout Out to My Ex: Zayn Malik and Perrie Edwards - a romantic timeline 

Zayn Malik and Perrie Edwards in 2014
Zayn Malik and Perrie Edwards in 2014 Credit: Disney/REX/Shutterstock

They were manufactured pop’s first sweethearts, emerging from the X Factor fame machine hungry for the spotlight – and love. But for Little Mix’s Perrie Edwards and Zayn Malik, of One Direction, their romance was not to last. The following months were filled with speculation, as fans pored over possible vengeful new song lyrics from each party.

Edwards and Malik will enter the cavernous, glittering O2 Arena for the Brit Awards tonight to await not only the news of whether they have won a gong (Little Mix are up for three awards, Malik for two, including one in the same category), but what tongues will wag when the pair are seen in the same public space for the first time since their split. This is the pop equivalent of Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston being forced to sit in the same room after he'd made off with Angelina Jolie. 

Here’s what the pair have been through since their relationship started:

December 2011

Zayn Malik and Perrie Edwards Credit: Twitter.com

Edwards, then a contestant on the way to winning the eighth series of the X Factor as part of manufactured girl group Little Mix, meets Malik during filming of the show. By this point, Malik is an old hand at the Simon Cowell game: he was put into pop group One Direction on the X Factor the year before, instantly becoming a tremendous hit with social media-savvy teenagers.

Edwards and Malik kept their romance relatively secretive – aside from the occasional PDA after One Direction performed on the X Factor and during the filming of a video for a charity single – at the beginning, although they have since set the mould for showing what headlines can be achieved for reality television wannabes who decide to get together.

May 2012

The pair go public – or, at least, allow the paparazzi to snap them spending a few precious minutes together before Malik left Edwards to go on the road with One Direction in America. The Sun reports that the relationship has been blossoming for months, and that Edwards and Malik spent time “getting to know each other to make sure they were on track before they went public”.

August 2012

The first of a number of cheating scandals that dogged Malik and Edwards’ relationship. At the time, Malik was 19 and Edwards 18, and the combination of him spending his life touring while being bombarded by affection from fans meant rumours would fly frequently. While some Directioners welcomed Edwards and Malik’s relationship, others were determined to break them up. When footage emerged of someone said to be Malik telling a girl to return to his hotel room “in half an hour”, he and Edwards ushered in their first controversy. Malik subsequently temporarily deleted his Twitter account.

A month later, a phone call between some anonymous women and a man said to be Malik, in which he set up a meeting in his hotel between them and One Direction band mate Harry Styles, added further fuel to the fire.

November 2012

Edwards and Malik may have been two teenagers embarking on jet-set careers in the music industry, but that didn’t stop them from getting a dog together. Hatchi, as the Pomeranian is known, is introduced through the Little Mix Twitter account and, when everything later falls apart between the couple, is looked after by Edwards.

January 2013

Photos emerged of a sleeping Malik, taken by Australian waitress and stripper Courtney Webb, as part of a kiss-and-tell sold in the Sunday paper. Malik wouldn’t comment on the story, and neither would Edwards, but the incident is enough to encourage the Directioner Twitter mob to target their ire at Webb, who later complained of receiving death threats.

June 2013

The increasingly tattooed Malik adds to his ink collection with a somewhat cartoon portrait of Edwards on his bicep. Edwards, interviewed at the Teen Choice Awards, is overjoyed: “It must be love to be honest. When I'm away from him, I guess he can just take a look at his arm and remind him of me. So it's a lovely compliment really. I love it, it's lovely."

August 2013

Perrie, complete with engagement ring, accompanies Zayn to the This Is Us premiere Credit: Beretta/Sims/REX/Shutterstock

After getting a dog and a permanent mark on his body, Malik decides to go the whole hog in showing his lifelong devotion to Edwards and gets down on one knee. Speculation is rife when a spectacularly shiny ring is spotted on Edwards’s finger at the premiere of One Direction’s first film, This is Us. Days later, Edwards’s mum broke the news to the Dorset Echo, in one of the local paper’s biggest scoops in years: “It's official. I'm over the moon. They are really in love.”

Mrs Edwards added to Real Radio: “Yes, it's true. They got engaged on Sunday and it's absolutely lovely... It's wonderful because Zayn is absolutely gorgeous and Perrie loves him to pieces. It's just perfect and they get on so well together."

A potentially irate spokesperson for One Direction and Little Mix subsequently confirmed the union: “Zayn and Perrie are engaged, but any further detail regarding their relationship is private."

May 2014

Malik further demonstrates his commitment by buying Mrs Edwards a house in Dorset. Perrie's mother had been looking to relocate from the North East, and the Little Mix singer offered to cover the mortgage, only for Malik to buy the property outright.

June 2014

Malik and Perrie celebrate her 21st birthday at Disneyland Paris Credit: Disney/REX/Shutterstock

Malik continues with the grand gestures by throwing Edwards an extravagant fairground-themed party to celebrate her 21st birthday. She later thanks “everyone who came” on social media.

March 2015

The summer of love is not to last. In early 2015 Edwards was pictured without her engagement ring – which she said was being cleaned. Weeks later, cheating rumours ignite once again when photographs emerge of Malik spending time with a woman during a holiday in Phuket, Thailand. The girl, who identified herself as Lauren Rich, posted photos of her and Malik that were later removed from Instagram.

The controversy is enough to drive Malik to address the cheating rumours on Twitter, stating: “I’m 22 years old. I love a girl named Perrie Edwards. And there’s a lot of jealous f---- in this world I’m sorry for what it looks like.”

Things go from bad to worse as, days later, Malik announced he is leaving One Direction. In an interview with RTE Radio 1, X Factor judge Louis Walsh places the blame for his departure squarely on Edwards’ shoulders: “What I found in the past is as things get on, and as they get girlfriends, the girlfriends are whispering things in their ears and saying like, 'You should be a solo star,' 'You should be the lead singer.' That's usually the problem."

June 2015

Edwards, irate with the persistent questions about when she and Malik will tie the knot, tells Capital FM: “I'm sick of getting asked 'when is the wedding? When is the wedding?' I'll get married when I'm BLOODY READY."

July 2015

Malik signs with RCA Records

Despite saying he left the band in an attempt to be a “normal 22-year-old”, Malik signs a solo record deal with RCA Records. Days later, he breaks up with a “devastated” Edwards, reportedly by text message. More than a year later she would confirm the reports in the Little Mix Our World book:

“It was horrible, the worst time in my life. A four-year relationship, two year engagement ended by a simple text message. Just like that. Even though things in my career were going really well, it was incredibly difficult for me. After I split with my partner, out of the blue, I had nowhere to go, which was incredibly stressful. For a while I had no idea what to do.”

November 2015

Speaking to Fader magazine, Malik finally broke his silence on the break-up, denying that he did the deed through a text message:

If you could word it exactly this way, I'd be very appreciative. I have more respect for Perrie than to end anything over text message. I love her a lot, and I always will, and I would never end our relationship over four years like that. She knows that, I know that, and the public should know that as well. I don't want to explain why or what I did, I just want the public to know I didn't do that.

It’s around this time that Malik is pictured on dates with supermodel Gigi Hadid.

January 2016

A post shared by Zayn Malik (@zayn) on

Malik makes his relationship with Hadid public by posting a photograph of the pair of them on his Instagram account.

February 2016

Hadid is the star of Malik’s sexually provocative video for his debut single, Pillowtalk, which speaks explicitly about a relationship. When his solo album, Mind of Mine, was released, fans criticised him for what they inferred to be an admission of cheating on Edwards on song “I think I know she don't love me, that's why I f--- around”.

August 2016

Zayn, with an absent Perrie tattoo, in a photograph taken by Gigi Hadid

A photograph appeared on Hadid’s Snapchat which suggests Malik has had his Perrie tattoo covered up.

October 2016

In the end, it all comes back to the X Factor. Along with the rest of Little Mix, Edwards debuted new single Shout Out to My Ex on the show in October. One of the greatest kiss-offs of our time, the satisfaction in Edwards’ curled lip as she snarls: “I hope she gettin' better sex, Hope she ain't fakin' it like I did, babe,” is undeniable.

February 2016

Malik and Edwards go head-to-head at the 2017 Brit Awards as both Pillowtalk and Shout Out to My Ex are nominated in the Best Single of the Year category. One Direction’s History is in there too, but that feels somewhat irrelevant in comparison to this battle of the exes.