Hayden Panettiere may only be five foot one in her stockinged feet, but the Heroes star is every inch the superhero when it comes to vigorously putting herself through the paces on In Styles cover shoot.”But it was great – I actually loved it!” she exclaims, when she’s finally able to sit down after six hours plus of primping and parading in a variety of chic outfits.

As the biggest star to emerge from cult US TV phenomenon Heroes (for those who aren’t avid fans, she plays indestructible cheerleader Claire Dennet, for whom the series tagline “Save
the cheerleader, save the world” was penned) she has become quite the sleek red-carpet heroine.

Which is why it’s totally unexpected when she confesses, “You know what? I hate trying clothes on”. Admittedly, as she relaxes post-shoot, dressed in Uggs, a borrowed pair of black sweats and a Patagonia jacket, hair scraped back off her face, she looks girl-next-door rather than the super-stylish maven we’re used to seeing. But, come on – she hates trying on clothes? “It’s true!” she insists with a giggle. “My friends all know that about me. Fm like,
the quickest shopper ever. I don’t shop much, but, when I do, I’m like, Okay, I’ll take that let’s go.”

Perhaps it’s because, instead of focusing her energies on becoming a professional clotheshorse, this 19-year-old has crammed 18 years of screen work into her life. Yes, really:18. She starred in commercials at just 11 months; acted in her first soap, One Life to Live, at four – “I was only four, but, put it this way, I didn’t take much pushing” she says – followed by soap number two, Guiding Light, at seven.

There are times, though, when it does all take its toll Tm getting there, but I think I have the same insecurities as most girls,” she says. “I’ve never had really skinny arms, so whenever I do photo shoots, it becomes a lot about the angles that work with my arms.

Also, I’ve got a bit of a rounder face, so I work the angles there too.” How about that bikini body? “You know what? I feel pretty comfortable in a bikini now. All girls have their days. Sometimes you feel really good and other days, you’re, like, Argh, I’m bloated
out But I’m generally okay.”

Hayden works out on a treadmill and does Pilates when she can, but admits she has trouble fitting in a regular routine. Luckily her job helps her keep fit, I try to do as many stunts as I can without using a double, so I call that my sport,” she says. “I may not be able
to commit to playing on a team after work, so I do stunts.” As her body confidence has grown, so too has her sense of style.

When she looks through old photos, she finds plenty of examples of “things that simply aren’t very good”. Clearly, she knows what she looks good in these days. “I think my style has changed as my body has changed and as I’ve gotten older just because I feel more comfortable in things than I did before,” she says. “Now I like to dress classy with a little bit of funky Like, sometimes, GU do really sophisticated, but I still love my little dresses.”

Out in the real world, she’s a Paige-jeans-and-T-shirt kind of a girl; for special occasions, she’s drawn to Herve Leger. And she’s a big fan of wearing suits too.

“Although, generally, I like body-hugging clothes,” she says. “It’s all about what I feel in that moment. Sometimes, I want to wear a little sexy dress; other times, I feel like being more classy.” Whatever she’s doing, it’s a style that’s seen her make the fashion pages of magazines and websites around the world.

With a raised profile, she,s been able to have her pick of film roles and has four set for release. The first is I Love You, Beth Cooper, in which she plays the most popular girl at school (of course). Then she’s supplying voices for two upcoming animated movies – Alpha and Omega and Hoodwinked 2: Hood vs Evil – as well as starring opposite Lauren Bacall in the drama Carmel.

Off-screen, she’s a fervent animal-rights campaigner and in 2007 was awarded the Compassion in Action Award from Peta for paddling out to sea on a surfboard to stop the dolphin hunt in
Japan. And, last year, she was a supporter of Declare Yourself, a group created to help encourage America’s youth to vote.

Someday, she’s also hoping to have a big, Italian-style family of her own. “I always said I want four kids – I love kids,” she says. “I would love to be a mum and to have a family – for Italians, it’s the most important thing you can have.”

Would she let her kids follow in her footsteps? “No. Not a shot. I think you have to be a pretty strong person to enter the industry that young and not be affected by it. I was lucky, but i’d never want my kids to be subject to that much criticism at such a young age.” Which begs one final question: how did she get to be so strong? “I don’t know. Genetics? That I’m a Leo? At the end of the day, I’m a pretty tough chick”

May 2009