Zayn Malik
Zayn Malik celebrates his 24th birthday today Kevin Winter/Getty

Celebrations are in order for Zayn Malik as the pop star celebrates his 24th birthday today (12 January 2017). It has been an eventful year for the former One Direction star as his solo career finally launched and his love life hit the headlines.

While Malik has enjoyed success in many areas of his life, the Pillowtalk singer did hit a few stumbling blocks due to his battle with anxiety. The Bradford-born singer was forced to cancel his anticipated performance at Capital FM's Summertime Ball and a gig in Dubai as he struggled with life in the spotlight as a solo artist.

Still, the BeFour hitmaker has turned his turmoil into a positive and has become a mouthpiece for those battling with anxiety. Now having to navigate the fame game on his own, Malik has become older, bolder and clearly wiser.

In an interview with Highsnobiety, the musician reflected: "You have to not give a s**t what people think about you. You have to guide your own career and not follow other people's expectations of what kind of artist they want you to be."

As Malik rings in a brand new chapter, IBTimes UK takes a look back at highlights of his last year.

Gigi Hadid romance

Proving doubters wrong, Malik's romance with model Gigi Hadid has gone from strength to strength. The smitten couple have mostly kept their relationship under wraps but their rare red carpet moments and social media posts show they are more in love than ever. Their romance was confirmed when Hadid, 21, appeared in the music video for Malik's debut single Pillowtalk and it was only up from there.

Zayn Malik and Gigi Hadid
Zayn Malik and Gigi Hadid's romance is still going strong Getty

Sharing a few details of how their first date came to fruition, Malik told Sirius XM: "I just asked her, it was pretty straight up, I just asked her if she wanted to go on a date. I was in New York. [We met at] an event or something," before adding: "A gentleman never tells the full details, but we met and we spoke and we went on a date."

So strong is their bond that in December, reports claimed that Malik had proposed to the Victoria's Secret angel but it is unlikely that wedding bells will ring just yet.

Album release

Malik hit the ground running with his debut album, Mind Of Mine. Although many expected the singer to flop after quitting One Direction in 2015, Malik proved the naysayers wrong as the record topped both the UK and US Billboard 200 chart. The album was supported by Malik's first solo single, Pillowtalk, which hit the summit on charts around the world including Billboard's Hot 100.

A second album is also on the horizon as Malik teased his future plans, stating: "Hopefully new music ... I'm in the studio at the minute working on the second record," adding that fans can expect some "exciting stuff".

Zayn Malik album
Zayn Malik's debut album Mind Of Mine topped both the UK and US Billboard 200 chart RCA Records

Taylor Swift collab

Making for a match made in pop heaven, Malik and pop princess Taylor Swift unexpectedly duetted on the track I Don't Wanna Live Forever, taken from the soundtrack for upcoming erotic sequel Fifty Shades Darker.

Explaining how the collaboration came about, Malik revealed to radio host Elvis Duran: "The interesting thing was she's actually friends with Gi [Hadid] so [Swift] already reached out because Jack [Antonoff] had just played her the song anyway. She mentioned to me that she liked the song so I already kind of knew in the back of my head that she liked it so I asked her if she wanted to be on it and she was cool with it."

According to reports, the accompanying music video will set the world of pop on fire – quite literally – with some "sexy" visuals set to premiere any day now.

American Music Award 2016 win

Malik's solo career was cemented when he won best new artist at the AMAs 2016. In his speech, Malik said: "I can't thank the people that have been with me every day the past year enough. Standing here is crazy. My Mum, my Dad, everybody in my family that's been supporting me the past year, especially my Dad. Thank you, Dad."

Zayn Malik award
Zayn Malik's solo career has hit the ground running with the singer winning an American Music Award in 2016 Kevin Winter/Getty Images