Harry Styles is aware that he comes off as charming as a beautifully lit Instagram image of a puppy carelessly playing in a pile of freshly fallen autumn leaves. But the “Watermelon Sugar” singer revealed to Better Homes and Gardens in a profile published Tuesday that the foundation of this likable image was contrived early on in his career as a member of One Direction — and it made him feel like he couldn’t live his life authentically.
“In lockdown, I started processing a lot of stuff that happened when I was in the band,” he told the magazine, noting the way he was encouraged to give so much of himself away, “to get people to engage with you, to like you.”
But due to cleanliness clauses in the contracts he signed while in One Direction — which would be null and void if he did anything perceived as distasteful — Styles felt for a long time that he was carefully curating certain aspects of his life that would appeal to the public. This did not include sex, which led Styles to have conflicting feelings about intimacy and love.
“For a long time, it felt like the only thing that was mine was my sex life. I felt so ashamed about it, ashamed at the idea of people even knowing that I was having sex, let alone who with,” he told the publication.
It also affected whom he felt safe to date.
“At the time, there were still the kiss-and-tell things. Working out who I could trust was stressful,” Styles said. “But I think I got to a place where I was like, why do I feel ashamed? I’m a 26-year-old man who’s single; it’s like, yes, I have sex.”
Styles had many high-profile relationships while he was in One Direction from 2010 to around 2015, dating Taylor Swift, Kendall Jenner and Caroline Flack — a presenter on “The X Factor,” the show that Styles got his start on.
Styles dated Flack briefly in 2011 when he was 17 and she was 31, according to NME.
Styles, 28, is now dating actor and director Olivia Wilde, 36, and he has been private about their relationship. Styles did tell SiriusXM’s “The Morning Mash Up” in April, however, that he feels “really happy at the moment.”
“I feel like it’s the first time I feel like I’m kind of making music and putting music out from a real place of kind of personal freedom,” he told the show.
Some of this personal freedom Styles currently feels may also be due to the lack of cleanliness clauses in his life.
Styles told Better Homes and Gardens that when he signed his first contact as a solo artist and found out there wasn’t a cleanliness clause, he burst into tears.
“I felt free,” he told the magazine.
To read Styles’ full profile — which also talks about his views on labeling his sexuality — head over to Better Homes and Gardens.