“You Can’t Heal What You Don’t Reveal” | How Jay-Z Inspired Manti Te’o To Share The Details Of His Catfishing Saga In Netflix Doc

Ex-NFL linebacker Manti Te’o is opening up about the catfishing scandal that rocked the sports world and changed his life forever back in 2012. In an interview with “CBS Mornings”, Te’o credited hip-hop superstar Jay-Z with inspiring him to tell his truth.

“In 2017 Cam Jordan with the [New Orleans] Saints took a bunch of us teammates to a Jay-Z concert,” Te’o said. “At that concert Jay-Z opened up with the words ‘you cannot heal what you don’t reveal.’ It may have just been some random words to everybody, but for me at that time, it hit me like a ton of bricks. In order for me to heal from this, I needed to reveal it.”

 

In 2012, then a senior at Notre Dame, Te’o told the media that 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 had an outstanding senior season, essentially dedicated to his grandmother and girlfriend. His excellent play and this tragic story was too good for the media not to cover. He ended up finishing second in the Heisman Trophy voting that year.

His play amidst this tragedy was so inspiring that many journalists were looking for more angles to the story. In 2013 two Deadspin reporters followed up on an anonymous tip and it was revealed that Kekau was in fact a person named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (now Naya Tuiasosopo). Te’o was the victim of a catfishing hoax.

It’s easy to understand why Te’o was reluctant to talk about the incident in depth in a public forum. It’s intensely personal and something he felt shame and embarrassment over. Given the media climate and thirst for salacious information, you can’t blame him for avoiding the subject.

But he appears to be in a much better place today and much stronger within himself.

“I challenged myself at this time that if anybody asked about it or had questions about it, I would be open and I would have those hard conversations, and I started to feel the strength that I would get from talking about it.”

Te’o and the now transgender woman, Tuiasosopo, who catfished him are telling their stories in the  two-part Netflix documentary titled “Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist” available now.

Tuiasosopo used photos of high school classmate Diane O’ Meara without her knowledge to create the fake online persona of Kekua. Both agreed to be interviewed separately for the documentary because they were “unsatisfied” with how their story was portrayed in the media a decade ago.

It’s all a part of the healing. Te’o also said he wants the opportunity to show his grandmother proper respect. She was the person in his life who actually died and the catfish hoax swallowed up that part of the story.

“If there’s anything I would like to do, it’s to give my grandmother that respect that has kind of been missed the last 10 years,” he said. “Because I did lose my grandmother.”