One Direction celebrated a big victory at the Billboard Awards in Las Vegas on Sunday: the boy band—now down to a foursome following Zayn Malik’s exit earlier this year—took home a trophy for Top Duo/Group.
But Louis Tomlinson, Liam Payne, Niall Horan and Harry Styles made sure to give a special shout-out to their ex-bandmate.
“[There’s] one more person [we have to thank],” Liam Payne said, “and that’s our brother Zayn. So thank you very much!”
Back in March, Malik announced his surprise decision to leave the massively popular group. “My life with One Direction has been more than I could ever have imagined,” Malik said in a statement. “But, after five years, I feel like it is now the right time for me to leave the band. I’d like to apologize to the fans if I’ve let anyone down, but I have to do what feels right in my heart. I am leaving because I want to be a normal 22-year-old who is able to relax and have some private time out of the spotlight.”
In the ensuing weeks, Malik and Tomlinson have had an acrimonious back-and-forth on social media. But on Thursday, the band have started taking a more diplomatic approach when addressing his exit. “We wish him the best where ever he get to,” Payne said. “There’s no hard feelings.”