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Hayden Panettiere: 'Living in Nashville Gives Me a Sense of Normalcy'

02/18/2014 at 10:00 AM EST

Hayden Panettiere: 'Living in Nashville Gives Me a Sense of Normalcy'
Hayden Panettiere
Jeremy Cowart for Southern Living
Hayden Panettiere's heart might belong to fiancé Wladimir Klitschko, but it also belongs to Dixie.

"I like being in a place where people appreciate the little things and don't need a lot of stuff to be happy," the Nashville star tells Southern Living for its March cover story, which features a celebrity on its front for the first time in its 48-year history.

"At my core, this is the kind of person I am and want to be."

Hayden Panettiere: 'Living in Nashville Gives Me a Sense of Normalcy'| Nashville, Nashville, Hayden Panettiere

Hayden Panettiere

Jeremy Cowart for Southern Living

The New York native, 24, moved to Music City when she landed the role of Juliette Barnes on the ABC drama, and found such a home in the country music capital that she and Klitschko decided to plant permanent roots in the city and buy a home.



"Living in Nashville gives me a sense of normalcy that I wasn't sure I was ever going to get back in my life," she shares.

"When I first got here, all my defenses were still up, and I was waiting for that world to suddenly creep back in. When it didn't, I realized that I can live a normal life here with people who don't judge you based on what you do or who you are in the public eye."

Hayden Panettiere: 'Living in Nashville Gives Me a Sense of Normalcy'| Nashville, Nashville, Hayden Panettiere

Southern Living

Jeremy Cowart for Southern Living

Another fringe benefit to Nashville living for the actress and activist? Its approach to style.

"It's a lot more laid-back, which suits me better," says Panettiere, who wears a Tadashi Shoji dress on the cover.



"In L.A. and New York you go out to lunch and everyone is wearing high heels. In Nashville if I see someone wearing heels, I get the sense they might not be from around here."

Plus, she can't help but fall in love with those pointed Southern expressions. Her favorite? "Bless her heart."

"There is so much context there," says Panettiere. "So much more is said with those three words."

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