Is Lennay Kekua a Real Person? Is She Dead?

Netflix’s ‘Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist’ focuses on the identity of a girl named Lennay Kekua. She was known to everyone as Manti Te’o’s girlfriend. Everything that was discovered about her was after her death, and even then, her life seemed to revolve around the fact that she was Manti’s girlfriend. Her tragic death led Manti to become a figure that everyone sympathized with and rooted for. But things flipped around when the shocking truth about their relationship came to light. The Netflix documentary goes into the depth of this controversy, digging out the reasons behind Lennay’s existence as well as her death. If you are wondering who she was and what happened to her, here’s what you should know.

Is Lennay Kekua a Real Person?

No, Lennay Kekua is not a real person. She was a fake online identity created by Naya Tuiasosopo. At that time, Naya had been trying to figure out her own sexual identity, which led her to create the profile of Lennay. She used it to chat with people, whom she’d stop communicating with when the topic of meeting face-to-face would come up.

Eventually, she befriended Manti Te’o, with whom the relationship evolved into something more than she’d had previously in her online encounters. After a while, Naya decided it was time to end the relationship. She tried to do it under the guise of an accident, followed by cancer. She thought that this will put an end to the Manti and Lennay affair, but things escalated when Manti’s rise as a football star in the face of a terrible tragedy became an inspirational story for the media. While everyone sympathized with Manti and recounted different versions of his relationship with Lennay as well as the timing of her death, no one bothered to check that there was no obituary, no official confirmation of Lennay’s death, her accident, or even, her life.

Later, it was discovered that Naya had been catfishing Manti, and the pictures that she used in Lennay’s profile were actually of Diane O’Meara, who was completely unaware of the fact that she had become the face of Manti’s dead girlfriend.

What Happened to Lennay Kekua?

Before the truth about catfishing came out, to the world, Lennay Kekua died in September of 2012. A few months before that, Manti had received the news about Lennay being in a fatal car accident. While she recovered from it, it was discovered that she had leukemia and that she’d have to go through a bone-marrow transplant. All this while, Manti would be on the phone with her every night, falling asleep to the sound of her breath, and being told, on occasion, that she would respond to the sound of his voice. It was also reported that she was at St. Jude Medical Center in Fullerton, California, undergoing treatment. “From that hospital, she was treated for cancer, and then she went to St. Jude’s. She was in St. Jude’s and then she went to another hospital,” Manti said.

While it looked like she might survive this back-to-back stroke of bad luck, her condition suddenly worsened and she passed away around the same time as Manti’s grandmother. This is where the discrepancies started to arise in the way the news was reported. Some outlets reported that Lennay had died within a 24-hour span of Manti’s grandmother, while some put a difference of days between the two deaths. In any case, her funeral took place around a week after her death, and Manti did not attend it.

While Lennay’s death and Manti’s incredible strength to continue in the face of losing “the love of his life” became an inspirational story that was all over the media, Manti received a call from Lennay, saying that she wasn’t really dead, that she’d been in hiding. As proof, which Manti demanded, he received a picture of her that made him more confused than ever. After a while, not knowing what to make of it on his own, he took this news to his family, and that’s when his uncle, who’s a lawyer, told him that he was being catfished. Later, when the story broke out on Deadspin, the entire world discovered that Lennay Kekua never existed, and that was the end of her story, though just a beginning for Manti and Naya.

Read More: Where is Manti Te’o’s Catfisher Naya Tuiasosopo Now?