May 25, 2005 02:00 PM

After first taking a look at the stars on the Hollywood Boulevard Walk of Fame in 1988, Renée Zellweger got one of her own on Tuesday.

“I was so excited to be here, and I had my fingers crossed really tightly that one day I could participate in some small way in this medium that I love so much,” she said at her unveiling. “But I got to tell you that I never ever imagined a day like this, or that I would be invited to be part of this legacy.”

The native Texan, 36, whose new movie with Russell Crowe, Cinderella Man, is being called the year’s first serious Oscar contender, has already had quite a year. She married country music star Kenny Chesney in a small ceremony May 9 on the Caribbean island of St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands.

During an appearance on Tuesday night’s Tonight Show, Jay Leno displayed a wedding photo of Zellweger and her new hubby on the beach and joked: “And you still have not seen him without his hat, is that true?” to which Zellweger beamed and replied: “Isn’t he cute?”

When asked if it was love at first sight between the newlyweds (who first met in January at NBC’s Concert of Hope tsunami telethon), Zellweger said: “No, I was concentrating. I was doing my job. ? I mean it was nice. He came over and said, ‘Hi’ afterward.”

A friend of Zellweger’s told PEOPLE that the actress, hoping to meet Chesney, “was going to pass him a note” at the telethon. But in a bit of high school meets Hollywood, the couple’s respective publicists chatted and told Chesney of Zellweger’s interest. “When the broadcast wrapped, he went over and said, ‘I hear you are trying to pass me a note – don’t let the principal find out,'” says the friend. The two then exchanged phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and the couple began corresponding.

As for meeting the country star’s family, Zellweger said it was “sometime at the beginning of the summer I guess. They’re so great, such nice people,” then added: “Uncle Butch, I owe you a phone call.”

Zellweger explained that when she met Chesney’s uncle, he jokingly asked her if she had a job or if she was on welfare.

“I told him no, I was technically currently unemployed,” she told Leno. “So Uncle Butch I’m going to call you tomorrow because today I got a job and I am employed and I will call you tomorrow and tell you all about it.”

Her upcoming film Cinderella Man, opens nationwide on June 3.

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