Manti Teo’o: who is ex-NFL player featured in Netflix documentary Untold: The Girlfriend That Didn’t Exist?
American Footballer Manti Te’o addresses the huge hoax from 2013 in new Netflix Untold documentary
Te’o first burst onto the scene in 2009 and he appeared one of the more wholesome footballers on the block: a Mormon Polynesian from Hawaii who was a small-town hero with an All-American vibe.
He was also committed to play at one of the most storied and conservative athletic programmes in the US at the University of Notre Dame.
The football star not only excelled on the field but he had a tragic story which unfolded during his time at the University and propelled him on his journey to become a college football legend.
He lost both his girlfriend and grandmother within 24 hours during his senior year before leading Notre Dame to a victorious season where he became a contender for the Heisman Trophy.
Te’o finished second at the New York City Ceremony in 2012 and spoke onstage about the loss of his girlfriend, Lennay.
However, all was not as it seemed and within weeks the story blew up becoming a national scandal.
So who is Manti Te’o and who was his girlfriend Lennay?
Who is Manti Te’o?
Te’o was born in Laie, Hawaii, and began his varsity career in 2006 with play that won him selection to the second-team all-state roster as a sophomore.
He was named as the state defensive player of the year in 2007 by the Honolulu Adverstiser and the Gatorade State Player of the Year, receiving first-team all-state honours while totaling 90 tackles and five sacks on defense.
As a result, the footballer drew significant attention from colleges and recruiters, which saw him receive offers from around 30 programmes.
Te’o chose Notre Dame and played for the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Football team from 2009 to 2012. He was named a Freshman All-American by College football News before also being named a second-team Freshaman All-American by Rivals.com.
He played a total of 51 games during his college career completing a total of 437 tackles and was drafted in the second round, 38th overall, by the San Diego chargers in the 2013 NFL draft.
He has since played for the New Orleans Saints and played for the Chicago Bears in 2020. He has made a total of 307 tackles in his NFL career .
Te’o is now married to Jovi Nicole Engbino, a personal trainer and beauty consultant. The pair became engaged in February 2020 and married that August in California.
What is The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist about?
The new Netflix Untold documentary details the bizarre story of Manti Te’o’s ‘relationship’ with “Lennay Kekua.” Te’o told media outlets that both his grandmother and girlfriend had died on 11 September 2012 but soon after, reporters were sent anonymous tips that detailed Kekua had never existed and was in fact a man called Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (she is now a transgender woman called Naya).
Tuiasosopo is also of Samoan descent and the pair began an online relationship on Facebook back in 2009 where the hoaxer had used a picture of a woman named, Diane O’Meara - a former classmate of Tuiasosopo.
The documentary uncovers both Tuiasosopo’s reasoning behind starting the online relationship, explaining her own LGTBQ+ journey while also detailing Te’o’s own experiences surrounding the scandal. .
At the time, many facts appeared not to add up with speculation growing that Te’o was himself involved in the hoax, however it became increasingly clear Te’o was the victim of an intensely public catfishing scandal.
How to watch The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist?
The documentary is available to watch on Netflix, after being release in August 2022 and subscriptions for the streaming service begin at £5.99/month.