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What sort of Fake Dead Girlfriend Ruined Football Star Manti Teos Life

Lots of people enjoyed an excellent laugh in early 2013 at the trouble of Manti Teo, the superstar Notre Dame linebacker whose private life became all too public when it proved that his sad storynamely, that his grandmother and girlfriend had passed on on a single daywas a lie, since his supposed paramour wasnt real. Yet in reality, Teos saga remains a nightmare of unwarranted humiliation and lasting, career-derailing damage, with Teos psychological well-being and NFL prospects both rocked by the revelation he have been the victim of a catfishing ruse. Teo was transformed from the hero right into a figure of ridicule despite the fact that, as The Girlfriend Who Didnt Exist contends, hes actually somebody who deserves our pity and compassion.

The premiere installment of Season 2 of Netflixs non-fiction series Untold, The Girlfriend Who Didnt Exist (Aug. 16) is really a two-hour study of a tawdry ordeal that doubles being an act of confession, air-clearing, and healing because of its two subjects. Teo sits down for a thorough interview with directors Ryan Duffy and Tony Vainuku, detailing his stratospheric highs and dismal lows and, in doing this, answering most of the questions that dominated TV and talk radio in the wake of his national embarrassment. Teo is simultaneously enthusiastic, earnest and grief-stricken while recounting his experiences, his excitement when discussing his glory years with the Fighting Irish offset by the haunted and teary-eyed look that seizes his face upon remembering the emotional violation he suffered, and the tabloid-ready catastrophe that ensued.

Teo, however, is one side of the coin, and The Girlfriend Who Didnt Exist advantages from the excess participation of Naya Tuiasosopo, the average person who struck up an online and phone/text romance with Teo by posing as Lennay Kekua, a fictitious female. In the years since their relationship became fodder for CNN, ESPN and Saturday Night Live, Tuiasosopo has turn out as a transgender woman, and even though Duffy and Vainukus two-part episode notes that nobody interviewed because of this documentary was alert to her transition during filming, its nonetheless central to the proceedings. Candid and apologeticalbeit to a qualification that likely wont satisfy every viewerTuiasosopo fills in the gaps regarding how this all had become. Along the way, she paints this ruse-gone-awry because of her identity-related challenges, which might not be a lot of a justification for the monumental and enduring harm she caused but at the very least explains the underpinnings of the mess.

As she elucidates in The Girlfriend Who Didnt Exist, Naya was never comfortable in her very own skin, and ultimately responded by developing a fake online persona, Lennay, who more accurately expressed how she truly felt. To bolster this guise, she used photos of a higher school friend named Diane OMeara before messaging various men. Having developed in a Polynesian clan that prioritized faith, family and football, Naya had an instantaneous bond with Teo, whose cousin verified Lennay as legitimate (simply because they had previously chatted online), and who believed Naya to become a kindred spirit who could relate with every part of his life. In a short time, these were virtually dating. Teos companion and teammate Robby Toma admits that of the was a tad strange, but he also concedes that long-distance romances werent uncommon (he himself was in a single). Moreover, since it made Teo happyand helped him deal with the strangeness of relocating from his tropical Mormon Hawaiian community to the midwestern Catholic cold of Notre Dameit largely appeared like a net positive.

Because the two grew closer, Teos athletic fortunes rose, with the linebacker learning to be a vital defensive leader and, in the same way importantly, a beloved paragon of Notre Dames religious and service-minded values. Things begun to break apart, however, on Sept. 12, 2012, when Teos grandmother passed on and, hours later, Nayafearful of what lengths things had gonecalled Teo and, posing as Lennays brother, told him that Lennay had fatally succumbed to leukemia. This one-two punch turned Teos subsequent success on the field right into a feel-good narrative that gripped the united states, peaking with him being nominated as a finalist for the Heisman Trophy and Notre Dame appearing in the National Championship game against Alabama. The issue was, Naya refused to help keep Lennay dead, so when Deadspin received an anonymous tip concerning this vast lie, it had been just a matter of time before Nayas charade was exposed.

The portrait that emerges is among a man who was simply excessively trusting and swept up in their own righteous-savior image, and who paid an awful price for his naivety, that was so extreme he didnt even understand what catfishing was at that time.

Arguably probably the most fascinating facet of The Girlfriend Who Didnt Exist is Deadspin reporters Tim Burke and Jack Dickeys admission that their motivation for chasing this story was to shame the national media for not doing its basic fact-checking job regarding Teo and his trauma. Nonetheless, the water-cooler focus quickly shifted to other matters: How could Teo have already been so gullible? Had he been complicit in this scheme? Did he invent this fake girlfriend to cover his homosexuality? Taking viewers step-by-step through their concurrent, if respective, journeys, Teo and Naya explain that the complete operation was concocted by Naya (and Naya alone), and that Teo only deceived the mediaduring the couple of days round the Heisman ceremony, when he first learned that Lennay may be aliveout of fear and confusion. The portrait that emerges is among a man who was simply excessively trusting and swept up in their own righteous-savior image, and who paid an awful price for his naivety, that was so extreme he didnt even understand what catfishing was at that time.

Unguarded and forthcoming in his extended on-camera conversation, Teo engenders empathy for his undeserved plight. Exactly the same cant be said for Naya, whose gender dysphoria was clearly the impetus on her behalf subterfuge but hardly exonerates her for perpetrating it, especially due to the fact the contrition she exhibits here feels significantly less than wholehearted. The truth that Teos NFL dreams were forever compromised by this scam makes The Girlfriend Who Didnt Exist a sad commentary on the unreliability of individuals, the web, and media adulationas well as a tragedy about an upright man, and a promising future, shattered for no justifiable reason.

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