Blessed with blonde good looks and 36-inch pins, fitness trainer Penny Lancaster wasn't long in being spotted by a model scout. She also caught the attention of rock legend Rod Stewart, who immortalized her most recognisable assets with the nickname 'Hot Legs'.
She wasn't always proud of her now famous figure, however. "At school I towered over both boys and girls and was dreadfully skinny," she recalls. "I hated my 36-inch legs and would wear three pairs of thick tights to lend them bulk." Little did she know that they would one day end up on the cover of one of Rod Stewart's albums.
Born on March 15, 1971, in Chelmsford, Essex, Penny was a naturally athletic youngster. At an early age she developed a love for dance, and had dreams of turning professional one day, but a passion for aerobics took over and she became a fitness instructor, like her brother Oliver.
When a scout suggested the 6ft 1in stunner could have a more lucrative career in modelling, she changed tack. But it was her interest in what happened behind the camera that would lead to her chance encounter with husky-voiced Rod, 26 years her senior. They met at a Christmas party in 1998, shortly after he'd split from wife Rachel Hunter, when Penny was a shy photography student. Egged on by a friend, she asked him for his autograph, and he invited her to take some photos at a concert. Nine months later he called to ask if he could see the pictures - and take her out for dinner.
While their romance went from strength to strength, so did her career. She landed photography assignments for HELLO! magazine and became the face of Ultimo lingerie. In 2004, however, a calculated publicity move by the underwear firm saw her replaced by Rod's estranged wife Rachel, leading to some sections of the media trying to pit the glamorous pair against each other. Penny moved on from the incident by returning to her roots to bring out a best-selling fitness DVD, entitled Ultimate Body Workout.
In March 2005, seven years after their first meeting, Rod asked Penny to be his wife - despite not yet being divorced from Rachel - in a romantic proposal featuring a £20,000 engagement ring atop the Eiffel Tower. Not long afterwards Penny discovered she was expecting the couple's first child, leading to wedding plans being put on hold until after the birth. Alastair Wallace Stewart was born on November 27, 2005.
One June 16, 2007, with his divorce from Rachel finalised, Rod made his third trip down the aisle. He and Penny, whom he describes as a "gentle soul", married in Portofino, Italy. It proved the fairytale ending to a courtship that had spanned almost eight years. "Everything seems to fit so perfectly together like a puzzle," she says. "I often pinch myself and think, 'Gosh, everything is so perfect.' Then I start to panic because how can everything be so wonderful? But it is, and we couldn't be happier together."