Lennay Kekua Biography — Wiki
Lennay Kekua is best known as the girlfriend of American football linebacker Manti Te’o. The Manti Te’o hoax story continues to get weirder by the day.
Te’o told many media outlets that both his grandmother and his girlfriend had died on September 11, 2012. Te’o said that his girlfriend, Stanford University student Lennay Kekua, had been injured in a car accident, and was discovered during her treatment to have leukemia.
Te’o did not miss any football games for Notre Dame, saying that he had promised Kekua he would play even if something had happened to her. Many sports media outlets reported on these tragedies during Te’o’s strong 2012 season and emergence as a Heisman Trophy candidate.
After receiving an anonymous email tip in January 2013, reporters Timothy Burke and Jack Dickey of the sports blog Deadspin conducted an investigation into Kekua’s identity.
On January 16, they published an article alleging Kekua did not exist and pointed to a man named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo as involved in the hoax of a relationship with Te’o. Tuiasosopo has been described as a family friend or acquaintance of Te’o.
Pictures of Kekua that had been published in the media were actually of Diane O’Meara, a former high school classmate of Tuiasosopo.
On the same day the Deadspin article was published, Notre Dame issued a statement 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.”
In a press conference, Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick confirmed the university had hired private investigators to uncover the source of the hoax, and he clarified Te’o’s relationship with Kekua was “exclusively an online relationship”. This conflicted with previous accounts from Te’o and his family that the couple had first met after a football game and she visited him in Hawaii.
Swarbrick said Te’o informed Notre Dame of the hoax on December 26 after receiving a phone call on December 6 from the woman he knew as Kekua, claiming she was still alive. Te’o mentioned Kekua’s death in at least four separate interviews in the days following the phone call.
In response to the growing suspicions he was involved in the hoax, Te’o agreed to a January 18 interview with sports journalist Jeremy Schaap in which he maintained his innocence. Te’o explained he had lied to his father and others about meeting her in person because he thought he would be seen as “crazy” for having a serious relationship with a woman he had never met. Te’o said he was angered and confused by the December 6 phone call and had continued to speak of Kekua because the situation was unclear to him. He explained Tuiasosopo represented himself as the cousin of Lennay Kekua and the two men had communicated online over the last several years and met once in person at the 2012 Notre Dame/USC game. Te’o said Tuiasosopo confessed to him on January 16 he was behind the hoax.
What we know so far about Lennay Kekua
According to a report from the New York Daily News, Manti Te’o, who thought he was talking to a female (Lennay Kekua), was really chatting it up with the man behind the entire hoax, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo. The Heisman Trophy finalist “thought it was a female he was talking with,” lawyer Milton Grimes acknowledged to the Daily News.
“It was Ronaiah as Lennay.”
“This wasn’t a prank to make fun,” Grimes told The News. “It was establishing communication with someone. … It was a person with a troubled existence trying to reach out and communicate and have a relationship.”
ESPN reported that Te’o made 1,000 phone calls and spent over 500 hours talking to the same person in the 661 area code of Lancaster, Los Angeles County. Ronaiah, who has yet to make a public statement, is the one singing in the video above. Te’o’s interview with Katie Couric will air today at 4 pm.