Department of Injustice

updated 11/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 11/13/1995 AT 01:00 AM EST

A mannequin hits her career peak

WHEN MODEL HUNTER RENO moved to Washington in August, one of the first items on her social calendar was a visit with her aunt, U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno. "I stepped out of the station wagon and tossed her a basketball," recalls Hunter, 27, "and she went down the street dribbling it." Since then, the action hasn't stopped. Together, the two often collaborate on cooking (Greek salads are a favorite) and head out for long brisk walks. "She's a great lady," says Hunter. "People are just in awe of her."

Maybe it runs in the family. As one of the fashion industry's favorite faces, Hunter is making her own mark. A hair under 6 feet tall, and 145 pounds, she has appeared in ads for Oil of Olay and Secret deodorant and graced the covers of Mirabella, Mademoiselle and Self. Earlier this year, she entered the supermodel stratosphere by landing a six-figure contract with L'Oréal to tout its hair-care products in ads and through personal appearances. "She's just a sensational woman," says Jade Hobson Charnin, fashion director of New York magazine, who hired Reno to appear on a recent cover. "She's beautiful, bright and personable."

In addition to posing, Reno has found time for philanthropy. A full-time student at George Washington University since August, she is a volunteer at Planned Parenthood and Shake a Leg, a nationwide program that, among other things, teaches sailing to the physically challenged. In 1993 she founded Women Twenty-Five, a Miami-based network that matches volunteers with charities in their communities. "Life isn't all about money," Reno says. "It's about finding that balance. I've found many issues important to me."

A Miami native, Reno credits her social activism—and her career—to her mother, Donna, now 53, who recently retired as director of Miami's Camillus House, a residence for homeless women and their children. (Her marriage to Mark Reno, 53, most recently a tugboat operator and Janet's younger brother, ended in divorce in 1974.) A knockout even as a child, Hunter was 13 when Donna sent her picture to New York City's Elite modeling agency. Signed on immediately, she spent her teens jetting to photo shoots in Tahiti and Africa. Between jobs she hung out with her parents, brother Douglas (now 25 and a currency trader) and Aunt Janet, who, then the Dade County state attorney, lived five minutes away. Never married, Janet spent much of her free time sailing and camping with her brother's family. "All my life she has worked and worked hard," says Hunter. "She has been a role model."

New York City-based on and off for 14 years, Hunter now lives quietly in a cozy, two-bedroom Washington apartment. Except for her L'Oréal gigs, she has cut back on modeling, and she spends her nights studying, not dating. She hopes someday to move into broadcasting. "From day one," says Reno,' who interned at ABC News in New York last year, "I was told I wouldn't model forever. I've worn a polyester suit for a wonderful check many times. Now it's time to challenge my mind."

MARY HUZINEC and BROOKE BIZZELL STACHYRA in New York

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