How a Fake Dead Girlfriend Ruined Football Star Manti Te’o’s Life

Manti Te’o, born in Hawaii, is a former American football player, who was a reference of the university team of the University of Notre Dame, in the state of Indiana, United States.

According to sports magazine Sports Illustrated, Te’o was the “emotional and physical” heart of the squad during 2012. However, the same magazine was responsible for mentioning a delicate moment in the private life of the star player of Notre Dame, since his girlfriend and grandmother had died six hours apart.

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The love that Manti felt towards his girlfriend was such that he never suspected that there was a cat locked up, because he maintained a relationship with a person who did not exist. They had met on the Internet and by that same means they communicated. They never had an approach. The enigmatic woman was named Lennay Kekua, who also claimed to be Hawaiian.

At the beginning of her relationship with Te’o, she told him that she was hospitalized, as she suffered from leukemia due to a car accident. To add, both lived in different states, as Manti resided in Indiana and Lennay did the same in California.

They also spoke on the phone, almost daily; they couldn’t stop thinking about each other. During a match, already as a professional, he was interviewed by the American sports media, as he had been one of the figures of the match. It was there that Te’o spoke of the sentimental situation he was going through due to the death of his beloved, a story that moved much of the United States.

“All she wanted were some white roses. So I sent him roses and sent him two selections along with that,” Te’o told the media, as the player said his girlfriend and grandmother died the day before the game.

The truth is uncovered
However, a year later, journalists Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey published an article on the sports portal ‘Deadspin’, in which they claimed that Te’o’s girlfriend never existed.

“The photographs identified as Kekua, in online tributes & on television newscasts, are images from the social media accounts of a 22-year-old California woman who is not named Lennay Kekua,” the two journalists said on the website.

Similarly, in the same report hey detailed that there was no report of a car accident involving a person named Lennay Kekua. “There is no record of his birth in the news. Outside of some Twitter and Instagram accounts, there is no evidence online that Lennay Kekua ever existed,” they alleged.

Finally i,t was concluded that the person named Lennay Kekua did not exist and was a fake account. The photos he used belonged to a young woman named Diane O’Meara, a close friend of a Te’o teammate named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.

From stardom to meme
It was all a hoax. Te’o was accused of having invented the story with his partner to generate marketing around them. However, Manti himself declared his innocence in the media, claiming that he lied to his family so that they would believe that he was not crazy about having a love affair on the internet.

Nor did he fall short and issued a statement with greater detail about the situation:

“For a long time I, developed a relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought was an authentic relationship by communicating frequently on the Internet and by phone, and I came to feel a deep affection. Realizing that I was the victim of what was apparently a heavy joke and someone’s constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating. In addition, it hurts me that the pain I felt at the time of my grandmother’s death in September was somehow deepened by what I thought was another important loss in my life,” he said, according to the portal ‘Sporting News’ .

As evidence, the television published audios of the calls that Te’o had with his fictitious girlfriend to record that the voice sounded like a young woman. This led to the belief that there were more people involved in the matter. However, Tuiasosopo confirmed that it was he himself who simulated the voice.

In addition, some time later, it was Tuiasosopo who gave more statements about his reasons for creating a fake account and falling in love with Te’o. “Lennay’s profile wasn’t necessarily a way out, but a path to something else,” he said.

“At that moment, I knew for sure that there was something inside me that wanted to scream and say, ‘Why am I different? There were a couple of online encounters where it was like, ‘This guy is handsome. Let’s see where this goes.” I knew what was right and what was wrong, but I was too much in love to be looked at like this. It was completely selfish, but it was what made me happy. It was what I wanted to be a reality,” he said in statements quoted by the British newspaper ‘The Guardian’.

This means that at the time, Tuiasosopo used his facet as ‘Lennay Kekua’ to approach Te’o in a loving way; he was attracted to him, but without him noticing.

All these events damaged Manti’s reputation: he went from being known as one of the most promising players in the American football league to being known as the person who fell in love with someone who did not exist. In a matter of a year, Te’o became a mockery in the global sports arena.


Te’o, having belonged to NFL franchises such as the San Diego Chargers (now in Los Angeles), the New Orleans Saints, and the Chicago Bears, retired from professional football in 2020 after a career full of injuries. Instagram 

Meanwhile, Tuiasosopo currently lives in Seattle, Washington state, and did sex conversion, as she went from being a man to a woman with the name Naya.

Both people aired their insecurities in the documentary and made it clear that it was a rather chaotic situation for both people, not only because of their public image but because of their private lives. However, they also made it clear that their life did not end at the point where they are because they are still young people who will face the future of time made in the U.S.A.

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