Katherine Heigl: Naleigh Became Attached to Her Dad First

09/21/2010 at 08:00 AM ET
Courtesy InStyle

Katherine Heigl and Josh Kelley‘s daughter really is a daddy’s girl.

“The first thing she said was, ‘Dada,’ and then she’d call everybody else she loved ‘Dada,'” Heigl says in the October issue of InStyle of their daughter Nancy Leigh Mi-Eun, nicknamed Naleigh. “She actually attached to Josh much faster.”

The couple talked about adopting even before they were engaged, so when they adopted their baby from Korea a year later, the Life As We Know It actress says all her dreams came true.

But Heigl admits connecting with her 20-month-old daughter had its challenges.

“I had a lot of complicated emotions about it because I chose to go back to work,” she says. “I love what I do and – this isn’t just making excuses – if I weren’t fulfilling this thing in me to perform, to live out my passion, I don’t know that I would be the mom I need to be.”

But Heigl, who now only works three months a year instead of nine, says the mother-daughter relationship between her and Naleigh has improved since wrapping Life.

“Naleigh learned with me that the word ‘Mama’ was synonymous with kisses,” Heigl says. “So when she first started saying, ‘Mama,’ she would also make a little kiss sound … She started saying it maybe a month or two ago. I would come into the room and she’d go, ‘Mama!’ And it was like, Thank God.”

— Dahvi Shira

FILED UNDER: News , Parenting

Share this story:

Your reaction:

Add A Comment

PEOPLE.com reserves the right to remove comments at their discretion.

Showing 53 comments

soph on

β€œShe actually attached to Josh much faster.”
Huge surprise.

Jordan on

Not a flattering picture of Katherine.

Donna on

I’ve spoken to two people who have actually had personal interaction with Katherine and neither one of them thought she was very nice. She kind of personifizes that “snobby, entitled celebrity” thing we’ve all heard about in the industry.

NotYourBusiness on

Something about her “rubs me the wrong way”. I don’t know if it’s her ego, or I feel like she’s not who she pretends to be. IDK but I am just not a big Heigl fan.. and it turns out her daughter wasn’t either. I guess babies are an excellent judge of character.

Juliet on

Why do I get the feeling Naleigh will be writing a Mommy dearest book in about 20 years?

Elle on

I find her so full of herself. Everything I read of her, it’s always just about her. And yes, a few friends of mine who’ve interacted with her said she was very snobby.

Nicole on

Ouch! Be nice…she’s a mom after all.

gdfg on

Soph, I thought that was odd too! So she thinks it’s weird that her daughter attached to her dad first???

mom of 3 on

most children do say dada first. 2 out of 3 of my kids did.

Karen on

Retract the claws people! So she hoped the baby would attach to her more first, is that really so shocking for a new mom? The baby is obviously getting a lot of love if she links the name ‘mama’ with kisses, and a happy child is a good thing!

Tina on

Some of you are so effing rude. You’re basically saying that because you don’t like her, or because she isn’t “likeable” enough, she deserves having a hard time bonding with her adopted daughter.

Bonding with kids is hard when you adopt, espescially when they are not newborns. My aunt adopted 3, and there were bonding-troubles with all three, and all three “choose” a parent the first year or so. You might not like her, but that doesn’t make her a bad person, a snob, or a bad mother. Besides, when does being rude to fans (my definition: complete strangers taking it for granted that you should be nice and smiley even if you have a s**t day) mean that you are a bad mom?

amy on

my daughter, from the minute she was born, has been more attached to her father than me. i think my daughter sensed my nervousness from day one. not that i was nervous about being a mother, but more that i was nervous that i was doing everything right (was she eating, sleeping, pooping enough? etc.) daddy was much more at ease from the minute she was born, so she was able to relax with him.

but let me guess? this makes me a snobby, b****y, too-good-for-you mother? nope. it means i have an awesome husband, and my daughter has an awesome father. my daughter now, at 18 months old, is the biggest mommy’s girl. but it took us a good year before she would prefer me over daddy, unless she was hungry of course (i bf’d) lol.

but seriously, what’s with all the hate? who cares what she’s like to other people? that has NOTHING to do with this article. she seems like a REALLY good mother who loves her child and will do anything for her… isn’t that what we all are? so lay off. cause i’m pretty sure each and everyone of you (and me.) have had a bad day where we are snappy or b****y, but you don’t have to hear about it for the rest of your life. GET OVER IT.

Nancy on

I adopted a 3 year old and he attached to his dad first too. Most adopted children who aren’t babies attach to the father first. Mostly, because most of their caregivers are women and men are something new. It doesn’t make it any less painful for the mother though.

I also agree that the comments here are very snarky. You don’t know her and I think the fact that she had conflicting emotions about going back to work shows that she is a caring mother.

Lila on

Geez peoople. Put down the pitchforks already.

It sounds like they are a normal couple dealing with normal couple issues. DD really bonded with me, but it took it quite a while longer to bond with her dad. It was hard on him. But you just got to let them feel what they feel at their own place, and now they are super close.

Hea on

All she is saying is that Naleigh attached to Josh first. Maybe the question the interviewer asked her was “Did Naleigh attach to you first?”

I don’t think it seems as if she found it very odd. Babies pick their people. It’s only natural.

I don’t know why some of you are so darn evil towards this woman. She is gorgeous, she’s talented and she sounds to be a good mother. She works THREE months out of TWELVE and the rest will be spent with her family I am sure. Kids today rarely get that much interaction with their folks so Naleigh is blessed in more ways than one. She has a loving family who seems stable and they are there for her. What more can a child ask for?

tink1217 on

I have always enjoyed Katherine’s movies…she is such a talented actress. And a beautiful woman. I don’t know her personally so I won’t sit and bash her. My daughter said dada first also. My son…he said mama. Both my children were VERY attached to me though…but I think it has to do with the fact that their father wasnt involved like he should have been (his choice..not mine). When I remarried…my son was only a little guy, never really knew his bio dad…and called his stepfather daddy right away. My daughter had a MUCH harder time. It all depends on circumstances IMHO. I love that she chooses to work much less since adopting her daughter. I think that shows a lot of dedication to her child while still allowing herself creative outlet. It’s too bad all mothers don’t get that kind of freedom!! Some just have to work and there is nothing wrong with that!!

She seems like a great mom who loves her baby girl.

Scarlet on

I love it that there are people with common sense that post comments, I agree with Amy, Tina , Lila and Hea. If we read about these people who happen to be celebrity moms and we are moms ourselves we should have love and compassion because we are all human beings and not one of us is perfect. Famous, rich , poor celebrity or not.

Amanda on

I don’t think this woman could take a bad picture, however you may feel about her personality she is gorgeous.

It’s perfectly normal for any child to prefer one parent over the other. My oldest has been a huge daddy’s girl since birth, my second has always prefered me and thus far our third is the same way (second is a girl, third a boy…so it’s not the whole daddy’s girl, mommy’s boy stereotype). I was a bit jealous when I was my 1st child’s main caregiver all day and then as soon as she saw daddy I was old news and my husband has admitted it stings a little when he’s gone all day and excited to see the kids when he gets home and the baby cries when I hand him to daddy.

I’m with the others though, I don’t think I’d be very friendly if everyone was always trying to take pictures of me or ask me personal questions on the street just because they saw me on tv. Like someone else said, you might be a fan but you are still a stranger to her, she doesn’t know if you are a nice fan or a crazy one. I sense there is some jealousy going on, but that’s your own issue to deal with, and it’s not a very flattering one.

Kristen on

So typical…had Jennifer Garner said the exact same thing there would be no judgement or catty comments from the other women on this site. Because some of you don’t like her it is easy to blame her.

Anonymous on

I hope she doesn’t read these things because nothing is more painful than being critized as a parent. We all have enough of our own issues and insecurities without people who don’t even know you voicing their opinions. Lots of mothers work, lots of mothers stay at home, it is what it is and a happy woman makes a happy mother. I stayed at home with all five of my kids and God knows why they don’t hate me, because alot of the time I was a lunatic. Balance is what makes people happy. Also, I only have one daughter and she ADORES me…I thought for sure she would be a daddy’s girl, but to my surprise she is not. It is what it is…chemistry….so please people grow up and take care of your own things and leave other peoples lives alone.

H on

The first 6 posters should be ashamed of themsleves, lets hope YOUR children don’t pick up on your nasty little ways . A before you all start with ‘my opinion’ bull its not an opinion trashing some ones character ad mothering skills its called being a bi**ch.

I thinks its a brave thing to adopt, i wish i had the space and money to do it, to take a baby some one didn’t want its a wonderful amazing selfless thing to do and people should remember that before spouting their vennom.

Kim on

It drives me crazy when people think a baby saying “dada” means daddy, DaDa is just a phrase that many babies in every culture utter. Its when parents get excited and say” she said daddy” then babies start repeating it.My neighbors are a lesbian couple with virtually no men in their childrens’ lives and 2 of their 3 kids was “dada’ the other one’s first word sounded like dog

C on

To the posters past post #6 and on down, I’ll start off with a quote my father has always said, “If we all liked the same thing, there wouldn’t be enough of it.” If you don’t get what that means, not everyone has to like the same thing. Just because you people like her, doesn’t mean everyone else does, too, so try climbing off your high horses and accepting the fact that your opinions are not law.

I am in no way going to judge this woman’s parenting ability because I don’t know her personally, so what I say from here on out DOES NOT include or have anything to do with her being a mom. There’s been so, so much talk about Katherine having a severe snobby attitude. A few here and there and I’d chalk it up to just rumor but I think by now from all the different sources I’m more inclined to believe that that is how she is. Yes, she’s a person and she’s entitled to have a bad day now and then – but when you become notorious for it, it’s not just a “now and then” kind of thing. One tends to believe that’s her general personality.

Should celebrities always be nice to their fans? As long as their fans are respectful to them, then I think absolutely they should make every effort to be nice and sociable to them. There ARE certain celebrities (especially musicians) who completely get the fact that without their fans, they would be nothing. Absolutely nothing. Without the fans, if no one is watching or listening to your work, then you wouldn’t be where you are. Like I said, they’re entitled to a bad day now and then, and if a fan steps out of line then they should totally be called on it – but if you’re constantly rude to the people who put you where you are then you don’t deserve the life you have.

I always just read comments and never post, but sometimes I get so disgusted that I have to voice my opinion. I never get when people say “gosh, the paparazzi should just leave them alone!! It’s so rude!!11!!1!1! omg, I can’t believe they get all up in their business that way!” What’s so hard to believe? They know getting into the business what happens when you make it big. That’s a price they have to pay for the fame and advantages that they receive. Besides, if they REALLY wanted to paparazzi to stop stalking them, it can be done. There are big celebrities who live fairly normal lives without being hunted down.

I do agree that it was a little off base to say that the reason her daughter didn’t bond to her as fast is because of her personality. Sometimes the most ugly (in personality) people are the most loving and attentive person when it comes to their kids, adopted or not.

By the way, several of you posters need to reread the article.. didn’t it say that they adopted her when she was newborn? Not a toddler or much older than that.

Also, H… no one said a word about her adopting, get over yourself.

Donna on

The two people that I commented on who disliked Katherine were not fans, they were working with her (not actors) and dealing with her professionally. She may be a good mother; she’s rather irritating to a lot of her peers.

Butterfly on

I’m so glad to finally hear an adoptive parent speak about the challenges of bonding with the baby. Everyone always makes those first months out to be so easy! The transition from 2 to 3 is difficult after 9 months of pregnancy so I can imagine that its also hard after adoption.

Sarah on

H: A child placed for adoption is not a “child someone didn’t want” as you put it. It’s a child whose birthparents didn’t feel they had the capability of parenting. That is not the same thing as not wanting that child. I’m sure many of those birthparents wanted to keep their children but didn’t feel they had the money/age/stability to make it happen. It’s kind of insensitive to refer to children placed for adoption as unwanted.

Lorus on

She’s come off as a “snob, bitch, full of herself” way before she adopted so the women here calling her that has nothing to do with Naleigh. She’s always rubbed me the wrong way but I agree with the others that just because Naleigh bonded with Dad first doesn’t make her a bad Mom.

Jen on

She seems very snooty. She makes a living doing movies, but turns around and insults the director, her co-stars, the movie itself, and basically implies that she is much too good for all of it. She thinks she is so A-list, but really, she does the same movie over and over, and she isn’t that great an actress as it turns out. I am glad she is happy with her baby, but seriously, get over yourself!

Once people get tired of her cutsey romantic comedies, she will fade into obscurity and not realize why. Well, heads-up babe, it’s your attitude.

Remember: Grey’s put her on the map. She slammed all of them, and even declined her not-so-deserved Emmy. Who wants to work with that?

Tina on

Sarah I guess you have met every child in the world that has been up for adoption and can say for a fact that all of there parents didn’t have the money/age/stability to keep there babies. Sorry to burst your bubble but unfortunately there are a lot of people in this world that give up there babies simple b/c they don’t want to deal with “it”. Very sad but very true!! Don’t judge people by what you perceive to be truth. That goes for everyone on here. Love her or hate her we all have to right to express our true feelings!!

jessicad on

I’m so ashamed to be a woman right now, and sick to my stomach. I can’t believe what I’m reading from you hateful and nasty women

H on

Sarah – to a point agree but in this day and age little girls are more commenly not wanted from my understanding where katherine adopted from so i am guess its more likely she was not wanted. which is so sad its heartbreaking.

C – my point is this women adopted a child with needs which is a brave and selfless thing to do and the first 6 people made snide nasty comments based on what? trash you read in a magazine and i heard from so and so… how about i don’t no saying something nice rather than jumping all over herself, i need to get over the bi**chy comments, seriously , if you can’t say any thing nice…….

nella on

I don’t have anything against Katherine, I enjoy seeing her movies and she seems like she’s a good mom. I think often she is misunderstood because she’s very outspoken which seems like in hollywood if you’re a woman, you shouldn’t be outspoken and honest. This article was nice to read, she was talking about her daughter and motherhood, so I don’t understand why people are discussing her snobby personality when the article wasn’t focused on just her.

I like this website because for most part people who comment have common courtesy, but then you read a few of the really rude and unnecessary comments and it reminds me of the Perez Hilton website. So if your only intention is to be negative and rude and (not just about this article,but most articles here) then Perez Hilton would be perfect for you! i’m all for having individual opionions, but they can be expressed in a different more positive way.

B on

It’s easy to predict which celebrity moms are going to attacked in the comments. It’s no surprise to see people being so rude about a person they have not met personally.

Just makes me sad to know that there can never be a time when women are supportive of each other instead of constantly tearing each other down, either behind their backs or to their faces. Motherhood is hard enough, do we really need to judge or be judged by everyone else?

Sarah K. on

C, you and all other posters have the right to post your opinion. But, you also have to accept that other people will see those comments and will have an opinion themselves. Those first six posters have the right to their opinion and I have the right to call them rude. It’s no different than your post – sorry, but yours was just as preachy. Also, Naleigh was 10 months old when she was adopted, not a newborn.

Anyways, I have no reason to believe that Katherine isn’t an excellent mother. Bonding with an adopted child can be difficult, so good for her for sticking it out.

Linda on

Wow, soph? Bitchy much? C, STFU. If someone is acting like a bitch, I have the right to say something about it. Those first six posters were being complete bitches and you come off as a megabitch too. Your opinion is not law either, so why don’t you get off your own high horse and stop acting defensive of you and your fellow bitch’s rudeness GO TO HELL.

jessicad on

There’s a difference between having an opinion and being plain rude and hateful, and it looks more like insecurity from most of the negative posters. Katherine is always honest and I think it scares people. She’s a strong woman who isn’t afraid to speak her mind and tell the truth, plus she’s all around gorgeous, has a hot husband, a ton of money, and was selfless enough to adopt a child, one with special needs if I remember correctly. I’ve been a fan of hers for years and I don’t remember all these horrible self centered interviews you guys claim make her an evil person and mother, so let it go.

Sarah M. on

I only came into the comments to see if anyone else had heard the name ‘Mi-Eun’ with the other names for Naleigh. And look what I found!!! I’m all for people having different opinions, but they can be expressed in a kind and respectful manner without being plain nasty.

Linda – You’re no less of a bi*ch than soph or C, then. I’m guessing STFU means Shut the F*ck up, right. And ending with ‘GO TO HELL’ sure isn’t bi*chy, either. Way to disagree with class!

Shelby-ville on

I love Katherine Heigl and her movies and I think for her to adopt she can’t be as snobby or entitled as so many people suggest…

Good for her – she’s living her life, bonding with her family and getting to fulfil her passion – who wouldn’t love to be in the same position? I think sometimes jealousy is a curse!

lilly on

im thinking the baby was more connecting with josh at first, probably because he was with her more, and katherine was more then likely finsihing up grey’s or a movie or something, then again some kids just get attached more to one parent, rather then the other, my little boy i thought would be more connected to me, but he really is dad’s little boy, and my girl who i thought would be a daddy’s girl, is all for me, she would rather sit with me, or just be a real girly girl. depends on the child and situation, i know a lot of people dont like katherine, but i think shes a fine good actress, and sometimes speaks before she thinks and it can get her in a trouble, and maybe she grew up to speak her mind, which could also be a good thing.

CelebBabyLover on

Sarah M.- I haven’t heard the name Mi-Eun with the others before either. My guess is that Mi-Eun was what Naleigh was named at birth in Korea. I think it’s wonderful that Katherine and Josh chose to incorperate her birth name with her new name! πŸ™‚

That being said, I agree with the majority of the posters here. There’s nothing unusual about the fact that Naleigh attatched to her father first, nor does her attatching to him first mean anything’s wrong with Katherine’s parenting skills. All it means is that Naleigh is more of a daddy’s girl. πŸ™‚

gdfg on

H, her birth parents may or may not have wanted her, but that’s irrellevant–SOMEONE wanted her, many many couples wanted her. So to say she was unwanted is wrong.

gdfg on

What’s with all the trashy language on here? Does this site no longer have moderators?

miameows on

gdfg, I was going to say the same thing. Where are the moderators? This is way beyond the usual evilness. I miss the CBB site every day 😦

Julianna on

I think it’s normal for little girls to connect with their fathers first, no? I mean, I’m 24 and my relationship with my mother was shaky at best until I moved out of her house (she and my father are divorced), while my relationship with my father was always amazing.

Mom2E on

My husband and I also adopted a little girl from Korea, and were warned that she would likely warm up to her Daddy faster than me, even though I was the primary caregiver. Many foster parents in Korea are female, and many of these babies can already feel abandoned (for a lack of a better word) by women. My daughter said Dada first, and oh did I celebrate when she finally called me Mama. And we, too, used my daughter’s Korean name as her second middle name, so it doesn’t surprise me that Katherine and Josh did, too. When you become a multi-cultural family you do all you can to keep the culture alive in your little one. Happy Chuseok, all.

soph on

I’m just laughing at all of you, especially jessicad and Linda. Get ahold of your rage, okay? I really don’t care what I read here and neither should you.

Sarah M. on

I figured it was her given Korean name, I just hadn’t heard it before. Just wondering if anyone else had. I, also, think it’s wonderful that they did that. I love it when parents who adopt try to incorporate some part of the child’s previous life into their lives once they’re adopted. Where we come from has a huge effect on who we become!

meryl Parr on

I have a friend who is a waiter at a restaurant where Katherine and her husband frequent and he said she is very nice, bubbly, and funny. I think celebrities are like everyone else we all have bad days, we all speak rudely to people sometimes then regret it. I also agree with other posters about adopted children. May of my friends who adopted children find that the child is drawn to the husband because they have had little contact with men in the orphanage. I think Katherine has done a great deed adopting. If worse case scenario this baby is raised by a nanny her life will still be far better off.

CelebBabyLover on

gdfg- I think this site still has moderaters, considering the fact that, while some comments here ARE pretty ugly, the comments here on Moms & Babies are nowhere near as ugly as those on, say, Just Jared or X17. I just think the moderaters have become a bit more lax.

Stacey on

some people are so rude! Everyone has different parenting styles and I’m sure every child is different with attachment. My niece is more of a daddy’s girl than a momma’s girl, but when she sees my sister in law she gets very excited. I hate that celebrity moms can’t speak their minds without criticism. Like someone said, retract the claws!

Deana on

We women always speak of men and society holding us back. But this just proves that is our fellow females who are now responsible for for the strife in our lives. We’d all be better mothers, wives, and people if we were more encouraging to each other. I have yet to see a large group of men attack another man’s ability to parent in this manner. None of you know her anymore than you know each other. Such a shame what we women have turned into.

Lissa on

To the poster who said that Naleigh would be writing a “Mommie Dearest” book in a few years…how dare you? What is your problem? Who are you to make that kind of judgment? For the life of me, I cannot figure out why so many WOMEN who do not know Katherine, have never come into contact with her, are not friends with her and only see her in her roles on TV/films, hate her so much. How can you hate someone you don’t even know? I haven’t been to this site in a long time…and now I’m reminded why.

Mindy Aschliman on

Kathryn Naleigh is a dorable. Good luck with her. She will make you very happy as i am sure you are great parents to her. I adopted my son 11 1/2 years ago from Korea. I actually went to Korea to get my son. He wanted nothing to do with me for the first week when i brought him home. He was not liking me very much. I missed 3 days of sleeping my adrenaline was so pumped. So when i got home i had to sleep for 4 days. The foster mom banged on the van door when we were leaving to got to the airport he looked at her and then looked at me and cried all the way home. He immediately fell in love with my husband so he had to care for him all week long until he went back to work. I did help alittle when he wasn’t crying. Then my son had know choice but i was his care giver. Then he became a momma’s boy. It all works out in the end. Now he is a pre-teen and he doesn’t like either one of us. I know he really does though, well he’ll get over it. I know he loves us but he is terrible now. Disrespectul and spoiled. We did it to him. We just love him so much. I guess he’ll turn around like our 24 year old. At 19 they realize that we do know things.
Good Luck Kathryn and Josh!!