Hayden Panettiere has been in the limelight for nearly two decades, but says walking the red carpet is “so new” again after undergoing treatment for postpartum depression.
“It feels different for me because of things that I’ve gone through recently, over the last year,” the Nashville star told PEOPLE exclusively on the red carpet for the Critics’ Choice Awards. “I’ve really gone, ‘You know what, I’ve been in this industry for so long, forget it!’ I’ve been hiding myself. Just putting out the smiling face, showing people this, and allowing that veil to come down — it’s like a weight off my shoulders.”
She adds, “I’m 26 years old. I’m a mom. I don’t need to be afraid of what people are going to think. I saw how much people rallied behind me when I was honest, and I didn’t know that honesty could be such a gift.”
Sunday night marked Panettiere’s first U.S. red carpet appearance since entering treatment in October, and the actress says she enjoyed walking in front of the cameras “so much more because I don’t feel like I have to hide anymore.”