Hayden Leslie Panettiere (born August 21, 1989) is an American actress and Grammy-nominated singer. She came to professional prominence at the age of 10 with her portrayal of Sheryl Yoast in Disney's Remember the Titans, although for five years before that, Panettiere had held roles in two soap operas. She portrayed Sarah Roberts on One Life to Live from 1994–1997, and Lizzie Spaulding on Guiding Light from 1996-2000. Panettiere reached a wider audience with her starring role as cheerleader Claire Bennet on the NBC television series Heroes.
Panettiere was born in and partly raised in Palisades, Rockland County, New York, the daughter of Lesley R. Vogel, a former soap opera actress, and Alan L. "Skip" Panettiere, a fire department lieutenant. Panettiere, whose surname means "baker" in Italian, is of Italian descent. She has one younger brother, fellow actor Jansen Panettiere. Although Panettiere attended South Orangetown Middle School in New York, she was educated at home from the 9th grade through high school. For now, Panettiere is postponing higher education in favor of an acting career.
Panettiere began modeling when she was four months old. She first appeared in commercials at 11 months, beginning with an advertisement for Playskool. She landed a role as Sarah Roberts on the ABC soap opera One Life to Live (1994–1997), and she followed that up by playing the part of Elizabeth "Lizzie" Spaulding on the CBS soap opera Guiding Light (1997–2000). While on Guiding Light, Panettiere's character Lizzie battled leukemia. For drawing the attention of daytime viewers to the disease, and for improving national awareness, the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society gave her its Special Recognition Award.
Panettiere became most prominent as Claire Bennet in the NBC series Heroes, which was created by Tim Kring, as a high school cheerleader with regenerative healing powers. Thanks to her role on Heroes, she became a regular on the science fiction convention circuit, invited to attend conventions around the world in 2007, including Gen Con, New York Comic-Con, and Fan Expo Canada. Panettiere has complained that her acting options are sometimes limited because "people look at [her] as either the 'popular cheerleader' type or just 'the blonde.'"
She played the role of Coach Yoast's daughter, Sheryl, in the 2000 Disney film Remember The Titans. In addition, she voiced Kairi in the Kingdom Hearts series of video games for the PlayStation 2. Panettiere appeared on Fox's Ally McBeal as the title character's daughter, had a recurring guest role on Malcolm in the Middle and guest starred in Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. She starred in Bring It On: All or Nothing as a cheerleader and had a supporting role as Adelaide Bourbon in the recently released independent film Shanghai Kiss.
She appeared in the Disney Channel film Tiger Cruise, in Raising Helen as Kate Hudson's adolescent niece, and in Ice Princess as a the title character's rival in a skating contest.
She has appeared in over a dozen full-length feature films, several made-for-TV movies. For her performance in Lifetime Television's 1999 TV movie If You Believe, she was nominated for the Young Artist Award for Young Actress Age Ten or Under in the category of Best Performance in a TV Movie or Pilot. She provided the voice for Dot in A Bug's Life. She appeared in the drama film Fireflies in the Garden as a younger version of Emily Watson's character, Jane Lawrence. In June 2007, she signed with the William Morris Agency, after previously being represented by United Talent Agency. Forbes estimated that she earned $2 million in 2007.
In early 2007, Panettiere appeared on the MTV show, Punk'd. The appearance was engineered by her mother and involved a male "fan" discussing her work with her, instigating a jealous reaction from the man's spouse. In December 2007 Panettiere was named GQ Magazine's Obsession Of the Year.