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Breaking Down The Manti Te’o Dead Girlfriend Hoax


Manti Te’o is the Mormon linebacker who led Notre Dame to victory in spite of struggling with major adversity: His grandmother, Anette Santiago and girlfriend, Lennay Kekua died within six hours of each other. Sports Illustrated and other media outlets painted him as a hero, a true victor with an inner strength that translated into the physical triumph that would reclaim Notre Dame’s glory.

However, while his grandmother Annette did pass at 72, it is now reported that Lennay Kekua, who allegedly suffered a terrible car crash and then a diagnosis of leukemia, never died; in fact she may have never existed. Making for one of the most confusing hoaxes in Internet history, CollegeCandy is here to give you the deets and the dirt. We’ve digested the very long Deadspin article so you don’t have to. In a nutshell, let’s begin.

• There is no record in the Social Security Administration of anyone named Lenny Kekua dying. There are no obituaries, no death record, no funeral announcement. There is no evidence that she ever died.

• There is no record of the severe auto-accident.

• There is no record of any student named Lennay Kekua enrolled in Stanford – where she allegedly went.

• The only evidence of Lennay Kekua’s existence can be traced to Twitter and Instagram. (Oh, yeah, it’s getting good.)

• The photos found on Lennay’s social media accounts are actually photographs of 22-year-old Californian who is definitely not Lenny Kekua.

• The lie was pretty elaborate. Manti went so far as to describe calling Lennay everyday, her being gifted in music and even going through a bone marrow transplant after her leukemia diagnosis, then even graduating from Stanford. None of this ever happened.

• Reports on September 11, 2012 began to trickle in that Annette, Manti’s grandmother, had died and then that Lennay had also died of leukemia. The reports were convoluted, some suggesting that the deaths happened hours apart or days apart.

• Manti recorded 12 tackles leading Notre Dame in an upset win over Michigan State on September 15, just three days later. Manti, along with his father, begins elaborating on his deep and loving relationship with Lennay. He appears on the cover of Sports Illustrated. He is a rising star.

• Deadspin contacted that woman whose photos were being portrayed as Lennay. “That picture,” she told them over the phone, “is a picture of me from my Facebook account.”

• The truth is Lennay and Manti did not meet at Stanford in 2009 as Manti had asserted. They “met” on Twitter. “Lennay Kekua’s Twitter name was @lovalovaloveYOU from 2011 until April 2012, @LennayKay from April until September 2012, and has been @LoveMSMK ever since.”

• The 22-year-old Californian’s images ended up on Lennay’s fake Twitter and Instagram accounts through a mutual friend of hers and Manti’s named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. She had no idea that both she and Manti knew Ronaiah. She hadn’t made the connection until Deadspin contacted her. She provided the photos to Ronaiah at his request, they ended up on Lennay’s profile without her knowledge.

 It appeared Ronaiah was posing as Lennay and incidentally had been in a car accident a month before Lennay’s fake one, it seemed that wherever Lennay Tweeted she was, Ronaiah was there instead.

• The hoax began to further crumble when another fictional account appeared posing as Lennay’s sister. After Manti Tweeted at it a few times it mysteriously disappeared.

• Deadspin spoke to a friend of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo who said he was “80 percent sure” that Manti Te’o was “in on it,” and that it was all for publicity. He added that there were numerous photos of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo and Manti Te’o together on Ronaiah’s now-deleted Instagram account.

• When pressed, on December 26th, Notre Dame responded – asserting that it was Manti who was hoaxed:

“On Dec. 26, Notre Dame coaches were informed by Manti Te’o and his parents that Manti had been the victim of what appears to be a hoax in which someone using the fictitious name Lennay Kekua apparently ingratiated herself with Manti and then conspired with others to lead him to believe she had tragically died of leukemia. The University immediately initiated an investigation to assist Manti and his family in discovering the motive for and nature of this hoax.”

• The Manti Te’o responded saying he was the victim:

“This is incredibly embarrassing to talk about, but over an extended period of time, I developed an emotional relationship with a woman I met online. We maintained what I thought to be an authentic relationship by communicating frequently online and on the phone, and I grew to care deeply about her. To realize that I was the victim of what was apparently someone’s sick joke and constant lies was, and is, painful and humiliating.”

 Now many are speculating if Manti Te’o is a closeted homosexual because it seems overwhelmingly probable that he was in on the hoax. While there isn’t much of any evidence to support this, most are saying: Why would a football player elaborately make up a girlfriend and fake her death unless he was gay? It’s hard to know what to think.

• Buzzfeed uncovered a Twitter convo and Tweets between two people who were aware of the scandal

Last but not least we must commend Deadspin on the amazing  reporting that debunked this story that no other news or sports outlet even bothered to look into. For the full and lengthy piece on the Deadspin click here!

Let us know what you think in the comments!

Emerald is an editor at CollegeCandy, lover of coffee, and pretend francophile. After studying writing and popular culture at NYU she decided to be a grownup and get a job. Tweet at ya' girl @EmeraldGritty.