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Nothing Funny About Manti Te’o and His Fake Dead Girlfriend

So, by now you’ve probably heard about Notre Dame linebacker Manti Te’o and his Fake Dead Girlfriend.

I wish I was writing this post because I had some sort of answer or way of making sense of it, but I don’t. Like a lot of people, I’m still trying to wrap my brain around the situation.

One thing I do know is that I don’t think there’s anything funny about any of it.

While it might feel like it all happened at once, what recently came to light as a hoax actually started years ago.

Basically, according to news reports, all we know (or think we know) about Manti Te’o’s bizarre online romance is that:

  • The relationship between Te’o and his “girlfriend” Lennay Kekua began years ago, when Te’o was a freshman at Notre Dame, but didn’t become significantly romantic until around October 2011 when Kekua told Te’s she was having boyfriend problems and wanted him to be there for her.
  • September 12, 2012, Te’o gets a call from “Lennay’s brother,” who tells him Lennay has died from leukemia. Te’o’s real grandmother passed away the previous day.
  • Te’o plays an amazing game against Michagan State and the story of his grandmother’s and his girlfriend’s deaths make national headlines.
  • Information about Lennay Kekua being a hoax begins to surface when Al “J.R.” Valsoa, who claims he’s known about the hoax since 2008, tweets Te’o to tell him the whole thing was a sham.
  • Someone called Te’o in early December 2012 claiming to be Kekua and saying she wasn’t dead.
  • Te’o talks about Kekua once more during an interview, then begins to confide in his friends and family and finally notifies Notre Dame Head Coach Brian Kelly. Notre Dame launches an investigation.
  • Te’o claims that on January 16, 2013, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (a name that’s been involved in the alleged scam since 2008, when “Lennay” was befriending and dating other people online) calls him and appologizes for the prank. Te’o says he had no part in the hoax, and Notre Dame claims its investigation clears him of any involvement.

These are just the main points; you can get more details at ABC’s Timeline of Manti Te’o Girlfriend Hoax Story.

We might learn more on Thursday, January 24, 2013; according to Katie Couric, Te’o and his parents will appear on the Katie Show.

In the meantime, public reaction to Te’o’s situation has been varied, but leaning more toward the, well, cruel side. People quickly took to Twitter, posting pictures of themselves hugging or holding hands with “imaginary girlfriends,” and the meme culture blew up with spins on the popular memes like Bad Luck Brian.

According to Te’o,

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.

What I’m seeing here is “embarrassing,” “emotional relationship,” “authentic relationship,” and “care deeply.”

Let’s assume Te’o is telling the truth and wasn’t involved in the hoax (which, doesn’t seem like a far leap, given that there really doesn’t seem to be any motive for him to be involved).

By assuming that, what we’re witnessing is a human being who spent years cultivating a relationship with another person, developing real feelings for another person, losing that person, and now publicly dealing with the realization that the person never existed.

He’s dealing with a part of his life being a hoax.

What’s funny about that?

Nothing Funny About Manti Te’o and His Fake Dead Girlfriend

Alicia Sparks

Alicia Sparks is a freelance writer and editor and the creator of, where she blogs to help new freelance writers get their quills in the pot, so to speak. Among animal rights, music, and physical wellness, her passions include mental health and advocacy. Here at Psych Central she works as Syndication Editor as well as authors Your Body, Your Mind, Unleash Your Creativity, and World of Psychology's weekly "Psychology Around the Net."

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APA Reference
Sparks, A. (2019). Nothing Funny About Manti Te’o and His Fake Dead Girlfriend. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 22, 2020, from


Last updated: 23 Mar 2019
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