The actress-activist talks about her efforts, plus gives support to Jennifer Love Hewitt
“Absolutely, I would take that,” Panettiere told PEOPLE Friday night in Washington, D.C. for the Forecast Earth Summit by The Weather Channel, where she spoke to a group of 22 high school students from across the country who were honored for their environmental outreach.
“She was definitely one of my inspirations growing up and she was definitely somebody I looked up to,” the 18-year-old Heroes star says.
However, while Jolie is a strong advocate for humanitarian causes, the Heroes star is making headlines for her work to Save the Whales. An arrest warrant was issued for Panettiere in Japan after she and other activists paddled on surfboards into a cove in an attempt to protect dolphins facing slaughter from local fishermen.
“I grew up near the Hudson River in New York. I didn’t grow up in the water; I don’t surf. People think I surf because of the footage. I was just in a panic and happened to paddle really fast – I was hauling butt!” she said.
Reflecting on the experience, she later told PEOPLE, “It caused a great amount of stir.” In a town where “people like to see young girls in Hollywood get arrested,” Panettiere said there’s been discussion of returning to Japan, but “we don’t have a reason why we would, and we don’t know of any good that could come of it at the moment… [but] I don’t mind getting arrested.”
She credits the success of Heroes with helping to give her the power to bring attention to these types of issues. But, she adds, the show’s success can be viewed in yet another way: “It completely ruined my personal life. I mean, you walk out the door and you’ve got ten cameras in your face. Obviously everything in my life is on display whether it be true or false – 99 percent of it false.”
For now, Panettiere says her job is her social life, and she prefers a quiet night at home over the club scene. “At home in bed with a movie and pizza and good friends,” she described as her ideal Friday night. “I’d probably be watching Little Britain, a BBC TV show. It is phenomenal.”
And her dating life since she turned 18? “I’m not really a chain dater, and I’m not someone who kind of gives herself easily. So, I think it’s attracting creepy old men, but I guess it’s changed a little bit,” she said. When asked if she has anyone special in her life, Panettiere coyly responded: “I don’t know. I have a lot of special people in my life.”
Meanwhile, she is more vocal on how she deals with the pressures of body image as a young woman in Hollywood, particularly amidst criticism of Jennifer Love Hewitt’s recent bikini shots.
“Did you see TMZ the other day where I bent over and they took a picture of me, and there was a whole conversation on whether I had cottage cheese thighs or not?” she asked. “It makes me feel awful. I’m sorry, but no woman looks good under overhead lighting. It was not good lighting.
“I’m a teenage girl and I have the same body issues,” she adds. “There are parts of my body that I don’t mind, and there’re parts of my body that I absolutely can’t stand. And I don’t need somebody pointing them out to me, because trust me, I know they’re there. You don’t need to tell anyone else about it. It doesn’t need to be strewn across a magazine. It’s my business. And the fact that you don’t have anything better to talk about than my thigh fat is absolutely absurd. It just goes to show you the pathetic people in this world. I give Jennifer Love Hewitt all the support in the world. She’s beautiful.”