The sixth installment of the documentary series Untold is streaming on Netflix now and this time around, the two-part documentary series explores the catfishing hoax story of Manti Te’o.
In 2012, Manti Te’o’s world came crashing down when he was delivered the news his grandmother and girlfriend had died on the same day from cancer.
But things only got worse when just a few months later, Te’o learned his girlfriend had not died or had even existed in the first place.
Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist on Netflix explores the jaw-dropping real-life story, hearing from the two people at the heart of it.
Newsweek has everything you need to know about Manti Te’o and where he is today.
Who is Manti Te’o?
Manti Te’o is a 31-year-old Samoan-Hawaiian football linebacker from Laie, Hawaii.
He played college football at Notre Dame and went on to be drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the second round of the 2013 NFL Draft.
Te’o has also played for the New Orleans Saints and the Chicago Bears.
Although well known for his award-winning sporting career, Te’o is perhaps better known for his headline-hitting girlfriend hoax story.
In September 2012, Te’o told several media outlets that he had suffered an immeasurable loss. Both his girlfriend and his grandmother had died on the same day.
He told the press that his girlfriend Lennay Kekua had been injured in a car accident and, during her recovery, she was diagnosed with leukemia and sadly, did not survive her illness.
However, doubt began to be cast by sports media outlets after Te’o’s sporting career began to flourish during his girlfriend’s devastating cancer treatment and death, particularly after he was named as one of the three finalists for the Heisman Trophy, an award given to the most outstanding player of college football.
After receiving an anonymous tip in January 2013, Deadspin reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey began to investigate Te’o’s claims, publishing an article on January 16, 2013, alleging that his girlfriend, Kekua, did not exist.
According to Deadspin, the only images they had found online of Kekua were pictures of another 22-year-old woman. Deadspin also found no record of Kekua’s death certificate or details of her enrolment at Stanford University.
In January 2013, Te’o’s team, Notre Dame issued a statement alleging Te’o was a victim of catfishing and that people were conspiring against him online. Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick also announced the university had hired private investigators to uncover who was behind the hoax.
Despite several contradictions made by Te’o regarding claims Kekua had reached out to him to tell him she was still alive in December 2012, despite announcing her death in September 2012, as well as the fact to some the relationship appeared to be strictly online, Te’o’s family believed their son had met her in person.
Ultimately, Naya Tuiasosopo, a former acquaintance of Te’o who has since come out as a trans woman and uses she/her pronouns, confessed she was behind the hoax. (As seen in UNTOLD: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, a note at the beginning of the episodes states “at the time of filming, subjects were not aware that [Tuiasosopo] identifies as a transgender woman.”)
Speaking on an episode of Dr. Phil on January 31 and February 1, 2013, Tuiasosopo, explained she had fallen in love with Te’o and used Kekua as a way to speak with him. Tuiasosopo also revealed she was the female voice leaving Te’o voicemails.
She also explained Te’o had no involvement in the catfishing.
Tuiasosopo told Dr. Phil: “As twisted and confusing as it may be, yeah, I cared for this person. I did all that I could to help this person become a better person, even though I wasn’t getting nothing out of it.”
At the time of Tuiasosopo’s revelation, Te’o said in a statement obtained by ESPN: “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.
“It further pains me that the grief I felt and the sympathies expressed to me at the time of my grandmother’s death in September were in any way deepened by what I believed to be another significant loss in my life. I am enormously grateful for the support of my family, friends, and Notre Dame fans throughout this year.
“To think that I shared with them my happiness about my relationship and details that I thought to be true about her just makes me sick. I hope that people can understand how trying and confusing this whole experience has been. In retrospect, I obviously should have been much more cautious. If anything good comes of this, I hope it is that others will be far more guarded when they engage with people online than I was.
“Fortunately, I have many wonderful things in my life, and I’m looking forward to putting this painful experience behind me as I focus on preparing for the NFL Draft.”
Where is Manti Te’o Now?
Today, Manti Te’o plays as a free agent and is a married man.
He wed Instagram fitness personality Jovi Nicole, in August 2020.
Announcing the news on Instagram, Te’o wrote: “I couldn’t give you the world but I think I did better…I gave you my last name and it looks good on you Mrs. Te’o,” alongside an image of them on their happy day.
On her own Instagram account, Nicole shared that she got to marry her “best friend” and the love of her life in an “intimate beach ceremony.”
Together, they welcomed their daughter Hiro into the world on August 12, 2021.
After the exposure of his girlfriend hoax, Te’o was signed to the San Diego Chargers, committing to a four-year contract worth over $5 million.
On March 2017, Te’o signed a two-year contract with the New Orleans Saints but was not re-signed in 2018 when his contract expired. He was not re-signed until December 3, 2019.
On October 20, 2020, Te’o signed with the Chicago Bears practice squad and secured a spot on the practice squad/COVID-19 list. With them, he played against his old team the New Orleans Saints.
His practice squad contract ended on January 18, 2021, and Te’o has remained a free range ever since.
Speaking about his NFL journey after the scandal broke in UNTOLD: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, Te’o shared: “The first three years at the Chargers were like that. And it was such a huge contrast to that kid at Notre Dame. The football field, that was my domain, you know. Like, when I’m on the football field, I feel like nobody can beat me. And I played free, and I played fast, and I played physical. And that was what made me great.
“Now I go to the NFL, and I’m questioning everything. Every day was just trying to figure out how to get rid of this anxiety, this numbness, this tingling. I’m trying to figure out all these ways to reprogram myself.”
“I’ll take all this crap. I’ll take all the jokes, I’ll take all the memes, so I can be an inspiration to the one who needs me to be.”
UNTOLD: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist is streaming on Netflix now.