"She's not from these parts and she's not from Washington," is how presidential hopeful John McCain introduced his chosen running mate, Sarah Palin at an Ohio rally in August 2008. "She stands up for what's right and she doesn't let anyone tell her to sit down."
At the time, the mum-of-five and former beauty queen was little known outside Alaska, the state of which she is governor. That would rapidly change. The world's press eagerly set about answering the question of who was this straight-talking, determined woman who had had seemingly come from nowhere to be in the running for a role alongside one of the most important positions in the world?
Sarah Louise Heath was born in Idaho on February 11, 1964, the third of four children of school secretary Sarah and Charles, a science teacher and track coach. When Sarah was still a toddler the family moved to Wasilla, a tiny Alaskan town of just under 10,000 inhabitants.
As a youngster she excelled at sports, regularly going for ten kilometre runs with her father and captaining her high school basketball team. She is still remembered for winning an Alaska schools basketball championship in 1982 by landing a free throw in the final seconds of the game, despite a stress fracture in her ankle.
At school she met future husband Todd Palin, with whom she later eloped to spare her parents the expense of a white wedding. The couple have five children: sons Track - born in 1989 a soldier in the US Army; and Trig, who was diagnosed with Downe's Syndrome when he arrived in 2008. They are also parents to three girls: Bristol, born 1990; Willow, who arrived five years later; and Piper, whom the couple welcomed in 2001.
A former Miss Wasilla 1984 and runner up in the Alaska beauty pageant, Sarah worked with her husband who's part Inuit and a champion snow-mobiler as a commercial fisherman. She went on to land a role as a TV reporter before launching her political career.
Her involvement in public service started in 1992 when she joined the local council, presenting herself as a "new face and new voice". Four years later, aged 32, she was mayor.
Since then she's picked up a reputation for tackling corruption, having led an investigation into ethics violations by state Republicans while serving on the Alaska Oil And Gas Conservation Commission in 2003. A supporter of gun rights, she's keen on hunting and fishing and said to enjoy eating moose hamburgers.
The woman who describes herself as "just an average hockey mom", made history in 2006 when she became the youngest person, and first woman, to be elected state governor of Alaska. The announcement in 2008 that she was a candidate for the Republican vice presidential role - the first time a woman has been put forward was equally groundbreaking.
While critics expressed doubts over her lack of international inexperience - she's travelled little overseas and $150,000 campaign wardrobe spend, she's credited with introducing reform during her first two terms in office as Alaska's governor and is seen as having strong principles and sense of compassion.
"She has the grit, integrity, good sense and fierce devotion to the common good that is exactly what we need in Washington today," said the Republican Party leader.