There’s a lot to like about Katherine Heigl. Not only did the blonde beauty play one of the most amiable characters on TV, that of Dr Izzy Stevens in Greys Anatomy, but she also appears incredibly down to earth, just as happy photographed looking a million dollars as she is in a pair of tracksuit trousers without a scrap of makeup on. Add to that her assertive personality, defined by constant rants on the side of feminists, gays and underdogs in general, and Katherine Heigl really is just great. With all this in mind, we take a look at what interesting ingredients were used to cook her up.
Born in Washington D.C. on 24 November 1978, Katherine Heigl’s early years were a far-cry away from the razmattaz of Hollywood. The youngest of four children, her mother, Nancy, of German descent, was a personal manager, while her father, Paul, an Irish-German American, was a financial executive. The family moved around several times while Heigl was young, jumping from residences in Virginia to Denver, until they finally settled in Connecticut, where they lived in an old Victorian-style farmhouse in the wealthy town of New Canaan.
Sadly for her, all was not merry in middle class America, with her childhood being mired by the untimely death of her fifteen year old brother Jason. After suffering massive head injuries from a car crash, Jason fell into a coma and soon died. The parents decided to donate his organs. Heigl, who was seven at the time, has vivid memories of being disturbed by this decision. In an interview for Parade Magazine she remarked: “I remember being so upset. If he didn’t have his organs, it didn’t bode well for his coming back.” With age, Heigl grew to understand her parents’ decision to the extent that she is now a strong advocate of organ donation.
As would be expected, this tragedy had a profound effect on the family. Already religiously inclined, they were led into the hands of the Mormon Church due to the support the Church offered during this testing time. Heigl’s upbringing became even more traditional; she went to church regularly, said prayers before meals and was reportedly not allowed to date until the age of 16.
Some eighteen months on from the death of her brother, Heigl’s life started to u-turn. Upon a visit by her aunt, whom took several photos of her and submitted them to various model agencies, at nine years old she was signed as a child model at Wilhemina Model Agency.
With her wholesome looks, it did not take long for Heigl to establish herself within this industry. She was soon earning $75 an hour to pose for top catalogues, such as the Sears Catalogue. Not confined to simple stills, Heigl also found herself on national TV modelling for Cheerios cereal and the like. This led onto greater heights, with Heigl making her acting debut in the 1992 coming-of-age movie 'That Night'. Heigl’s first lead role came two years later; she was cast in the comedy 'My Father the Hero', acting alongside Gerard Depardieu in a role that largely saw the young star prancing around in a thonged bathing suit. A year later, Heigl appeared opposite Steven Seagal in the action thriller 'Under Siege 2'.
Heigl’s blossoming career proved a much needed sanctuary from further personal upset. When she was only 17, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and underwent a mastectomy. Following on the heels of this incident, her parents then divorced. It was at this stage that Heigl graduated from school and decided to move with her mother to Hollywood to concentrate on her acting career. The pair resided in a four bedroom house in Malibu Canyon, with her mother becoming her manager.
Living in LA, Heigl’s movie repertoire quickly grew and indeed, the young star was particularly astute at establishing herself within the horror circuit, starring in films such as 'Bride of Chucky' (1998), 'Valentine' (2001) and 'Evil Never Dies' (2003).
In 1999, Heigl turned her focus to television when she was cast as Isabel Evans in the science fiction TV show Roswell – a role she commanded for three seasons. While this project added to the status of the budding star, it was not until 2005, when Heigl was appointed as Dr. Isabel Stevens in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy, that she finally cemented her reputation as a first class star. Ironically, the hospital drama was originally intended as a midseason replacement, but due to its gripping plot, excellent characterisation and brilliant actors, it became an instant fixture on television.
Viewers were particularly endeared by the character Heigl played, especially during the storyline that enfolded in the second season, where she fell in love with a terminally ill patient, only to have her heart broken upon his death. As a result of this dramatic portrayal, her ability to cry on cue gained her an Emmy in 2007 for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Always one for modesty, she was so surprised to have won that the telecast producers had to censor some of her speech due to its profane language.
This breakthrough role did not just add a touch of sparkle to her mantelpiece, but also led to Heigl being cast as the female lead in several Hollywood hits. In 2006 she starred opposite Seth Rogen in the romantic comedy 'Knocked Up', about a young career woman who gets pregnant after a one night stand. Sticking to the same genre, a couple of years later she played the part of a single woman who had been a bridesmaid 27 times in the flick '27 Dresses' (2008). As a result of these light-hearted roles, critics have touted her as the next Julia Roberts. Her salary has also soared into seven digits.
Meanwhile, Heigl’s striking looks have gained her notoriety in the tabloid world, with her pretty face being a regular fixture of magazines such as Cosmopolitan and FHM. In May 2006 male magazine Maxim awarded Heigl the accolade of position 12 in their annual 100 hottest list. In 2008, AskMen.com hailed Heigl as the Most Desirable Woman of the Year.
Heigl has proved just as provocative behind the camera as she is in front of it. Establishing herself as one of Hollywood’s few voices of truth, she first became publicly vocal in 2001, when her television thriller, 'Ground Zero', which centred on a terrorist plot, was cancelled in light of the September 11th attacks. Heigl recorded a public service announcement on behalf of the Red Cross in an effort to raise money for victims.
The most media attention the pin-up has attracted though came in the wake of the release of 'Knocked Up'. In an infamous Vanity Fair interview, Heigl admitted that while she enjoyed the making of the movie, she had a hard time enjoying the movie itself. She described the film as “a little sexist”, since it “paints the women as shrews, as humourless and uptight, and it paints the men as lovable, goofy, fun-loving guys.” Opponents quickly jumped on these remarks, calling her “an ungrateful traitor” and a “hypocrite”, with some even suggesting that she would never work again. How wrong they were. Not only did polls conducted at the time reveal that the majority of people agreed with her opinion, but the publicity she attracted propelled her career even further. As is often the case in the celebrity world, bad news is better than no news.
Her decision to be omitted for consideration for an Emmy Award in 2008 also attracted a lot of attention, leading to speculation that the star intended to quit Grey's Anatomy, the show that had led to her nomination. In response to this, Heigl claimed the reason she took herself off the list was because she did not believe she “was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination” and wanted to protect the integrity of the Awards.
In 2010, Heigl announced that she would be leaving Grey's Anatomy, the series that had made her a household name.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said: "We just finalized our agreement. Everyone had been working really hard to find an amicable and gracious way of letting go and moving on. It's sad but it's what I wanted."
She went on to explain that her decision was not based on her career, but rather it was down to the fact that she now has a family. She said that being a mother "changed everything" and "changed [her] desire to work full time".
While Heigl’s personality has been the topic of much media controversy, her personal life remains more aloof. Perhaps in part due to her religious upbringing, interest in Heigl’s romances have been largely confined to a relationship with her Roswell costar Jason Behr, which ended around the time the series did and her current relationship with singer Josh Kelley, whom she met in 2005 on the set of the music video 'Only You'. The two became engaged the following year after Heigl allegedly became so impatient and tired of waiting for him to propose that she demanded to know what his intentions were. Rumour has it, she even picked out her own diamond for the ring.
Heigl was later granted the ultimate Christmas wish in December 2007 when the two wed in a winter wonderland themed ceremony in Utah. During the service, an emotional musical tribute to her deceased brother Jason and Kelley’s late sister, who died as a baby, was quoted by Heigl as one of the highlights of the day.
Heigl and Josh adopted a baby girl from South Korea in 2009, who the couple named Nancy Leigh, and who is known as Naleigh. They also adopted another a second daughter in 2012, named Adalaide Marie Hope Kelley.
It is hardly surprising that with a resume that reads like this, Katherine Heigl was named by top American news anchor Barbara Walters as one of “The 10 Most Fascinating People of 2007” on an ABC programme of the same name. In true Heigl style, the superstar questioned whether she was a worthy candidate to make the cut. She even went as far as adding that she is “quite boring … not, just kidding, but really.” Many would beg to differ.
Heigl's latest roles include 'The Big Wedding' (2013) and 'The Nut Job' (2104).