The Big Bang Theory has come a long way from its 2007 debut, and over ten seasons later, we're still loving it. Tens of millions of us have followed this show's eccentric nerds, and while four of the main cast are guys, a certain blonde with a twinkle in her eye remains a firm favorite. Played by Kaley Cuoco, Penny hit our screens in season one, and her naive-yet-tough persona, hilarious sense of humor, and surprising street smarts have won our hearts. Penny is the glue that holds the group together, and despite the innocent charm she displayed in early seasons, she's grown into a sassy, self-sufficient woman. Just like her personality, her style has evolved to match.
She's the object of Leonard's affection, the ultimate annoyance to genius, Sheldon, and the envy of his eventual girlfriend, Amy. Whether Penny is doing laundry, driving Sheldon around, or joining the crew for their many take-out dinners, there's never a dull moment with her. The cast's earnings sky-rocketed in later seasons, as it was confirmed they were earning a staggering $1 million per episode. While this figure was eventually lowered to $900,000 to allow other cast members to take a raise, the quality of their performance has never wavered. Likewise, Penny's spotlight effect has never faded. Here are 15 ways she just kept on shining.
20 She Went From Cute And Innocent To A Stunner
Penny caught our eye (and Leonard's) in season one as the cute blonde in apartment 4B. Despite overcoming her career troubles, she never lost her girl-next-door appeal. Casual shirts and shorts are her go-to style (not surprising, given that the show is set in sunny California). Meanwhile, pastel pinks, blues, and yellows are her colors. Given the number of unpredictable triple-knock "Penny" interruptions she undergoes from Sheldon, we also see her in her PJs a lot. As her personality and eventual career in pharmaceuticals evolve though, we see her turn more stylish and definitely more beautiful. Physics genius? Perhaps not. Fashion icon? Definitely.
19 She Managed To Pull Off Being A Total Nerd
Being surrounded by nerds can mean their traits rub off on you. Despite her shallow persona and ditzy lines, Penny quickly picks up on the nerdy mannerisms she's surrounded by – sometimes to her own horror. Fans will forever remember this shot of her, where taking up gaming quickly became an addiction, and we see her dishevelled, with Cheetos in her hair (which she just picks out and eats). She's further horrified when she catches herself quoting science fiction – although boyfriend and eventual husband, Leonard didn't seem to mind. "Oh my god," he says, "I'm lying in bed with a beautiful woman who can quote Yoda." The crazy thing? Even during her gaming frenzy, she still looked gorgeous.
18 She Rocked Bangs
Early seasons saw Penny rock her blonde locks with bangs, and they really played into her girl-next-door appeal. Like this shot, where she looks cute as a button (although her charm is somewhat lost on Sheldon). Whether they were side-swept of full-on, bangs framed Penny's face perfectly, even if her real life situation as a struggling actress was less easy-going. Bangs even featured in a more sophisticated look when she drastically cut her hair into a pixie crop, but we'll get to that one. Okay, so there's unlikely to be a spin off called Penny's Bangs Theory, but the show is popular enough to have Young Sheldon now airing. Unlikely he was that fussed about his hair, though.
17 She Had Long Layered Blonde Locks
Penny's free-flowing hair always looks perfect – well, nearly always. Layers give hair a lot of body, as does a variation in color. In early seasons, Penny was full blonde. She took on some flattering darker lowlights in others, but the look was always flawless. She may not be a hairdresser by profession (although fans learn Penny used to cut her brother's hair), but she sure manages to keep her own locks looking good. Okay, so she may lack multiple diplomas in advanced physics, but hey! She knows ten different ways to make layers work, and isn't gravity involved in that, somewhere?
16 Then There Was The Pixie Cut (Does It Ever End?)
Penny's hair made waves in season eight, as she opted to replace her trademark long style with a sassy pixie cut. It definitely matched her character's professional evolvement, as she transitioned from Cheesecake Factory waitress to pharmaceuticals rep. In an interview with Ellen Degeneres, actress, Kaley revealed she'd actually had the cut on her mind for a while. The decision was her own, and the show catered to it. The response was mixed – many fans welcomed the sharp aspect, but a fair few of us missed the old Penny. She did eventually grow it out again, so I guess we could say it ended in a good way for everyone.
15 Her Wardrobe Embraced Her Fitness
Despite her lazy image and messy apartment, Penny embraces her fitness – at least some of the time. In season seven, we see her attempt to help Sheldon relax by practicing yoga, and it looks like blue is her favorite color when it comes to the zen-like exercise. She wore the same shade in a different episode, where the pixie crop saw her balance out more than just her hair – she was standing on one leg. To be fair though, Penny has a lot to balance, in general. Living across the hall from Sheldon is hardly easy work. Of course, there's also that hilarious hallway scene where Penny and Sheldon prepare to go for a run.
14 It Definitely Embraced Her New Job
Penny never concealed being downright bored with her waitressing job at The Cheesecake Factory. On the multiple occasions her own friends were the diners she was serving, that quickly turned into frustration. Fans are well aware that Sheldon's stringent menu requests are hardly the standard order. In later seasons though, it's onwards and upwards for Penny, as she embarks on a career in pharmaceuticals. The change brings in more cash, and most notably, a more professional wardrobe. Out go the flannel shirts and beachy shorts, and they're quickly replaced with smart pant suits (usually in shades of black or brown).
13 Although Her Old One Had Its Own Style
Working at The Cheesecake Factory might have its pros (namely the free food), but it also comes with a uniform. Whether Penny was prepping orders for Sheldon's barbecue bacon cheeseburger (with the barbecue sauce, bacon and cheese on the side), or catering to Leonard's lactose intolerance, we sure saw a lot that yellow outfit. Given the amount of time Penny also spends arguing or helping out her friends in the hallway, this is a girl who wears her work wardrobe off-shift, too. White shirt? Check. Sleeveless yellow tank? Check. Knee-length denim skirt? Check. Of course, there was that amusing period when Howard's girlfriend, Bernadette was also working there...
12 Somehow, She Wore A Lot Of Yellow
Oh, Penny. There you are again, being a good friend to a desperate Sheldon – not to mention working for low pay. While Penny's wardrobe features a range of bright colors overall, we can't help but notice the amount of yellow she seems to wear. First there were the yellow t-shirts.Then the white-embellished, yellow halter necks. Not that it gets very cold in California, but we did even see her wear some yellow sweaters. The color even pops up in Leonard and Penny's bed linens, although given the gorgeous girl he was lying next to, we're not sure Leonard noticed the color scheme. Penny in buttercup yellow. What a little ray of sunshine.
11 She Rocked The Comfortable Look All The Way Through
For someone so obsessed with her appearance, Penny's wardrobe is surprisingly relaxed. Still, it's (nearly) always stylish. Penny is a big fan of plaid shirts and jeans, although we equally see her in loose t-shirts and sweats, generally on her more stressed occasions. Penny rocks "casual and comfortable" effortlessly, which turns amusing once fellow cast member, Amy is introduced. Amy is hilarious, but her awkward fashion sense is way behind (although much like the gang of guys, her brain power is light years ahead). Penny wouldn't be seen dead in a mom skirt or dull-shaded sweater. Casual is her motto, so it's lots of shorts, tank tops, cute shirts, and PJs. Of course, there are occasions like this pic, where she's gone so casual, she's actually out-dressed by Sheldon!
10 But She Knew How To Turn It Up A Notch
Despite spending the majority of her time in comfort gear, Penny knows how to turn up the ante – particularly for a night out. She looks gorgeous in this little black number, which of course, she's paired with cute heels. This racy outfit isn't the only time we've seen Penny turn it up a notch, though. In season six, she wore a similarly eye-catching number as fellow characters, Leonard, Raj, Sheldon, and Barry Kripke battle for tenure candidacy. It's a pity the evening was dedicated to science (and not fashion). Penny would've been a clear winner. Solving the mysteries of outer space? Like we have the time. #outfitgoals? That's more like it.
9 Fashion Comes First (Even When You're Heading To The ER)
Penny's commitment to her appearance literally knows no bounds. In season three, following a slip in the shower that led to a dislocated shoulder, she's assisted by Sheldon (who blames the incident on the lack of "adhesive ducks," you know, for traction). He helps Penny prepare for a trip to the ER, although the rush is slightly side-tracked when she asks him to pick out clothes for the journey. Unimpressed with his choices, she says: "Seriously? Those shorts with that top?" Well, you gotta look your best for a trip out. Yes, even when it's to the ER.
8 Keeping Her Amazing Wardrobe From Pizza Is Important!
We all know food and cute outfits are a hazard. Especially when that food is gooey pizza or awkward Chinese takeout (don't pretend you've mastered chopsticks). In this episode, where Penny and Sheldon are indulging in a nice slice of pizza, Penny seems to have got it under control with a suspiciously "sauce-proof" sweater. Considering the amount of time she spends eating on the couch, we're pretty amazed in general at her ability to keep food from dripping down her shirts. Of course, sitting on that couch comes with a lot more challenges – like making sure you steer clear of a certain spot...
7 She Rocked Some Matching Outfits
Aww, don't they look adorable? The Collaboration Fluctuation in season ten saw Penny and Raj indulge in some bonding time (although fans haven't forgotten the other "bonding" time they had a while back). In this episode, Leonard isn't too comfortable with the two of them wearing moisturizing face masks. It looks like he didn't have much of a choice with the whole "matching" theme either, as the his 'n' hers shirts prove. Fortunately, the Penny and Leonard bond seems to be written in the stars, although that makes us wonder. What would Leonard's scientific response to that be? Probably a theoretically calculated equation, which Sheldon would disagree with. Oh, no. That could end really badly.
6 Wedding Looks Are The Best, Though
Who doesn't love a show where the lovebirds get married? Although Penny and Leonard's relationship has its ups and downs (not to mention a touch of infidelity on Leonard's part), fans went nuts when they were treated to not one, but two weddings. While their first one is at a Las Vegas chapel, fans were most enthusiastic about the second nuptials. It means so much more when your friends are there, right? The show is pretty big on marriage, with Bernadette and Howard also tying the knot. As to Sheldon who, let's face it, we never even thought would be in a relationship – he too has found love. Well, his version of it. And he proposed! Yay, marriage!
5 This Look Would Be Perfect For Valentine's Day
And it was. Penny wore this red little number in season six, as she accompanies boyfriend, Leonard on a double dinner date with Howard and Bernadette. While Leonard was inspired to get down on one knee, the night itself didn't end in an accepted proposal. In fact, Penny can be pretty hard on Leonard. Particularly when it comes to accusing him of "proposing too much." Still, we can't blame him. A total nerd (who's also totally insecure) doesn't just get together with the beautiful blonde across the hall. He gets her to fall in love with him. Leonard and Penny do eventually get engaged, although for this particular night, it was just a very red-themed Valentine's.
4 She Always Was The Laundry Queen
This show just keeps getting better and better. Despite their dramas and busy careers, the crew seem to spend an inordinate amount of time in the basement doing laundry. While you'd think that'd get boring really fast, it never does. While Sheldon is especially particular about his routines (and all the folding that accompanies it), Penny is more laid-back. Well, when it comes to doing the laundry – not the arguments that inevitably make their way in. Considering most of us look a complete mess doing laundry, we're giving you this one, Penny. You can pull off holding laundry baskets and still look sensational. You officially get Laundry Queen status.
3 She Was Also The Queen Of Style While Driving (Despite The "Check Engine" Light)
Okay, so Penny isn't the best driver. She certainly doesn't pay much attention to warning signs, like the "check engine light," which was a recurring gag in early seasons. Still, she uses her vehicle a lot. In early seasons, it's mostly to help her friends – namely Sheldon, who does not drive, but needs regular lifts to his job at Caltech University. Penny's car seems to follow her wherever she goes, including, er, running. "Relax," Leonard tells her. "I know when you 'go for a run', you stop for a donut." Her response? "I don't even run there, I drive." Hands up who would also be tempted to ignore the "check engine" light if a donut was on offer...
2 She Looked Awesome With Glasses
Penny definitely proved she belongs in the gang with this shot of her "scientist glasses." Although we don't see her wearing them much, they definitely check the "yes" box for her compatibility with Leonard (who is rarely seen without his pair). Glasses are often associated with nerds, although a lot of celebs (like Kendall Jenner) have shown us they can easily become a fashion statement. A fair few of the show's cast don't have 20/20 vision (Amy, Bernadette, and Leslie Winkle), although of course, superior Sheldon rocks clarity all the way. In this scene, Penny shows us that she too can be a nerd. Although given her quotes and behaviors, we kind of already knew that.
1 She Won Leonard's Heart (And Ours) With That Smile
Whether she was dressed up to the nines, or in baggy sweatpants, it's Penny's heart-warming smile that won us over – and Leonard. Sure, she started off a little naive. Still, whether she was being cute and innocent or cracking hilarious jokes, Penny's greatest asset has always been her adorable smile. It lights up any room she's in, and we noticed it from the very first episode. We've seen her shed a few tears, especially when she felt her heart was being broken, but somehow she always found a way to rise back to the surface. That smile's earned the actress big bucks, but admit it. When Penny smiles, you melt a bit inside.