EXCLUSIVE: *NSYNC Star Joey Fatone Opens Up About Daughter Kloey's Autism: 'It Has Tested Us a Lot'
By Leena Tailor
Joey Fatone’s adorable 7-year-old daughter Kloey stole the show on Wednesday’s episode of Big Star Little Star, hilariously dishing on her pop star dad’s most annoying habits, comparing the singer to a big “furry” gorilla and pleading blatant ignorance to *NSYNC!
After the cute daddy-daughter duo won $5,000 for Autism Speaks by competing on the USA Network series, Fatone opened up to ET about the challenges he and his wife, Kelly, have faced with Kloey’s autism.
“It has tested us a lot. She’s on the spectrum of autism and there are all different types, so everyone handles their child differently, but we handle it as we go, like most parents,” shared Fatone, who also has a 16-year-old daughter, Briahna. “The things that I was able to simply explain or express to Briahna when she was young, I have to kind of take a different approach with Kloey, for her to understand.”
During the episode, Fatone shared that Kloey has high-functioning autism (HFA), meaning she is considered cognitively "higher functioning" than others with the condition.
The diagnosis isn’t stopping the gorgeous girl from hitting the spotlight with her dad. She had a blast on the series, which sees celebrities pair up with their kids and compete against other teams to see who knows each other best.
While Fatone, 40, is no stranger to the camera, thanks to a varied singing, acting and hosting career, he predicts Kloey may also catch the entertainment bug. “[Doing Big Star Little Star] was very exciting and I was happy she had a great time and wasn’t nervous,” he said. “That kid has no fear.”
“Briahna wants nothing to do with the entertainment industry, but I do feel like Kloey could be my little entertainer,” Fatone continued. “I will help her out and support her totally, but I won’t be a stage dad! The biggest thing I hope they learn [from my career] is that anything is possible.”
Speaking of his career, despite being best known for his time with “It’s Gonna Be Me” crooners *NSYNC, he admitted Kloey doesn’t yet have a grasp of her dad’s iconic boy band status. When asked by show host Cat Deeley if she and Fatone would be “in sync” during the competition, Kloey confessed she’d never heard the term. “You know what *NSYNC is, right?” asked Fatone, to which she adorably replied, “Nope!”
While the group’s fandom remains strong 15 years after they parted ways, Fatone noted his boy band fame is less intrusive to family life these days. “When Briahna was younger it was difficult because it was the height of our career,” he explained. “Kloey still doesn’t grasp the idea. She sees daddy on TV and still doesn’t really get it. She thinks all daddy does is go on big planes and travel.”
Indeed, between filming movies like My Fat Greek Wedding 2 andDead 7, appearing in commercials, hosting shows including Rewrapped, making cameos on fellow boy bander Joey McIntyre’s sitcom Return of the Mac, philanthropic work and opening a hot dog joint called Fat One’s Hot Dogs and Italian Ice, Fatone has spent substantial time traveling since Kloey was born.
However, when he is at home, he remains a doting dad, referring to himself as “Mr. Mom” and sharing how he tricks Kloey into eating vegetables by processing them into a soupy texture and mixing them into dishes like mac-n-cheese!
The biggest challenge that comes with playing Mr. Mom to two daughters?
“That’s just it -- they’re daughters,” laughs Fatone. “I know things from a male perspective and they need the female perspective. It’s especially challenging with a 16-year-old.”
Big Star Little Star airs Wednesdays at 10/9c on USA Network.