The 27-year-old blonde beauty, who plays Dr. Isobel "Izzie" Stevens, said she's still adjusting to the challenges of overnight fame. But she's digging the perks: One acting gig helped Heigl find her fiancé, singer-songwriter Josh Kelley. She was hired to star in his music video, and the two ended up engaged.
Kelley was by Heigl's side when she was feted recently by Cosmopolitan magazine. Editor Kate White hosted an intimate dinner for Heigl to celebrate her appearance on the December issue of Cosmopolitan. The actress' manager mom and TV co-stars T.R. Knight and Kate Walsh were also on hand to toast Heigl's success.
Later, she took time out to talk with The Associated Press about the pressures and pleasures of celebrity.
AP: What's it like to become instantly famous?
Heigl: It's weird. I've been doing this for so long and I always imagined what it might be like to have this success, but you can't really know what it will be like. The most pivotal point was at the "upfronts" (where broadcasters present programs to advertisers) in New York last year. People would come up to me and tell me how much they loved the show, and New Yorkers just don't do that! The excitement for the show was just unbelievable. I've been waiting 15 years for this kind of success and I'm just so grateful and really thrilled. It's definitely overwhelming at times.
AP: Is there a downside?
Heigl: With all the magazines, there's so much access into people's personal lives. You feel watched all the time and it feels like you can't be yourself, like you can't go to the grocery store unless you're wearing a cute outfit and look perfect. But I feel like I'm learning how to live with it and be myself regardless of judgment or criticism. All I really care about are the people I love. It is overwhelming. I think it takes experience.
AP: What's it like to see yourself on the cover of Cosmopolitan?
Heigl: This is huge for me. I've always read Cosmo and loved the covers, the fashion spreads and the sex advice. It feels sort of like an out-of-body experience, like it's happening to someone else.
AP: What do you think "Grey's Anatomy" says to women?
Heigl: I'm really grateful because the character I play is smart and ambitious. And not ambitious in a bad way, getting ahead at the expense of someone else. She's ambitious in her own self, pushing herself to be her best. The women on this show are independent, strong and career-driven. They're so supportive of one another, and that's an important message to put out into the world today. Every woman is an individual, interesting and inspired in her own right. I think they really push that theory in this show and I love that. I'm proud of that.
AP: Your character, who modeled lingerie to finance her medical training, struggles with the notion of beauty. How do you feel about it?
Heigl: It's an interesting line to toe. I understand the desire and the need to look and be perfect in this industry. But I'm a real woman, a real size … well I don't even know what size I am. Between 4 and 6, depending on the day. I am not perfect. I have my moments where I feel sexy and healthy, and then I have days when I just want to put on my sweats and not talk to anyone. Beauty is such a superficial thing. People only see your exterior and there's so much room for misjudging people based on how they look. All these beautiful, perfect people do not have beautiful, perfect lives. All these beautiful celebrities have the same pain and turmoil in their lives as I do. I think it's more important to be my personal best and put that out there.
AP: What's a typical day like for you?
Heigl: Usually on Mondays our call time is 6 a.m. I live five minutes from work, so I'll wake up at 10 (minutes) to 6. Then I'll spend five, 12 to 14 hours on the set. The call times get progressively later during the week. Last night I worked until 2:30 a.m.
AP: How do you unwind when you're not working?
Heigl: My life is either overwhelming or totally underwhelming. I'll have really busy weeks with work, photo shoots and interviews, and then I'll have a week where I'm not working that much. I have these big couches at home, so I can have my four dogs on my lap while I read a book. I knit a lot. When Josh is around, I want to spend time with him because we don't get to spend a lot of time together. We'll have a lazy, easygoing breakfast out, go to the movies, or go to a bar and have a drink. I don't go to a lot of clubs or concerts. Of course I go to his concerts! But otherwise it's calm stuff. I just like it to be relaxed.