Wynn’s new press aide works through the pain

Eriade Hunter doesn’t think she’s unique, but the scars on her body tell a different story.

Her right knee blew out while she was trying out for a semi-professional basketball team, inspiring an impressive scar. Her left Achilles tendon couldn’t survive another game of basketball and popped during a practice. She wears the evidence of it on her skin. And a vertical scar bisecting her left forearm will forever remind her of an unnerving car accident almost two years ago.

But, through all her injuries, the new press secretary for Rep. Albert Wynn (D-Md.) has worked through the pain.

During her first year of law school at American University, she was in a car crash. “I was there [in classes] on my OxyContin,” she said. “I really didn’t want to miss anything.” The same goes for her knee. “I went to Miami for the Super Bowl with my knee brace,” she said. “I just matched my outfits to it.”

For Hunter, the scars are just reminders of where she’s been. “It’s not like I died,” she said. “I just had an injury.”

She approaches life with the same matter-of-fact attitude and positive disposition. That might have helped her turn her summer internship into a full-time job with Wynn.

Hunter, a native Californian who stands 5 feet 11 inches tall, said that, in some ways, she’s just typical — if being a congressional press secretary, former hoops star, accountant and law student is ordinary. She also worked for the judge presiding over the I. Lewis “Scooter” Libby trial.

“I’ve been a lot of things, but this is new to me,” Hunter said.

She first came to D.C. when she was 17 to try out for the basketball team at Howard University. She not only made the team as a walk-on but received a scholarship. Still, she thought about walking away from it.

“I was just going to leave because I was so traumatized by the East Coast,” Hunter said. She’s only partially joking. After all, D.C. is a long way from sublime San Diego. “It was just so cold,” she said. “Here I had to experience seasons and snow.”

She also missed her five sisters, the youngest of whom was 11 when she left. “I’m in a parental role with my sisters because my dad wasn’t around much, so I felt bad,” she said.

Her father is Jamaican and her mother is white, a fact that shaped her early life and her character. After they married, Hunter’s mom became estranged from her family because of her husband’s race. Hunter confessed that the experience left a different kind of scar altogether. “I was basically rejected by the white side,” she said. “It was hard.”

Racial issues are complicated, Hunter said, with a pained look on her face that suggested she understands more than most:
“When I was little I didn’t know what box to check. Was I white or was I black?”

From then on, on her dad’s advice, she checked the “black” box — a fact that Hunter said helped her get a scholarship from Howard and graduate with a degree in administration of justice.

Out of college, the next step was to try out for professional basketball teams, both in the States and in Europe. She was devastated when she didn’t get any of them. With time, her perspective changed.

“I just wanted to go to Europe. It didn’t work out, but I’ve traveled to many areas of the world since then,” she said.

The spirit of the woman who had grown up being the MVP and running track in the Junior Olympics was intact, but it needed to be reinvented.

“It was a wake-up call. Like, ‘Hello, you can’t do this anymore. You just simply cannot do everything,’” Hunter said.
The new aide pushes herself by trying new things. “Just because it’s not on your list of things to do in life, you just have to go with it,” she said.

Hunter stays in shape with yoga and, despite the injuries, she can’t seem to stay away from a few games of pickup basketball.

Two nights a week she heads off to her law class. By day, she reads manuals on how to deal with the press. True to form, she is decidedly positive about her new position: “I think this is meant to be.”