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Hayden Panettiere said Thursday that she might never have been involved in a recent protest in which she tried to save the dolphins in Japan without inspiration and influence she's gotten through her hit TV series, Heroes.

The NBC show "is about being a hero. And you know, Heroes has kinda rubbed off on me," the 18-year-old Panettiere said on The Ellen DeGeneres Show.

Hayden Panettiere Fashion

"I don't think if I was as recognizable in the public eye that it would have made as much of an impact," Hayden told Ellen DeGeneres.

Panettiere took part in an anti-whaling protest in Japan last month with a group called Sea Shepherd. The activists paddled on surfboards to confront fishermen who slaughter dolphins for food but were driven back - and in a video shot by Sky News, Panettiere was seen weeping when she got back to the shore.

Hayden Panettiere said that while she was afraid of the fishermen, and possible sharks in the water, that faded when she saw the dolphins.

"Every ounce of fear disappeared just watching those animals," Hayden said. "They know exactly what is going to happen, and as soon as they felt our presence, and knew that we were coming in peace... All we wanted to do was go and cut them out of [their enclosure], and we couldn't."

Ellen Degeneres, a noted animal lover, told Panettiere, "I admire and respect you and all the people who do that for a living for being able to witness it."

Hayden Panettiere added that the group's mission extends beyond interfering with the dolphin hunts, and is more educational than known by the public.

"We are trying to educate people that whale and dolphin meat is highly toxic," she said. "They are basically poisoning themselves by eating them."

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Sexy, smiley and sweaty? Hayden Panettiere was spotted at her Los Angeles area gym this week, where she endured a tough, early morning workout.

The Heroes babe was in good spirits, and heck, why not!? The Writers Guild of America is on strike, and that meant no work for Hayden Monday. Wooo!

Hayden Panettiere: Sexy Cowgirl

Whether she's preparing for some new stunts as alter ego Claire Bennet, or for her next dolphin protest, it's good to see Hayden Panettiere staying in shape.

It's not good for the long run, of course. Heroes is reportedly planning to film an alternate ending for its December 3 episode, which would serve as the Season Two finale in case the strike impedes further production. Yikes.

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Many fans believe that Heroes has jumped the shark ... or at least gotten off to a slow start in Season Two. Is the photo below somehow symbolic?

Not at all. But it did provide us with a terribly lame segue. We apologize. You can't deny that it's a cute Hayden Panettiere photo, however (as are most)!

Panettiere in Hawaii

We know that to Hayden Panettiere, saving the dolphins and bringing attention to their plight is a very important cause. But she's also a fan of sharks... at least large stuffed ones and new movies revolving around them!

Here, Hayden hangs out with a fierce looking fellow at the Los Angeles premiere of the award-winning documentary, Sharkwater, Thursday. We heart her!

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We know she's out to save the world (and save the dolphin), but how does Heroes actress Hayden Panettiere match up in a fashion face-off against Jane Seymour?

Hayden dazzled in this hot turquoise Dina Bar-El in September at a Declare Yourself event, while the Dancing with the Stars contender and former Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman showed off her fit figure in a satin sheath at a movie premiere recently.

Kylie Jenner Fashion

Hayden Panettiere vs. Jane Seymour: It's a difficult battle. Which star would you rather ... see in this dress at a formal affair? You tell us, celebrity fashion fans.

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She may not be indestructible like her kick-ass TV persona, but Heroes cheerleader Hayden Panettiere is trying to save the world in her own way, and we commend her for it.

The 18-year-old actress was involved in a confrontation with Japanese fishermen this week as she tried to disrupt a dolphin slaughter that takes place annually.

A Pretty Panettiere Pic

Along with five other marine activists, Hayden paddled out on a surfboard to reach a pod of dolphins to stop them from being driven into a nearby cove and killed.

But the six surfers, from Australia and the United States, were intercepted by a fishing boat before they could reach the dolphins.

The fishermen used the boat's propellers to block their way and at one point struck out at Hayden Panettiere and company with a boathook.

It was an ugly, potentially life-threatening confrontation that lasted more than 10 minutes before the surfers were forced to return to the beach.

It is believed that the dolphins were later taken into the cove and killed.

A keen surfer and committed marine conservationist who is a supporter of the campaign to save Japan's dolphins, Hayden Panettiere said:

"It was really frightening. Some of us were hit by the boathook. But in the end all we really worried about was the dolphins. It was so incredibly sad. We were so close to them and they were sky hopping, jumping out of the water to see us."

Breaking down in tears, the Heroes starlet added: "One little baby dolphin stuck his head out of the water and kinda looked at me and the thought that it's no longer with us is really hard to take."

Following the incident, the surfers drove straight to Osaka airport and left the country to avoid arrest by the Japanese national police.

All would have been charged with criminal trespassing, but Hayden Panettiere is now back in Los Angeles on the set of her hit TV series.

More than 22,000 dolphins are slaughtered by fishermen in Japan every year. The hunt continues despite worldwide condemnation.

In Taijie, more than 2,000 are killed in a season. Many Japanese believe dolphins should be treated like fish. They have been hunting the mammals for centuries and see criticism of this as an attack on their culture.

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When celebrities wear the same hot dresses, our staffers have no choice but to do a celebrity fashion face-off. Especially if it's a couple of cuties like Jessica Simpson and Hayden Panettiere donning the stuff. But who will prevail?

The Heroes actress hit the streets of Manhattan in her "What Comes Around Goes Around minidress back in September, while the "singer" dazzled in a very similar sequined minidress at a Clothes Off Our Backs event in L.A. Peep it:

Celebrating Simpsons

Who wore it better, Hayden or Jessica? You tell us!

If you ask The Hollywood Gossip, we'd have to take Hayden Panettiere. We like our celebrity fashion goddesses young, and compared to the Heroes star, Jessica is downright menopausal. Sorry, Jessica, you're sooooooo 2001.
Plus, Hayden has an I.Q. over 75 and doesn't get fingered by Cheri Oteri.

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The tight pair of buns below - covered by the shortest of short shorts - belongs to everyone's favorite TV cheerleader, Heroes' Hayden Panettiere. Yowza.

We have no comment you haven't heard some version of before, or that doesn't make us incredibly dirty, so we'll just shut up and let you enjoy the pic ...

Curly-Haired Hayden

Hayden, who was recently presented a gold ring - a belated birthday present from "friend" and Heroes co-star Milo Ventimiglia - might want to pawn it and buy some jeans. Otherwise, not a lot of work is gonna get done around here.

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They may deny any sort of romance, and Heroes co-stars James Kyson Lee, Masi Oka and Kristen Bell have all said on the record that they're not hitting it.

But Milo Ventimiglia and Hayden Panettiere are SO hitting it.

A Cute Girl

Deny it all you want, Halo and friends. You're not fooling The Hollywood Gossip. Remember, Heroes fans. Masi Oka is a time-traveler, not a fortune teller.

The latest Halo proof - evidence that Milo Ventimiglia has been showing Hayden Panettiere his affections in a manner not consistent with mere friendship?

He bought her a ring.

A ring from Tiffany & Co.

According to In Touch Weekly, Milo, 30, gave Hayden an 18-karat gold ring - one karat for each year she's been alive! The ring is worth $1,950 and is her belated birthday present.

The sultry Hayden Panettiere, of course, became able to legally have relations - with voting machines! - back in August.

The ring Milo bought Hayden, called Somerset Heart, features a woven band and a heart, and according to the magazine, is inscribed:

"Sweet like Hayden."

Awww. We think it's sweet. And sexy. Frankly, we're not sure what the scandal is here.

Co-workers date all the time. Hayden's an adult, and should be able to see Milo Ventimiglia shirtless all she wants. If Woody Allen can marry his adopted daughter, we don't see the problem in 18 and 30-year-olds tanging it.

Go Halo!

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With roles on two hot television shows this fall, Kristen Bell is giving Lauren Conrad a run for her adorable, blonde money. Plus, she can actually act!

Below, Kristen Bell joins her Heroes co-star, Hayden Panettiere - quite the pair of cuties, we'd say - at a Christian Louboutin cocktail party hosted by Saks Fifth Avenue & Style.com at Hollywood's S Bar on Wednesday.

A Cute Girl

Bell, the former star of Veronica Mars, has signed on for a 13-episode story arc on Heroes, and is reportedly being considered as a full-time cast member after that.

She also serves as the mysterious narrator on The CW's Gossip Girl - Kristen Bell voices the mysterious girl who blogs high school gossip. It's actually a pretty good show, for those of you who haven't checked it out.

As for Bell's counterpart in the picture above, she's everywhere these days - and the 18-year-old starlet with beauty and brains is quite the fashion connoisseur.

"These were my birthday gift," Hayden Panettiere said of the black peep-toe shoes she wore in honor of designer Christian Louboutin. "I'm addicted!"

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We love Hayden Panettiere, and a big part of our infatuation is due to that hot, sexy ... brain of hers! She knows it, too. Here our girl Hayden is sporting a shirt proclaiming "This Girl's a Genius" as she exits the hot Koi restaurant in L.A. with mother and manager Lesley Panettiere. Anything but coy, if you ask us!

Smokin' Hayden

Hayden Panettiere: Beauty and brains! Sign us up!

She might be a girl genius who's on the market, as well. If you believe her co-star Kristen Bell, at least - Bell burst the Halo (Hayden Panettiere, Milo Ventimiglina) bubble at The Alliance for Children's Rights benefit in Beverly Hills.

"[Hayden and Milo Ventimiglia] are great friends. They're not dating," she said.

Well, that officially settles that. Okay, not really. This could be just a conspiracy... one that is being very well covered up. Go Halo!