In January 2013, Manti Te’o became probably the most disgraced players in college football history nonetheless it wasn’t for his performance on the field.
Te’o, who was simply once hailed as Notre Dame’s star linebacker, quickly garnered media attention through the beginning of his career. His heartfelt backstory, which devoted to faith, football and family, was viewed as admirable therefore were his athletic talents, grit and strict sense of discipline.
Everything was going well for Te’o until it wasn’t. On September 12, 2012, he announced he had lost both his grandmother and girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, on a single day.
Regardless of the tragedies, Te’opersevered and received public support and national acclaim. He refused to miss an individual game and successfully finished his season, thus fulfilling a promisehe designed to Kekua before her passing.
But things took a turn for the worse just a couple months later, when it had been revealed thatLennay had not been a genuine person. Actually, she never was.
The bizarre yet heartbreaking tale is revisited in Netflix’s latest documentary, “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist.” The hour-long feature spotlights Te’o himself together with his family, friends and the main one person that was behind this entire girlfriend hoax.
Here is a closer consider the hoax and its own outcome:
The way the “relationship” started
Lennay Kekua was a fake persona developed by Naya Tuiasosopo who at that time didn’t realize she was a transgender woman and had gotten in touch with Te’o cousin, Shiloah Te’o, utilizing the same alias. Additionally, the pictures which were useful for Kekua’s Facebook profile were of Diane O’Meara, a former senior high school classmate of Tuiasosopo.
In the documentary, Tuiasosopo explained that she created Kekua while fighting her very own gender identity and sexuality. Although she knew that what she was doing was wrong, Tuiasosopo continued her catfishing, saying it had been the only method she could escape from her current hardships.
“I knew that which was right and wrong, but I was too much deeply in love with being viewed in this manner,” Tuiasosopo explained. “Yes, it had been completely selfish, nonetheless it was what made me happy. It had been what I needed to be always a reality.”
Tuiasosopo and Te’o became Facebook friends in 2009, during his first year as a football player at Notre Dame. For Te’o, speaking with Kekua was comforting because she was the initial, real connection he made after moving to South Bend, Indiana. The pair routinely communicated on the app and grew closer after Kekua revealed that her father was sick.
“I felt like I was helping her and that made me feel great as an individual. I must say i fed from that,” Te’o said in the documentary. “We’d talk often. . . . Through those conversations, I began to become familiar with who Lennay is and what she means, what her values are, and I’m like, ‘I like this.'”
Although Te’o and Kekua never saw one another in-person or higher video calls because Tuiasosopo did everything she could to help keep her very own identity a secret the pair developed a solid bond that has been influential in his career.
“I recall telling him, ‘You need to start to see the bigger vision. You need to focus, you need to get your brain right . . .You need to start holding you to ultimately this standard and become prepared,'” Tuiasosopo said of 1 poignant conversation she had with Te’o . That conversation eventually motivated Manti to keep playing football for Notre Dame during his senior year, despite the fact that he qualified for the 2012 NFL Draft.
The girlfriend hoax unravels
Almost per year later, Te’o received news from Kekua’s brother (another fake persona developed by Tuiasosopo) that Kekua have been in a vehicle accident. Te’o was also told that Kekua was positioned on life support and have been identified as having leukemia.
Tuiasosopo said the elaborate scheme was an effort to prevent the pair’s relationship and stop it from progressing any more. Although Te’o grew more emotionally committed to Kekua oftentimes staying on the telephone with her for extended hours some of his relatives and buddies members grew skeptical of the partnership. One of is own good friends, Robby Toma, recalled he found no records when he tried to check up Kekua’s accident.
On September 12, 2012, Manti received news that his grandmother had died at age 72 and later, received news that Kekua had also passed on.
“I simply broke,” Te’o said, reflecting on that moment. “I walked from the locker room, and I recall everything sort of came crashing down in those days.” He later disclosed the news headlines to media outlets following a game against Michigan State and commended the support he received from both his family and his so-called girlfriend’s family.
Following Kekua’s death, Te’o continued in which to stay touch with Kekua’s family, who have been also entirely fabricated by Tuiasosopo. However, their own suspicions grew when he learned thatKekua had not been dead throughout a December 2012 telephone call.
“My uncle immediately said, ‘I think you’re getting catfished,'”Te’o recalled. “And that has been the very first time that somebody ever raised the word ‘catfish.’ I didn’t know very well what catfishing was. Even though he explained what it had been, I still couldn’t know very well what that even entailed.”
The girlfriend hoax was publicly exposed in January 2013 after “Deadspin” reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey published the story, “Manti Te’o’s Dead Girlfriend, PROBABLY THE MOST Heartbreaking and Inspirational Story of the faculty Football Season, Is really a Hoax.” In the report, Burke and Dickey claimed Kekua isn’t a genuine person and revealed Tuiasosopo because the catfisher involved.
Tuiasosopo came forward almost per month later and revealed herself because the ringleader in the complete hoax. For Te’o he became a laughingstock online as people made fun of him for falling victim to a lone catfisher. Others accused him of organizing the hoax being an try to bring more focus on himself and his career.
Manti Te’o today
Following premiere of “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist,” Te’o took to Instagram to react to the outpouring of support he’s got been receiving:
“WHEN I sit here and take into account the journey that it’s been to come quickly to this point, I’m extremely humbled. I would like to publicly thank everyone who has been part of my journey as you all have played an essential role into me addressing where I’m today. To all or any the people which have supported me and also have stood up for me personally, that one is for you personally. Thank you for the unwavering love and support. You do not know what which has designed to me days gone by 10 years. . . . Many thanks for the nice people through the entire years which have reached out showing love and support when it had been not the most famous move to make.”
Today, Te’o can be an NFL free agent, per USA Today, and is enjoying a quiet life along with his wife, Jovi Nicole Engbino, who he married in 2020, and their children. He also recently joined Transcend, a telehealth provider that works together with athletes.
“Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist” happens to be streaming on Netflix. Watch the trailer below, via YouTube: