Zayn Malik Pulls a Ginger Spice, Quits One Direction Tour

Update (March 25, 2015): Zayn has officially left the group. Read his statement.

History is repeating itself again. The most famous British five-piece in the world loses a member during an international tour. In 1998, it was Geri Halliwell ditching the Spice Girls during the European leg of their Spiceworld tour. She never returned, and the remaining four were forced to take on all of North America without her. 17 years later, Zayn Malik of One Direction is pulling the same move, leaving the Asian leg of their world tour.

Here's what the group's rep said to Billboard: "Zayn has been signed off with stress and is flying back to the U.K. to recuperate. The band wish him well and will continue with their performances in Manila and Jakarta."

Stress, eh? That's interesting, considering that this news comes fresh off the heels of Twitter fans freaking out over a picture of Zayn and a random girl holding hands, despite his engagement to Perrie Edwards of Little Mix. Zayn seemed rattled by the cheating accusations, tweeting:

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People are speculating that "stress" could also be shorthand for "has a drug problem and needs to go to rehab." A better guess might be that reaching that level of fame is not easy: you're never alone, you can't be seen talking to anyone without rumors spreading, your real relationships are strained cause you're never home, your appearance is picked apart, and on and on. Maybe he's just over it all.

The only reaction from inside One Direction is this tweet from bandmate Liam Payne:

Don't be surprised if the bandmates stay coy about this whole thing until it becomes clear whether Zayn is in or out for good. Just look at this clip from the day Geri left the Spice Girls, in which the remaining girls pretend that Geri is sick to buy some time.

The difference between the two situations is that Geri left largely because she got what she needed out of the group in order to finally go solo. Zayn's situation seems more tortured than that. He's not doing this to be more famous; he's doing it to be less famous. Unfortunately for Malik, chances are that the execs and business people behind the One Direction money machine won't let him get his way. They own him and the fans feel like they own him too.

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He's said in the past that he's a "very introverted, quiet, reserved person," so it's no surprise that global fame and the demand to always be "on" has taken its toll. This whole spectacle is so interesting, not because it's dramatic or because thousands of girls are crying right now. It's interesting because we're so used to people angling for fame. It's rare when someone begs the world to take it back.

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