CLEARWATER – Soap opera fans will recognize Crystal Hunt as the actress who played the evil teen Lizzie Spaulding on CBS’s “Guiding Light” from 2003 to 2006.
The role earned her a Daytime Emmy nomination as well as “Hottest Newcomers” and “Best Villainess” awards from Soap Opera Digest.
But to folks around Clearwater, she is better known as the daughter of a prominent local family.
“My family has been here forever,” said Hunt, who was born and raised in Clearwater, as was her father. “My grandfather started George Hunt Inc., which became Clark Hunt Construction Inc. when my father took it over. Everybody knows my father; they call him Bubba. Together, my father and grandfather built Countryside Mall. My sister and her husband own West Coast Auto Mall.”
Hunt’s career in front of the camera started early. When she was only 3 months old, her grandmother recognized a budding starlet and had her parents enter her in a pageant.
As a 3 year old, she appeared in a Kash n’ Karry commercial. And by the age of 6, she was making regular trips to New York with her mother, a former Wilhelmina model, for acting lessons, auditions, voice lessons and acting jobs.
She did not graduate with her Palm Harbor University High School class because she had enough credits to graduate early in 2003 and take the “Guiding Light” part. Since then, she has acted in several movies, including “From Earth to the Moon,” “Problem Child II” and “Homeless Children.” Currently, she is playing the parts of a sorority pledge in the college comedy “Sydney White” and a pill-popping New Yorker in the subway thriller “Brooklyn to Manhattan.”
Hunt now divides her time between New York and Clearwater, which she visits every couple of weeks and hopes to visit more often now that she has discovered a new Mongolian restaurant in north county that she loves. She also visits the My Pet’s Dream Boutique that she and a business partner opened on U.S. 19, across from Westfield Countryside in the same strip mall as Cody’s Roadhouse, when fans inquired about the outfits her dog wore on the soap.
As a girl, Hunt and her father watched drag races at Sunshine and DeSoto speedways. Today, they race a stripped-down, souped-up Mustang Cobra.
“We made it a Ford Lightning inside a Cobra body,” Hunt said.
Eventually, she hopes to drive an alcohol-powered “top fuel” dragster that can accelerate from a standing start to more than 300 mph in a little more than four seconds on a quarter-mile straight track. She is also in the final stages of getting her helicopter pilot’s license.
A firm believer in giving back to the community, Hunt was an official ambassador for ChildHelp USA, a charity that helps abused and neglected children. She is also involved with charities that benefit animal shelters, the homeless, the elderly and foster children.
Recently, she and retired Army Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf shot “sporting clays” in Lakeland to raise money for The Children’s Home Inc.
An avid swimmer, surfer and water skier, Hunt loves the beach.
“I go to Clearwater Beach all the time and bring my friends from New York and L.A.,” she said, adding that her uncle brings some of them to Clearwater in his helicopter.
“I love Clearwater Beach. When you grow up here you take it for granted, but when you move away you come back and say “Wow, I live in a tourist area that’s so beautiful that it’s like the Bahamas.”