No. 6: Rielle Hunter

Rielle Hunter has flitted, like a wild-tressed blonde butterfly, around the edges of fame, or infamy, throughout her life. Born Lisa Jo Druck to a family of race-horse breeders, she was an accomplished equestrian who found herself in the thick of an insurance fraud scandal: Her father was implicated in a scheme to electrocute horses for insurance money — including Lisa’s show jumper, Henry the Hawk. Little wonder the rich girl ran wild and loose in the late-’80s New York club scene, so wild that her life provided the basis for then-boyfriend Jay McInerney‘s “Story of My Life” and his drug-gobbling, “sexually voracious” party-girl character, Alison Poole. Acting ambitions and actual writing work for TV and movies brought Hunter out west, where she met and wed Alexander M. Hunter III.

They later divorced, and she finally got her groove on as the founder of Midline Groove Productions. Upon meeting Edwards in a New York restaurant, she came on to him by declaring, “You are so hot.” She pitched the idea of traveling with candidate Edwards and creating a series of video Webisodes of his campaign, hammering out a prototype for viral marketing efforts to come. BusinessWeek later hailed Hunter’s clips as proof that Web video is “a serious medium, ready to contend with traditional media for audiences and ad dollars.”

Unfortunately, any reputation Hunter had as a videographer was soon overshadowed by rumors that she was carrying Edwards’s child, which she at first denied. She hid out in a gated community near Edwards supporter Andrew Young, who claimed to be the father of Hunter’s child and then told the truth about the relationship in his book, “The Politician.” Following much back and forth about whether Edwards would take, or be allowed to take, a paternity test, the former North Carolina senator acknowledged in January that he was the father of Frances Quinn Hunter.

For her part, the mistress said, “[I] kept my mouth shut” — until a slick new suitor, GQ, came calling. Hunter, who claimed not to be an attention-seeker, stripped down to pearls and an oversized, white button-down shirt for photos. She later defended herself against the backlash by saying that she was too trusting. GQ reporter Lisa DePaulo countered, “Rielle is a smart woman. She knows what she wore and what she was doing in the photo shoot.”

Now that the media dam was open, Hunter also went on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and asserted, “I do not believe I wrecked his home.” Media confession was good for the soul. As she told GQ: “I could have cashed out big. But that’s not what I’m about. I love Johnny and I love my daughter more than anything in the world and I don’t want to ever do anything to hurt them or hurt their relationship.” She also admitted that the GQ photo shoot wasn’t a good idea. “What I was thinking was I would like to have one sexy shot where the world can see me as a beautiful woman as opposed to all those photos that are out there of me looking like some Wicked Witch of the West.”

Wicked or not, Hunter wants her fair share. She filed a lawsuit against Young over an alleged sex tape showing her with Edwards. Hunter’s lawyers argued that the mistress is due a cut of Young’s book profits: The aide, after all, promoted the video in his tell-all. Just what Hunter will get remains to be seen.

–Kimberly Chun