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Edwards mistress Rielle Hunter changes names, images

  • Story Highlights
  • Rielle Hunter was party girl who became spiritual, acquaintances say
  • Filmmaker says she met former Sen. John Edwards by chance
  • Edwards' wife says Hunter approached him at hotel, said, "You're so hot"
  • Hunter has avoided spotlight since birth of child; paternity never stated
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(CNN) -- Rielle Hunter, the woman at the center of the John Edwards sex scandal, has been known variously as a spiritual seeker, an aspiring actress, a party girl and a political operative, according to media reports.

A video image shows Rielle Hunter arriving at the federal courthouse in Raleigh, North Carolina, on August 6.

A video image shows Rielle Hunter arriving at the federal courthouse in Raleigh, North Carolina, on August 6.

Last year, after months of denials, Edwards admitted having an affair with Hunter while he was campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2006.

Edwards' campaign paid Hunter $114,000 to make a series of short webisode videos about his presidential campaign, and she traveled extensively with the candidate's entourage.

Edwards denies that he is the father of a baby Hunter bore in February 2008, saying the affair was over before she became pregnant.

Former Edwards aide Andrew Young claimed the baby was his. But Young later said that the former senator is the father and that his paternity claim had been made at Edwards' request. Hunter has not said who the father is. Video Watch Hunter and baby arrive at federal court »

"Rielle is the black sheep of the family. We were all raised the same way. She chose a different path," Hunter's sister, Roxanne Marshall, told People magazine in August 2008.

Hunter, born Lisa Druck in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, was known for her partying ways as a young adult in New York, novelist Jay McInerney told People. He said Hunter, whom he dated for a while, and her friends inspired his book "Story of My Life."

After moving to Los Angeles, California, in 1991, she married Alexander Hunter III, according to the Raleigh (North Carolina) News & Observer. They divorced in 2000. Video Watch how a scandal might not wreck a career »

Hunter explored New Age spiritualism. She called her co-stars in the play "Savage in Limbo" together and burned herbs in the theater "to clear the space of bad spirits and bring in the good ones," actress Elizabeth Dennehy told People. "But it was all meaningful and earnest."

Hunter changed her first name to Rielle in 1994 because "it just came to her," publicist Pigeon O'Brien, a longtime acquaintance, told People.

The movie Web site imdb.com lists Hunter under several names, as a writer, producer and actress, having appeared on screen in four films. She's the co-founder of Midline Groove Productions, a New Jersey-based production company.

Hunter told the television show "Extra" that she met Edwards by chance in 2006 when she was 42.

"It was a random meeting. He was in a business meeting in New York, and I was in the same place," she said.

Edwards' wife, Elizabeth, related to talk show host Oprah Winfrey how her husband described the beginning of the affair.

"She was standing in front of the hotel and said to him, 'You are so hot.' I can't deliver it, because I don't know how to deliver such lines," she told Winfrey. "But 'You are so hot' are the words she said to him."

The tabloid National Enquirer first reported in October 2007 that Edwards had engaged in an affair, but he denied it for months. He finally acknowledged the liaison in an August 2008 interview with ABC's "Nightline" as the Enquirer's reporting gained momentum, including the publication of a photo the tabloid said showed Edwards holding the baby.

Hunter has shunned publicity since the affair became public. She spent an entire day in August at the federal courthouse in Raleigh, North Carolina. A federal grand jury is investigating payments to Hunter's production company, but officials would not say whether the grand jury was meeting on the day of Hunter's visit to the courthouse.

Since the birth of her daughter, according to ABC, Hunter has assumed aliases and resided in various expensive homes in North Carolina and, more recently, in Santa Barbara, California.

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Edwards has denied giving any money to Hunter for anything other than her campaign work.

Fred Baron, the finance chairman for the Edwards presidential campaign, told ABC that he used his personal resources to help Hunter move out of North Carolina and did not tell Edwards about the assistance, which consisted of access to jets, homes, cars and cash.

All About Rielle HunterJohn EdwardsElizabeth EdwardsOprah Winfrey

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