Tragic Details About Liam Payne

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Liam Payne was only 16 years old when Simon Cowell placed him in a boy band on "The X-Factor." It was Payne's second time auditioning for the show, and he hoped this time he would leave the competition a star. Despite entering the competition with hopes of being a solo artist, Payne agreed to join the band dubbed "One Direction" — and from there his life was never the same. The One Direction boys didn't end up winning "X-Factor" (they got third place), but they won the hearts of teenage girls all around the world. 

Every song and album they went on to release was an instant success, and they became a multi-million dollar brand with sold-out concerts and merchandise. While in the band, Payne endured the grueling boy band schedule with a trademark smile on his face that made fans swoon. However, when One Direction announced an indefinite hiatus in 2015, Payne regained control of his life. Though Payne dreamed of being a music star, he has since revealed the level of fame he achieved became a nightmare. Similar to former bandmate Zayn Malik, Payne has been outspoken about his private struggles while in one of the biggest boy bands in history. His brutal honesty about his low points throughout the years has been shocking and a bit controversial, and although his life has been charmed in some ways, it has been downright tragic in others.

He was bullied as a child

By the time Liam Payne was 18 years old, One Direction already had a hit album under their belt. Their debut single went to #1 on the charts, and the band was met with adoration from fans. However, receiving love from his peers wasn't always the case for Payne. As a child, he had a few uncomfortable run-ins with a group of older kids while in school. "I was in year eight and they were sixth-formers," Payne told We Love Pop (via RTE). "I went and told me [sic] parents and my teachers, but it didn't stop so I had to sort it out myself." 

With the bullies not backing down, Payne knew he had to figure out how to handle the situation solo. "I went to camp to learn how to box and it gave me the confidence to know that if I needed to, I could fight back and I could stand up to anyone," he explained. 

The ridicule he faced from his bullies also seemed to stem from his singing aspirations and the 2008 X-Factor audition that resulted in an elimination. In an interview with The Sun, Payne revealed the nasty comments he endured after the failed audition. "I once went in McDonald's when I was turning 16 and I went up to order my thing, went to sit down with the girl I was with at the time and a group of lads at the top of the stairs were like, 'X Factor reject,'" Payne recalled hearing.

He struggled with his mental health during One Direction's peak

While in One Direction, Liam Payne and his bandmates were on top of the world. They went on sold-out tours yearly, and each album seemed to outsell their last. From the outside looking in, it seemed as though the singer was living the dream. Privately, Liam Payne was struggling with his mental health and was masking his unhappiness. "Going out and putting that happy smile on my face and singing the songs, honestly, sometimes it was like putting on one of those costumes, going out there and, underneath the costume, people don't really see what's going on," the singer told The Sun in 2017. 

The constant touring life while in the band began to take a toll on the singer's mental health and led him to feel suicidal. "There's some stuff that I've definitely like never never spoken about to do with it," he admitted on "The Dairy of CEO Podcast." Regarding his dark thoughts, he said, "It was really, really severe." In 2019, Payne described fame as having a mid-life crisis and discussed how it led him to a negative place. "There's times where that ... level of loneliness ... and people getting into you every day ... that's almost nearly killed me a couple of times," he said on "Straight Talking with Ant Middleton."

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He hid his substance abuse issues during One Direction's reign

At their peak, One Direction weren't able to hide much of their personal lives from their obsessive fans. Who could forget the time a fan stole Liam Payne's boxers from his hotel balcony? But despite the media scrutiny, there were still things Payne was able to keep under wraps. In 2019, he confessed to substance abuse issues while in the band. During an appearance on "The Diary of a CEO" podcast, Payne revealed that his unhealthy relationship with pills and alcohol developed on tour. "The problem we had in the band ... the best way to secure us because of how big it got was to just lock us in our rooms, and of course, what is in the room? Mini-bar. So at a certain point, I thought 'well I'm going to have a party for one' and that just seemed to carry on throughout many years of my life."

The euphoric moments on stage and the lonely nights in his hotel room were difficult for the singer to manage on his own. He began taking an epilepsy drug to even out his mood. "I just needed a little bit of help to keep me stable," he told The Guardian in 2019. "But under certain lights on stage or during interviews, I wouldn't be able to tell them my name." Though fans weren't aware of the addictions he was struggling with, Payne said it was obvious. 

If you or anyone you know needs help with addiction issues, help is available. Visit the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration website or contact SAMHSA's National Helpline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357).

Being overworked almost killed him

The announcement of One Direction's hiatus in 2015 brought fans around the world to tears. After barely coping with Zayn Malik's sudden departure just months prior, they weren't ready to say goodbye to the rest of the band just yet. However, Liam Payne was more than ready to bid farewell. To him, it was a matter of survival. Since forming in 2010, he along with his bandmates went on four exhausting headlining world tours together and recorded five hit albums together. 

Their key to success was their non-stop work schedule, even if it was to their personal detriment. Payne confessed to the Table Manners podcast that the band was brutally overworked, and if he hadn't stopped then the grueling schedule could have killed him. The overnight success was foreign to him. He went from a regular teenager to a member of a money-making machine that had his next four years meticulously planned for him, and that lack of control had a serious negative impact on him.

Not having control over his life during that time period left a damaging impression on him. "I still struggle with it now," he told Men's Health Australia. "I really struggle to say no because I don't like to let people down. It's in my nature."

His breakup with Sophia Smith left him devastated

Despite his heartthrob status, One Direction fans always loved Liam Payne's relationship with Sophia Smith. The two were schoolmates during their younger years and reconnected in 2013. Despite their adorable relationship and even talks of marriage, the two split up in 2015, per People. The breakup of course hit Payne hard. The news of their split hit just days after the band canceled a show in Belfast due to Payne having a mysterious illness, per Daily Mail. It wasn't until 2017 that Payne would confess that the illness was actually heartbreak. "I let it get to me that day. I wasn't in a good place," he told The Sun. "And unfortunately I was going through a rough time and I let it get to me a little bit too much. That was it."

During his anguish, a vulnerable Payne turned to the press to express what he was feeling. "I'm absolutely devastated to have split with Sophia," he told The Sun in 2015 (via Daily Mail). In terms of what caused the split, Payne revealed that distance was to blame. "Being on the tour all this year and being away from her was so hard," he shared. "We spent so much time apart. But in order to do right by somebody sometimes it's better not to do what your heart wants, but to do what's better for them." At the time, Payne told the press that he would be focusing on himself post-breakup.

He needed therapy because of the band's hiatus

When One Direction kicked off their hiatus in 2015, Liam Payne was finally able to do something he couldn't do for a long time — take a break. The singer took six months off and began a healing process by seeing a therapist for two years. "It was difficult at the start because I didn't really know anything about myself. It was a bit of a numb feeling," he told GQ Magazine. While speaking to his therapist, Payne discovered that he lost so much of his true self in the band. "I mean, even in my therapy sessions, my therapist asked me, 'What do you actually like to do?' And I'm like, 'I don't know what I like doing,'" he confessed. For so long, Payne's life was dictated by a manager who crafted his schedule, chose their songs, and essentially controlled his life. The question of "what's next?" terrified him.

Payne said that he "went off the rails a little bit" after leaving the band and was feeling severely depressed without knowing why. Luckily for him, the singer's new management team intervened at the right moment. " ... My team got somebody around to help me through a couple of different, difficult things that I was going through. I was just trying to figure myself out," he explained to the outlet. "It was just such a strange course through life, and then when the switch turns off you're left to your own devices ... "

He struggled to adapt to fatherhood

In 2015, the news of Liam Payne's relationship with Cheryl definitely raised some eyebrows. The two first crossed paths in 2008 when Payne auditioned for Cheryl and the other judges on "X-Factor." "I like you, I think you're really cute. I think you've got charisma and you give us that little cheeky wink," she told him during the audition. By 2016, the couple went public with their relationship, and by 2017 Cheryl confirmed her pregnancy in a photoshoot for L'Oreal.

In March 2017, they welcomed a son named Bear Payne. The 24-year-old first-time dad spoke publicly about his struggles adapting to fatherhood. "Becoming a dad at such a young age, it's such a difficult thing," he told Men's Health. "And I think I built fatherhood up so much in my head that it kind of messed me to up start with. I started in a bad place with it." The singer confessed that he feared not being a capable caretaker for his child and then-girlfriend. 

In 2020, Payne's role as a father came under attack. While speaking with Tings Magazine, the singer revealed how he has been co-parenting with Cheryl since their breakup. He remained away from his son during the pandemic and he sparked some controversy when he mentioned that "It's not unusual for me to be in and out of his life." Payne later clarified his comments after fans questioned if he was an active father.

His engagement ended in a cheating scandal

Liam Payne's relationship with Maya Henry started and ended the same way — with controversy. The pair made things official in 2019 with Payne posting a photo of the two on his Instagram. The age gap between the two certainly raised some eyebrows, as Payne was 26 and Henry was 19 at the time. There was even speculation that she was a year younger than she claimed to be, which led Payne to refute the rumors on Twitter. Despite the scrutiny, the two went on to get engaged in August 2020, per Us Weekly. However, the good vibes didn't last for long, because in August 2022 Payne found himself in a cheating scandal thanks to his own fans. 

As the Mirror reported, the drama first started when photos surfaced of Payne with arms wrapped around another woman. A fan page reposted the photos and mistook the unnamed woman for Henry. After being tagged in the post, Henry left a comment that cleared up some confusion but caused a scandal. "I love all the fans so much but please stop sending me these pictures of my fiancé wrapped around another woman," she wrote. "This is not me and it's hard enough knowing this has happened without seeing it. Enough now." 

The woman in question was model Aliana Mawla, who many assumed Payne cheated on Henry with. However, a source for Payne told Hollywood Life that their relationship was already over by the time he began dating Mawla.

He was afraid to leave the house because of his anxiety

When you're famous, leaving the house can be daunting. From the paparazzi photographing you from unflattering angles to fans pestering you for selfies, it can be difficult to run a simple errand around town. For former One Direction star Liam Payne, leaving the house almost became impossible for him due to his fame and an anxiety disorder he was living with. 

In a 2019 interview with Esquire Middle East, Payne revealed he was living with agoraphobia, an anxiety disorder that made him incapable of even stepping out the door sometimes. For Payne, the anxiety was triggered by the fact that people and the media were watching his every move. "I developed a bit of agoraphobia. I would never leave the house. And I do sometimes suffer with it a bit in the sense that I'll get days where I just don't want to leave my house," he confessed. He described feeling a sense of panic while running common errands like shopping or picking up a Starbucks order. "I can feel it now — it was like this horrible anxiety where I'd be sweating buckets in the car thinking 'I don't want to do this,'" he explained.

He was hiding his true self during his solo debut

When leaving a boy band as popular as One Direction, it's not easy to replicate that type of success on your own. For Liam Payne's solo debut, he needed a song that set him apart from his peers and captured the ears of a new fanbase. His debut single "Strip That Down" helped him shed that boy band image. Payne was seen decked out in a gold chain and edgier clothes in the music video and performances. 

The R&B and pop record featured cheeky lyrics penned by Payne and hit-maker Ed Sheeran. The record was an immediate success and reached a billion streams across all platforms, per MTV News. Despite the positive reception to his new look, Payne later admitted that it wasn't the most honest representation of him. "'Strip That Down' was amazing and I was really happy with the success of it — but it didn't necessarily paint the right picture of me and who I actually am," he said to Esquire Middle East. "I always found, to start off with, that with a lot of the chains and the clothes and the fashion, I was kind of hiding behind something." Payne is now comfortable in his own skin and it reflects in his style. "I don't feel the need to hide behind the clothes anymore. I feel like I can finally be who I am," he explained.

His management team dropped him

In 2021, Liam Payne made headlines when The Sun reported that his management agency KIN was jumping ship. An anonymous source told the outlet that Payne's management firm made the decision to drop him due to his concerning lifestyle. They felt that the "Strip That Down" singer was out of control with his heavy partying and wasn't taking his solo career seriously. "There are concerns right now for Liam because he isn't committed to anything and is spiraling a bit," the source said. "His management were at the end of their tether and said enough is enough." 

The source even alleged that watching Harry Styles transform into an international superstar with his solo venture was a tough pill for Payne to swallow. While Styles gained critical and commercial acclaim with his recent albums, Payne's 2019 debut album "LP1" was met with disappointing sales. His solo career wasn't panning out to be as successful as they hoped — especially considering the initial success of the 2017 debut single "Strip That Down." 

He checked himself into rehab

In 2022, Liam Payne did an interview that ruffled some feathers and caused him to step away from the spotlight. His interview with Logan Paul on the "Impaulsive" podcast featured him dissing his former bandmate Zayn Malik and making some outrageous claims about One Direction that left fans upset. Following that interview, Payne tweeted a public apology to Malik and retreated from the spotlight. In July 2023, the singer returned with an 8-minute YouTube video detailing his time away. He revealed that the controversy caused him to take an extended hiatus and he did some serious self-reflection. 

In full transparency, Payne admitted that his comments about his bandmates came from a place of frustration about his own career. "I just needed to take a little bit of time out for myself," he explained. "Actually, because I kinda became somebody who I didn't really recognize anymore and I'm sure you guys didn't either." During the backlash, Payne admitted himself into a rehab facility for 100 days. "I kinda had to go away to kinda get better," he said. 

The singer went on to disclose that he was currently six months sober at the time of the video. Payne explained that despite the hot water his comments landed him in, it did motivate him to change his life. "I could keep going about what's behind me and the many, many, many, many mistakes that I've made up until this point, it definitely humbled me," he shared.

He was forced to cancel his tour due to a kidney infection

After returning from his hiatus in July 2023, Liam Payne was excited to announce his South American tour. The six-stop tour excited fans who were eager to see him back on stage after so long. "Can't wait to see you all," he said in the caption of the Instagram video announcing it. However, less than a month later, Payne posted another video for fans, sharing some bad news. The singer announced that his long-awaited tour was postponed due to health concerns. 

"Hey guys, this really is the last news I want to be telling you but basically I've been a little bit unwell recently and I ended up in the hospital with a bad kidney infection," he said in the video. "We've started rehearsals and I've just been advised that now's really not the right time to be out on the road trying to recover from this." In the caption, he went on to explain that the kidney infection was serious and left him hospitalized for over a week. Doctors ordered him to rest and prioritize his recovery. 

The singer explained to fans that their tickets would be refunded and the tour would hopefully be rescheduled in the future. "I'm looking forward to seeing you guys soon. Hopefully, we'll put on an even bigger, better show. Thank you and sorry," he told fans in the video. "Take all the time you need," one supportive fan wrote in the comments.