We spent some time with the Golden Globe nominee at the historic Ryman Auditorium, where she gave us the dish on her beauty secrets, country music icons, and a few reasons why life is better down in Dixie.
Take note: Hayden Panettiere is the real deal. Even while playing bad girl Juliette Barnes on the hit TV show Nashville, her down-to-earth personality shines through. Born in New York, the 24-year-old feels perfectly at home in the South—so much so that she and her fiancé, heavyweight boxer Wladimir Klitschko, decided to put down roots and buy a house in Nashville this year. “Even if something happens to the show,” she says, “I know this is a place I want to call home.”
SL: You always look great on and off the screen. How would you describe your personal style?
HP: In my day-to-day [life], I’m more of a tomboy. Over time I’ve had to find the chic in that. I love to be comfortable, but ultimately it depends on my mood. I can be dark and edgy, but other times I like bright and flowery.
SL: Who are some of your favorite designers?
HP: I love Tom Ford, Stella McCartney, Balmain, and Marchesa. I wore a great black-and-white Tom Ford dress to this year’s Golden Globes.
SL: How well do you relate to your character on the show?
HP: While my character, Juliette, is a lot more glam than I am—I like to be more casual—I do enjoy getting dolled up. I love Juliette’s shoe collection! We’re definitely the same in that department.
SL: What do you think sets Southern style apart from other areas?
HP: It’s a lot more laid-back, which suits me better. In L.A. and New York you go out to lunch and everyone is wearing high heels. In Nashville if I see someone wearing heels, I get the sense they might not be from around here.
SL: How does an iconic place like the Ryman reflect the town’s style?
HP: You get everything walking through that door. When you look at the walls and the display boxes, you find that you have everything there—from the beautiful gowns country stars have worn to cowboy hats and even some rock ‘n’ roll stuff. The city, which is very influenced by music, has become very eclectic. It’s not just country anymore.
SL: You’ve been in the industry since age 5—what beauty secrets have you picked up from makeup artists on set?
HP: Less is more. Don’t hide behind a lot of makeup. I always have Neutrogena’s makeup remover wipes on me. It is so important to let your skin breathe.
SL: What about the weather down here? Have you found any styling tricks for dealing with heat and humidity?
HP: That’s one of the toughest things to adapt to. I’ve found it helps to braid my hair when it’s wet, rather than letting it air-dry. It tames the frizz; otherwise, in the summer I look like a Pomeranian!
SL: You portray a strong Southern woman so well. Was it hard for you to come into that role not being from the South?
HP: My mom is from Kentucky and my grandmother is from Corpus Christi, so I had a better understanding of the South than the average person moving from New York. At my core, this is the kind of person I am and want to be. I like being in a place where people appreciate the little things and don’t need a lot of stuff to be happy. You can put a group of Southerners in any scenario and they’ll have a good time.
SL: You seem to have a lot of fun playing a country star on the show. Are you also a fan?
HP: My parents love country music, so I listened to a lot of it growing up. Alison Krauss’ ‘The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn’ is still one of my favorite songs of all time. And Faith Hill is an icon.
SL: Tell us about your decision to plant roots in Nashville.
HP: The people here are amazing. Living in Nashville gives me a sense of normalcy that I wasn’t sure I was ever going to get back in my life. When I first got here, all my defenses were still up, and I was waiting for that world to suddenly creep back in. When it didn’t, I realized that I can live a normal life here with people who don’t judge you based on what you do or who you are in the public eye.
SL: Where do you like to shop in town?
HP: Two Old Hippies is an awesome store downtown with a wide range of stuff from gadgets to fun books.
SL: What is your favorite Southern expression?
HP: ‘Bless her heart.’ There is so much context there—so much more is said with those three words.