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Hayden Panettiere is the young American actress who became famous for her role as the cheerleader in the television show Heroes.
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"It was definitely eye-opening, seeing shantytowns," she recalls. "It makes you thankful for what you have, but at the same time you admire how simple life is in other places." For the next several years Panettiere played a recurring role on the Fox series Malcolm in the Middle (2003-2005) while also appearing in the films Raising Helen (2004) and Disney's Ice Princess (2004).
Panettiere rocketed to a new level of fame in 2006, however, when she landed a leading role in the new NBC sci-fi series Heroes. The show follows a group of ordinary people who possess extraordinary powers, and Panettiere plays Claire Bennet, a high school cheerleader who heals instantly from any injury but must keep her ability secret. Heroes quickly proved enormously popular, reintroducing Panettiere to the media limelight, no longer as an adorable child but as a stunningly beautiful young woman. She appeared on the cover of Cosmopolitan magazine and was featured on People magazine's 100 Most Beautiful list, Entertainment Weekly's Stars We Love list and Forbes magazine's Celebrity 100 Power list. Heroes ran for four seasons, from 2006-2010, and Panettiere won three consecutive Teen Choice Awards for Best TV Actress for her role. She has then starred in the 2009 romantic comedy I Love You, Beth Cooper and returned to voice acting with the 2010 animated film Alpha & Omega.
In 2012, Panettiere returned to series television with the country music drama Nashville. She plays an ambitious young singer who challenges an established country star, played by Connie Britton, on the show. With this role, Panettiere has enjoyed the opportunity to demonstrate her talent as a singer. Nashville has some critical success and was renewed for a second season in May 2013.
However, along with Panettiere's sudden celebrity came intense media scrutiny of her personal life. At age 16, Panettiere was photographed at a dance club with celebrity heiress Paris Hilton, causing some to speculate that she would become the latest in a long list of child stars turned troubled teens. In 2008, shortly after her 18th birthday, Panettiere began dating 30-year-old Heroes co-star Milo Ventimiglia, and their relationship provoked public concern over their 12-year age gap. However, Panettiere insists that criticisms of her personal life are unfounded. "They have absolutely no idea what they're talking about," she says of her critics. "I have the occasional glass of champagne when I'm celebrating something, but generally, I don't drink. I'm a pizza-and-a-movie girl." Panettiere and Ventimiglia split ways in 2009. She dated boxer Wladimir Klitschko from 2010 to 2011. Panettiere was then involved with New York Jets player Scotty McKnight. The couple broke up in 2012. More recently, she has reportedly been linked to her ex Wladimir Klitschko.
Apart from the world of acting, Panettiere is also an animal rights activist. In 2007, she participated in a dramatic protest against Japanese dolphin hunters, joining a group of activists who swam out into the ocean, placing themselves between the dolphins and fishermen in an attempt to stop a hunt.
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