While catfishing is a term we’ve incorporated into our lexicon since 2012, it wasn’t widely understood in the late 2000s. Of course, people were almost definitely being catfished, but people were only just beginning to really understand how the internet could be used for more sinister purposes.
Manti Te’o, an college footballer in the US was at the peak of his athletic career when he fell victim to one of the biggest catfishing scandals America had seen at the time. It was 2013, and his entire world collapsed when he believed his girlfriend had passed away, but it wouldn’t be long until the lid was blown off his entire story, and his world, as he knew it, imploded.
Now, his story is being told from every possible angle in a new Netflix documentary, including the perspective of the hoaxer., whose life has also drastically changed in the years since.
Below, everything you need to know about the scandal surrounding Manti Te’o, and where he is now.
What happened to Manti Te’o?
As the name of the documentary suggests, Te’o found himself embroiled in a three-year, online relationship with a fake woman who never really existed. His girlfriend, whom he believed to be a Stanford University student named Lennay Kekua, was actually a man named Naya Tuiasosopo (who has since come out as a trans woman) had created the fake Facebook profile with stolen photos from a former high school classmate.
Before all of this came to light, however, Tuiasosopo faked her own death, with Te’o believing his girlfriend had been involved in a terrible car crash and, while on a respirator, was diagnosed with leukemia and died. Understandably, Te’o was distraught, as were most people on his behalf. The footballer was considered a national hero for continuing his football career in the face of such tragedy — but the sympathy would be short-lived.
Once investigate journalists dug into Te’os life, they discovered that not only did his girlfriend not die, but that she also never existed in the first place.
Where is Manti Te’o now?
In the wake of the scandal, 2013 was not a good year for Manti Te’o.
Given that many initially believed he could have somehow been involved in or aware of the scam, he faced the wrath of the entire nation in the fallout. That year, he was named among America’s Most Disliked Athletes — an infamous list which included the likes of disgraced cyclist Lance Armstrong serial cheater golfer Tiger Woods. He also endured an intense interview with American television journalist Katie Couric on the ABC.
As for his sports career, the footballer was drafted by the San Diego Chargers in the second round as the 38th pick. He stayed with the team for four years before joining the New Orleans Saints in 2017 and later the Chicago Bears in 2020. Per USA Today, Te’o has played eight “mostly unremarkable seasons” in the NFL.
According to USA Today, the athlete is officially a free agent after ending his contract with the Chicago Bears in 2021. He now works for Transcend, a telehealth provider which offers athletes treatment for mental and sexual health, sleep and other issues.
In 2020, Te’o married personal trainer and beauty consultant Jovi Nicole Engbino. In August 2021, the couple welcomed their first child, a daughter named Hiro — with a second child, a son, on the way.
“I’m a family man,” Te’o told Entertainment Tonightthis year. “I think that’s the beautiful part of it is, through all of this, I understand what’s important to me, and what’s important to me is my family and that’s always going to be first and foremost in my life.”