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I read some years ago that Rita Skeeter (maybe) was based on a real living person.

I think it was an American woman writing poison pen biographies about famous families. Can anyone help me?

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Nobody, at least not deliberately.

In an interview at the Edinburgh Book Festival in 2004, she was asked about Skeeter's character. This is where we learnt that Skeeter appeared in an early draft of Philosopher's Stone, and she also claims that Skeeter is not based on any real person:

I love Rita. You know when Harry walks into the Leaky Cauldron for the first time, in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone? Everyone says, “You’re back” and he realises for the first time that he is famous. In a very early draft, Rita, a journalist, was there and she ran up to him. For some reason she was called Bridget—I forget why. Anyway, she detained him too long in the Leaky Cauldron and I really needed to get him moving, so I thought that I would not put her there.

As I was writing book one, I was planning the rest, and book four was supposed to be where Harry’s fame became a burden to him. It really starts to weigh on him when he is exposed to the wider wizarding world so I thought that that would be the perfect place for Rita to come in. She was still called Bridget at the time.

I didn’t realise that by the time I wrote book four I would have met quite a lot of Ritas and people would assume that I was writing Rita in response to what had happened to me, which was not in fact the truth. However, I am not going to deny that writing Rita was a lot more fun having met a few people I had met. I actually quite like Rita. She is loathsome—morally, she’s horrible—but I can’t help admiring her toughness. She is very determined to do the job and there is something quite engaging about that.

Plenty of people have made guesses at who Skeeter might be based upon, but Rowling and her publishers have been consistent in saying that there was no deliberate inspiration.

There was a relevant question earlier in the same interview:

Are any of your characters based on real people?

The only character who is deliberately based on a real person is Gilderoy Lockhart.

She's never revealed who Lockhart was based on, although there have been guesses in the media. If Rita Skeeter was deliberately based on a real person, I imagine she'd tell us – either that Skeeter was based on a real person, or that Lockhart wasn't the only one – as she could keep that person's identity a secret. I see no reason for her to directly lie about this in the second quote.

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This is what I found, from PotterDomain.webs.com:

Some have speculated that Rowling's fraught relationship with the press was the inspiration behind the character Rita Skeeter. However, Rowling noted in 2000 that the character actually predates her rise to fame: "People have asked me whether Rita Skeeter was invented [to reflect Harry Potter's popularity], but in fact she was always planned." "I tried to put Rita in Philosopher's Stone - you know when Harry walks into the Leaky Cauldron for the first time and everyone says, "Mr. Potter you're back!", I wanted to put a journalist in there. She wasn't called Rita then but she was a woman. And then I thought, as I looked at the plot overall, I thought, that's not really where she fits best, she fits best in Four when Harry's supposed to come to terms with his fame.

It sounds like she just had the idea and didn't base it on anyone, from what I researched (researched other sites as well). I could be wrong though.

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