Hunter was born in Glenfield, a suburb of Auckland, New Zealand. Her parents divorced when she was still a child. As child she wanted to be a ballet dancer, but was diagnosed with a rare blood disease which curtailed her dancing ambitions.
Hunter began her career at age 17, modeling in Australia and New Zealand, appearing in "Australian Vogue", "Harper's Bazaar", "Australian Cosmopolitan" and for various campaigns throughout New Zealand and Australia. She became the face of Tip Top Ice-Cream in New Zealand and was the "Trumpet Girl". She was quickly signed up to Ford Models and immediately embarked on a successful career, landing a Cover Girl cosmetics contract and becoming the spokesperson for the company for quite a few years. Hunter rose to global prominence after posing as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model in 1989. She subsequently appeared on magazine covers, including Cosmopolitan and on the 1994 "Dream Team" cover of Sports Illustrated's annual swimsuit issue with other Supermodels Elle MacPherson and Kathy Ireland,and again graced its cover, this time solo, 12 years later in 2006. Hunter also appeared on the cover of Vogue Italia, Australian Vogue, American and international editions of Elle and Dutch Harper's Bazaar.
Hunter is signed to Ford Models in New York, Select Model Management in London, and Chadwick Models in Sydney, Australia.
Hunter first appeared on television in 1985 in an advertisement for a New Zealand Ice-Cream brand promoting their "Trumpet" ice-cream.