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Hayden began appearing in commercials at 11 months old, first appearing in an advertisement for Playskool Toy Train. She later landed a role as Sarah Roberts on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live and later as the child Lizzie Spaulding on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light when she was eight years old. Hayden Panettiere played the role until 2001. In Guiding Light, for Hayden’s character Lizzie’s battle with leukemia, the show received a Special Recognition Award from the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society for bringing national awareness of the disease to the attention of daytime viewers. She has appeared in over a dozen full-length feature films,as well as several made-for-TV movies. In addition, she had a leading role as the voice of Kairi in the highly successful Kingdom Hearts series of video games for the Playstation 2. She also had a starring role in FOX‘s Ally McBeal and a recurring guest role in Malcolm in the Middle. She guest starred in Law & Order: SVU. Panettiere currently stars as Claire Bennet in the NBC series Heroes as a high school cheerleader with a healing factor.
Neutrogena made her the cover girl for their new worldwide ad campaign; in this regard Panettiere followed in the footsteps of actresses Josie Bissett, Jennifer Love Hewitt, Mandy Moore, Kristin Kreuk, Mischa Barton, Gabrielle Union and Jennifer Freeman.
Panettiere was nominated for a Grammy in 1999 for Best Spoken Word Album for Children for A Bug’s Life Read-Along . Hayden is currently working on her debut album, which was originally planned for release on May 8, 2007. The album, however has been pushed back and is now expected to be released in August 2007 from Hollywood Records.
In the June 2007 issue of FHM, Hayden was named as the 6th Sexiest Woman in the world and the highest new entry of the year.