One of the many unexplained aspects of the whole Manti Te’o invisible girlfriend saga has been a string of tweets from long before the story broke in which two people seemingly knowledgeable of the hoax repeatedly joked about Te’o’s girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, being a fake:
Today, thanks to an ESPN report, we now know who these people are and how they knew Kekua didn’t exist before the rest of the world (including, it seems, Te’o) found out. It turns out that Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man believed to be the mastermind (if you can call it that) behind the cruel scheme, had pulled the same trick on some other poor sap in 2008. He even used the same fake name:
J.R. Vaosa, 28, of Torrance, Calif., and Celeste Tuioti-Mariner, 21, of Whittier, Calif., said that in 2008 their cousin began an online romance with a woman who portrayed herself as a model. Vaosa said the cousin showed Vaosa a picture on MySpace of a woman from a Victoria’s Secret catalog that he said was Kekua. Vaosa said that the online Kekua would agree to meet his cousin at certain places. Vaosa said he went with the cousin to meet her.
“When Lennay said she was gonna be at this park one day, we’d go to the park and Ronaiah pops up and then we go to the gym in Orange County where the kids have volleyball tournaments, Ronaiah’s there,” Vaosa said.
Eventually, this cousin broke things off with “Kekua” — as well as the real Kekua, Ronaiah Tuiasosopo — and that was that. That is, until a few months ago, when the name Lennay Kekua suddenly appeared in the news:
“When I found out about the Samoan football player (and) his girlfriend, his Grandma died the same day, I was like, ‘Whoa this is crazy,’ I feel so bad for him, so I just looked him up,” Vaosa said. “I found out his girlfriend’s name was Lennay Kekua. And right when I read the name Lennay Kekua, I immediately thought of Ronaiah. Then I thought of my cousin — that this has to be the same person.”
Armed with the knowledge that a college football star’s dead girlfriend probably wasn’t real, Vaosa and Tuioti-Mariner proceeded to
get in touch with Te’o alert the authorities tell the media joke about it on Twitter for a few months.