HONOLULU (KHON2) — All-American football standout Manti Te’o had a simple life in Laie that he sums up in three words: faith, family and football. He left the slow pace of Hawaii behind after he joined the team at the University of Notre Dame where he quickly rose to stardom.
Then he found himself at the center of a wild catfishing scandal that became one of the craziest moments in college football history. Today, those who played a role in this story sat down for a tell-all in a 2-part documentary on Netflix that was released Monday night in Hawaii.
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“Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist” features in-depth interviews with Manti Te’o, his parents, the journalists behind the first story that changed his life forever, and the person behind the online identity “Lennay Kekua” whom he thought was his girlfriend, Ronaiah ‘Naya’ Tuiasosopo.
The documentary starts from the beginning when Naya and Te’o met on Facebook. The messages were surface level but soon became more frequent as time went on and both parties became emotionally invested. The audience will get to hear the voicemails Naya left him, then later see how Dr. Phil put Naya to the test to prove it.
It’s revealed that Naya acted as Lennay as well as her fake family members.
But at the top of the headlines was when it was revealed that Lennay, who never existed, died of cancer. A few months later, Naya brought Lennay back to life with a phone call to Te’o. At this time, Te’o recalls being at the Heisman ceremony, not knowing what to say nor what to do.
“My whole world changed, and I’m questioning everything,” he said in the documentary.
Another bizarre twist is revealed when Te’o demands proof that Lennay exists by sending a photo with specific instructions like holding up a sign with the date on it and doing a sign with her hand. Then he gets the photo back. Naya had reached out to Diane — the actual person whose identity was stolen — to do this as a favor for “a friend who was sick” and would find the photo inspiring.
The 2-part documentary has more twists and turns that paint the full story, but in the end, Te’o shared that he forgives Naya and will try to move forward.
After the documentary was released, Te’o posted on Instagram to thank everyone who has been part of his journey and stood up for him.
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Click here to watch KHON2’s Rob DeMello cover this story when it all went down in 2013.