Katherine Heigl was all set to be America’s next sweetheart before she put her foot in her mouth and annoyed some big names in the business. Did her ego permanently close industry doors or is there hope for her yet? And before she made headlines, what other twists and turns did life deal her? Read on to discover 50 no-holds-barred facts about the controversial blonde star.
Katherine Heigl Facts
1. Her Family Moved Constantly
Nancy, a personal manager, and Paul Heigl, a financial executive and accountant, gave birth to their youngest daughter, Katherine Marie, in November 1978. They had two older sons, John (Holt) and Jason, and an older adopted daughter, Meg. The family moved around quite a bit, finally settling down in Connecticut when Heigl was five. Unfortunately, Heigl and her family faced a devastating loss when she was only seven.
2. Her Childhood was Tragic
When Heigl’s older brother Jason was just 15, he was thrown from the back of a pickup truck. After a week of battling his severe injuries, doctors pronounced that he was brain dead. Devastated at their loss, the Heigl family converted to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints after Jason passed. They found its teachings helped them get through the difficult time.
3. She Started Early
Heigl found her calling at a very young age. She was just nine when her aunt took some pictures of her and sent them out to a few modelling agencies, with her parent’s consent of course. Heigl got signed by Wilhelmina Models and began appearing in magazine ads, and store Catalogs. Her first TV commercial was for a wholesome brand called Cheerios, but her first leading film role would be much more controversial.
4. Her Big Break was Controversial
Clearly an early starter, Heigl began to act in films at the tender age of 11. Her debut was in “That Night” and she then got a role in Steven Soderbergh’s “King of the Hill” in 1993. Her first leading role came at the age of 14 though, when she played a rebellious daughter in the comedy, My Father the Hero. The movie might have helped Heigl gain fame, but it came at a cost.
5. She Regrets Her Big Role
Heigl’s breakthrough role meant that she had to star in a film that makes Heigl cringe to this day. Heigl’s young character spends a lot of time in such revealing swimsuits that in her words, the movie would “never” be greenlit today. Even worse, as she says, “There are still men who come up to me today and say, ‘you were really hot in that film!’ I was 14, for God’s sake!” Ew.
6. Her Mother Had Cancer
Heigl had a happy childhood, but nothing can stay free from trouble forever. Heigl found that out for herself in 1996. Her parents got divorced, and right after that her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was a tough year, but Heigl moved to Los Angeles with her mom, who thankfully became cancer-free after nine months of chemotherapy.
7. She Was in a Huge Flop
You can’t always have hits, but no one imagines that their misses will make movie history. Unfortunately, Heigl’s Zyzzx Road was a complete failure. It wasn’t distributed and only played in one theater, once a day. The total amount it made in the box office was $30, and since one of the viewers was a crew member who got a refund, it only ended up making $20 in total. This is after the studio spent $1.2 million to make the movie. Ouch.
8. Her Parents Were Strict
Because Heigl’s parents brought up their daughter in the Mormon faith, Heigl’s childhood and adolescence weren’t always what many would think of as normal. Case in point: Despite the fact that she had played regular teen girls on TV and in movies, Heigl herself wasn’t actually allowed to date until she was 16. Although she is no longer a practising Mormon, Heigl still has great “affection” for the religion.
9. School was Brutal
Heigl found it hard to juggle schoolwork with her acting projects, and apparently her friends didn’t make life easier for her either. She found herself in the middle of a lot of schoolgirl drama and found the popular girls had suddenly turned against her. Seeking acceptance, she was so desperate that she turned into a people-pleaser and left her personality behind. In the end, Heigl dropped out of high school.
10. She Switched Gears
Whether it was because she felt she hadn’t landed the right role yet, or because she wanted to try something different, Heigl decided to turn her attention to the small screen after a few years of working in movies. She booked her first TV role in the science fiction series, Roswell. Heigl auditioned for all three female roles and finally got a part as a human-alien hybrid—Isabel Evans. It wouldn’t be long before she played a much more famous Isabel, this time on Grey’s Anatomy.
11. She had Diva Moments
Heigl is most remembered for her role in Grey’s Anatomy, but maybe even more remembered for the drama that led to her exit from the show. Her character, Izzie Stevens, was part of the show’s main cast from the very first season and won her praise from critics and fans alike. It was the perfect role for an up and coming actress, until the relationship between Heigl and head honcho Shonda Rimes soured in spectacular fashion.
12. She Dissed her own Show
Who gives up the chance of winning an Emmy? Katherine Heigl, apparently. She’d already won an Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in 2007 for her portrayal of Izzie Stevens, when she was nominated again in 2008. Heigl decided to withdraw her name from the category though, because she felt she wasn’t “given the material” to justify her nomination. Instead, she thought it was unfair to other actresses who had been given such material.
13. She Burned Bridges
Needless to say, Shonda Rimes was not amused. She was “stung” by Heigl’s statement but went on to say it didn’t come as a surprise. “When people show you who they are, believe them.” She later credited the success of her newer show Scandal to the fact that there weren’t any “Heigls” in it. Yikes, it doesn’t sound like these two are ever gonna kiss and make up.
14. She Left a Hit Show
Would Izzy’s character meet some kind of demise after all the drama with Katherine Heigl? That was the question on fans’ minds, and it did seem like Heigl was on her way out of the show. The decision was mutual though, as the actor asked to be released from her contract 18 months before it was due to end. Was it just to spend time with her family, like Heigl said, or because of the bad blood caused by her remarks?
15. Her Ex-Boss Snubbed Her
After the dust settled, Shonda Rhimes got the last laugh. Heigl publicly stated that her comments were insensitive, and she also expressed her desire to go back on the show and shoot a proper end to Izzy’s track. Rimes wasn’t having it though; she said Izzy’s track was closed as far as she was concerned. YIKES.
16. Her Beauty Made News
Apart from giving celebrated performances and making headlines for her diva behavior, Heigl was also making all sorts of super hot lists, like Maxim’s “Hot100”, or FHM’s “100 Sexiest Women in the World.” People also had her on its list of Most Attractive People, and she was the Most Desirable Woman in 2008. As we all know, though, the bad press would soon outweigh the good.
17. Her Ex-Castmate Revealed the Truth
The star of Grey’s Anatomy, Ellen Pompeo, admitted that Heigl’s departure had been tough, although she understood where she was coming from. After all, if you got offered a “$12 million a movie,” wouldn’t you leave too? The problem, she felt, was that Heigl had renewed her contract and negotiated a big raise before abruptly trying to get off the show. That was what left everyone with a bad taste in their mouth. Sounds very messy.
18. She Spoke her Mind
The whole Grey’s Anatomy debacle wasn’t the only time Heigl put her foot in her mouth. Her remarks at the heels of her movie, Knocked Up’s success also raised eyebrows. She admitted, “It was a little sexist. It paints women as shrews…and I had a hard time with it…it was hard for me to love the movie.” At the time, Heigl’s comments made waves.
19. Her Comments Raised Eyebrows
Heigl’s Knocked Up co-star Seth Rogen didn’t see her comments coming. He said, “We were funny together…I was having a really good time and then when I heard…she did not like the process [or] the end product either…your trust feels somewhat betrayed.” He wished nothing but the best for Heigl though. “For other people not to work with her because she didn’t like her experience with us…is crazy.” Aww.
20. She Hit the Big Time
Despite Heigl’s personal dislike of the movie and her character in it, Knocked Up was a huge hit at the box office and received favorable reviews from the critics too. In the end, its success was great for Heigl’s career. It led her to demand higher fees in the subsequent projects she signed and also established her as “Hollywood’s New It girl according to Vanity Fair.
21. She Had to Walk Her Words Back
Talk about having to eat your words. Soon after, Heigl confessed that her Knocked Up comments were too harsh, and she just didn’t like her character. But even that wasn’t director, Judd Apatow’s, or Rogen’s fault because they were open to improvisation and the actor’s interpretation of the role. So, she herself was responsible for playing the character in a way she later disliked.
22. Filming Wasn’t Always Fun
The lengths one goes to for art! During the filming of Knocked Up, the crew crafted an intricate plaster cast of Heigl’s front, which they later molded into a three-month, six-month, and finally nine-month pregnancy belly. It was a major prop, and it took a toll on filming. Every time Heigl’s “pregnant” belly was in a scene, she’d have to wait 45 minutes for the make up artists to painstakingly apply it.
23. She was too Good-Looking
The makers of the romantic comedy 27 Dresses had an interesting problem regarding Heigl’s wardrobe for the movie. The crew wanted all 27 of the bridesmaid’s dresses to look horrible. However, when the filmmakers tested the looks on Heigl, every single outfit looked great. They had to redo the entire wardrobe to come up with dresses which would actually look bad on her.
24. Her Comeback Didn’t Go to Plan
Wanting to recreate the success she had enjoyed in Grey’s Anatomy, Heigl starred in not one but two television series after walking away from the Seattle Grace Hospital: State of Affairs (2014-2015) and Doubt (2017). Unfortunately for Heigl, both series couldn’t garner up a following. In the end, the networks cancelled both shows after just one season each.
25. She Found Mr. Right
Heigl’s own love story is like a movie plot line. The actress met her husband, Josh Kelley, in 2005. She appeared in the music video for his song, “Only You.” Apparently, Kelley asked her about her favorite things, and she thought it was just a line. However, the couple got engaged in 2006 and married just a year later.
26. She’s Part of a Musical Couple
One of the perks of being married to a songwriter is that there will be a lot of personalized music in your life. At least, that’s how it is in the Heigl-Kelley household. Kelley wrote songs for her, for their wedding, and for each of their daughters. His most recent one is for the whole family, titled “Busy Making Memories.” Heigl produced the video for the track.
27. She Had A Rocky Start
They may seem like a happy couple now, but Heigl and Kelley had their share of problems. For one, she discovered how messy he was, unlike her! This came as a shock because they hadn’t lived together pre-marriage. Heigl wanted them to stay apart until they said their “I do’s.” Conservative values or independence? Who is to say!
28. She Booked a Creepy Role
Reality can be stranger than fiction sometimes. Take Ground Zero from 2001. The story was about two politically-active students (Heigl and Kerr Smith) who build a bomb, which falls into a terrorist’s hands. Sound slightly familiar? When the September 11 attacks happened, producers shelved the project.
29. Her Family is Unique
Heigl grew up in a family where adoption was normal. As a girl, she had an adopted older sister, Meg, who originally came from South Korea. When the time came for Heigl to start her own family, she always knew that she wanted to adopt her own child from her sister Meg’s birthplace in South Korea.Heigl adopted two little girls with Kelley: Nancy Leigh (Naleigh) from South Korea and Adelaide Marie from Louisiana.
30. Her Daughter had Health Struggles
Motherhood is a huge commitment especially if your child has special needs, but Heigl wasn’t one to shy away from the challenge. She and Kelley were able to adopt their first little girl early because she had a congenital heart defect. Open heart surgery fixed the issue before little Naleigh left South Korea, but Heigl finds it heartbreaking to see many couples not even consider adopting special needs kids.
31. Her Home is Hectic
Apart from Naleigh and Adelaide, Heigl and Kelley welcomed their biological baby boy, Joshua Bishop Jr. in 2016. Her teenage niece Madison (Maddie), her sister’s daughter, also lives with them and is just as much a part of the brood as the other three. Katherine loves the chaos but calls it a “total circus” because on the one hand they’re dealing with diapers and on the other they’re looking for colleges for Maddie.
32. She Took a Stand
Heigl is a devoted mom who regularly posts about her kids on social media, but recently she took to Instagram for a much more serious reason: To share a heartbreaking letter to her middle daughter, Adelaide, who is Black. She wrote about being terrified and for her little girl, and other Black children, because of what George Floyd and many others went through.
33. She Has a Full House
Since her top priority has always been to give her kids a happy, normal childhood, away from the chaos of Hollywood, Heigl and her family live in a ranch in Utah. She loves living there because it is “spectacularly beautiful.” She also loves the people there, and feels it is a wonderful place for her kids to grow up in.
34. She has a Heartbreaking Passion
There’s much more to her than a pretty face. Our girl, Katherine is also a passionate animal lover. She grew up with pets at home and has surrounded herself with many in her own ranch. Around 36 of them! These include eight dogs, three cats, nine horses, two donkeys, ten chickens, two goats and two miniature ponies. Phew, that’s quite a list!
35. She Puts her Money Where her Mouth is
She has advocated strongly for pet adoption and has worked with Best Friends Animal Society on many projects. One of these was their “Pup my Ride” program that saves small dogs from animal shelters.
36. She Founded a Heartrending Charity
Heigl and her mom are founders of The Jason Debus Heigl Foundation, in memory of her late brother who also had a great love for all animals. One of their programs is Hounds of Hope, and they rescue bigger dogs. The goal is to rehabilitate them for adoption. Whatever she may have done professionally, if this doesn’t prove that her heart is in the right place, I don’t know what does!
37. She’s Not What You Might Expect
She may not have done it to get attention, but Heigl’s activism did not go unnoticed. She won the Presidential Service Award in recognition of all the work she has done and continues to do passionately.
38. Off with Their Balls?
In 2011, Heigl launched a risqué “I Hate Balls” campaign, but it was all for a good cause. She recorded an irreverent short clip to promote the spaying and neutering pets to help save the lives of many companion animals. But what exactly did she say to get people so riled up? Oh, just that since she couldn’t cut off men’s balls, she was dedicating her time to neutering dogs instead. That sure is one way to get people’s attention.
39. She Fights the Good Fight
But Heigl isn’t just a staunch animal rights activist; the traumatic events she has gone through in her life have also shaped her beliefs in other ways. After her brother Jason’s passing and her family’s decision to donate his organs, she became a strong proponent of organ donation. And since her mother’s battle with cancer she has also helped in raising awareness of cancer-related issues.
40. She has Secret Skills
Katherine is a woman of many talents. Did you know that she learnt how to play the cello when she was in high school? However, she didn’t actually enjoy playing the cello too much and would even try to skip her lessons because she found them so boring.
41. An Academy Dissed Her
Heigl does have the dubious honor of having nominations for not one, not two, but three Razzie Awards. In case you didn’t know, these “awards” honor the “worst” acting in a year. Perhaps Heigl should have tried to withdraw her name from one of these consideration lists?
42. She Has a Momager
Move over Kris Jenner, there’s another momager in town. Nancy Heigl has been daughter Katherine’s manager for a very long time now, and Heigl wouldn’t have it any other way. For her, knowing her mom has her best interests at heart outweighs all the other potential issues. But according to others, Heigl would be much better off without her momager around.
43. Her Mom is Tough as Nails
It might be that having mom on board has done Katherine Heigl more harm than good though. According to rumors and industry gossip, Nancy Heigl does not have the most pleasant personality. Among other issues, she frequently swore at the crew. Doesn’t sound like anyone would be eager to be her friend even if she was looking to make one.
44. Her Diva Behavior is Controversial
She may have tried to counter it later on, but Heigl did win the reputation of being a diva around the time she was working on Grey’s Anatomy and got into a long conflict with Shonda Rimes. After that, though, Heigl actively tried not to be difficult. In one instance, she didn’t even complain when a crew-member accidentally gave her painfully small shoes on a film set.
45. She’s Making a Comeback
She may have been forgettable in her TV outings after leaving Grey’s, but it isn’t every day that a woman gets a chance to act opposite Harvey Specter. Heigl was always an avid Suits fan and was a part of the regular cast in the eighth season of the show. The manner in which she landed the role is an interesting story in itself…
46. Mom knows Best
A suggestion from her mom made Heigl reach out to Aaron Korsh, the show’s creator and executive producer. When she learned there was going to be an eighth season she didn’t hesitate to ask if they were looking for a new characte. Heigl’s has now decided to call showrunners of all her favorite shows and ask them if they need a new character. Sounds like a plan!
47. She’s Back on TV
Do blondes really have more fun? Well, Heigl will get to compare soon enough as she has turned brunette for her upcoming role as Tully Hart on Netflix’s Firefly Lane. The show is based on a bestselling novel by Kristin Hannah and Heigl isn’t just acting in the show: She’s also producing it. Does this mean a rise in her acting fortunes? Only time will tell.
48. She Finally Ended her Arc
It took until 2020, but Grey’s Anatomy fans finally got closure about Izzie’s character. In the season 16 episode called “Leave A Light On,” the plot reveals that Izzie’s old love interest Alex Karev went to see her to reignite their relationship. In the show’s lore, Izzie and Alex are now raising kids on a Kansas farm together. Freaking finally!
49. She has a Shameful Secret
It isn’t easy kicking a bad habit, as Katherine Heigl will tell anyone who asks her. She started smoking at the young age of 25 and became addicted to it almost immediately. However, Heigl never romanticized her dependence issues and was very insistent about not doing it on screen. She always knew that she didn’t want teenagers to be influenced by her performance.
50. She Kicked the Habit, Kinda
After several attempts at quitting, Heigl finally did manage to kick real cigarettes…only to replace them with electronic ones. That’s perhaps not ideal since the electronic versions still contain liquid nicotine, but it appears to have been the only thing that has worked for her.