A Brief Summary of Events in the Confusing Case of Manti Te’o’s Fake Online Girlfriend

Manti Teo Lennay KekuThe story of promising Notre Dame University linebacker and Heisman-contender Manti Te’o‘s girlfriend is confusing. Since it’s already all over the news, I’ll attempt to explain it to you in the simplest way.

On October 10, 2011, a woman using the name Lennay Kekua contacted the then 19-year-old football player on Twitter. They quickly became “friends” who interacted frequently, taking it to the next level a few months later, in January of 2012.

In September, Te’o lost his grandma and his online girlfriend, who was thought to have been diagnosed with leukemia. 

Turns out, Lennay Kekua never existed. Her Instagram and Twitter profiles were run by a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who stole the profile photos from his former classmate, Donna Tei.

Another interesting thing about this story is that Catfish creator Nev Schulman was technically involved before Deadspin broke the news. On December 9, 2012 Tei contacted Schulman expressing concern over her stolen photos.

Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the Fighting Irish fan behind the hoax
Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the die-hard Fighting Irish fan behind the hoax

“I had an email where she simply reached out indicating that she discovered that her photos were being used as part of a hoax. Obviously, at the time it was not a major national news story like it is now,” Schulman told USA Today.

Many believe that Manti Te’o is behind the hoax in some way and that he was attempting to gain sympathy which could have helped him win the 2012 Heisman Trophy (Te’o was beat out narrowly by Johnny Manziel).

TMZ reports that Te’o continued to tell people that his girlfriend had died of cancer after he found out she never existed.

Read: Transcript of every tweet Manti Te’o sent to @lovalovaloveYOU / @LennayKay / @LoveMSMK

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