Who is Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, the man allegedly behind Lennay Kekua, Manti Te'o's non-existent dead girlfriend? (Updated)
A Deadspin.com report earlier this week asserted that Lennay Kekua, the alleged dead girlfriend of Notre Dame football star Manti Te'o, was a figment of someone's imagination, and the name that Deadspin proposed as the mastermind behind the Kekua persona is Ronaiah Tuiasosopo.
Te'o, a Heisman finalist, made headlines during the 2012 football season. In September, shortly after the death of his grandmother and the purported death of Kekua, Te'o led the Fighting Irish to a 20-3 victory over then No. 10 Michigan State. The Irish went undefeated during the regular season but lost in the national championship game to Alabama on Jan. 7.
Earlier this week, Deadspin released its report, which said Kekua never existed and that Tuiasosopo was likely behind the hoax. Shortly thereafter, Notre Dame football and Te'o himself substantiated the report.
Still, much is unknown about the person Deadspin named as the person behind the hoax. Tuiasosopo is described in the original report as a talented former high school football player from Southern California who, after graduating from high school, became a musician at the Oasis Christian Church of the Antelope Valley.
Tuaisosopo apparently wasn't satisfied to sing solely at his father's church. Us Weekly reported Friday morning that Tuiasosopo auditioned for the upcoming season of NBC's "The Voice," but didn't make the cut. The report also details how Tuaisosopo approached the producers with a heart-wrenching story, a story that in the wake of the Deadspin report, the producers now believe to be fake.
The authors of the original Deadspin report assert that Tuaisosopo and Te'o know each other, a fact confirmed by Manti Te'o's uncle, Alema Te'o. Alema Te'o runs the All-Poly football camp, a high school football camp in Salt Lake City, and a similar camp run in American Samoa on behalf of Troy Polamalu, All-Pro strong safety for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"I believe that he actually had a girl staged to be Lennay Kekua," Alema Te'o said in an interview on Salt Lake City radio station 1280 AM The Zone, "and sent her out there or made arrangements so that she could be out there. I wouldn't put it past this guy to do that.
"Ronaiah Tuiasosopo is a liar, he concocted the whole thing, he misrepresented whatever program that he was trying to get across to Manti, and shoot, he lied every step of the way. I don’t feel it’s beyond him to hire somebody or bring somebody in to play the role of Lennay to get Manti to buy into this deal."
The idea that Tuiasosopo would have had someone pretend to be Kekua seems to have merit. Arizona Cardinals fullback Reagan Mauia told ESPN on Wednesday that he actually met someone claiming to be Lennay Kekua in Samoa before she and Manti Te'o were in a relationship.
"I am close to her family," Mauia said to ESPN. "I offered a comforting shoulder and just someone to bounce her emotions off. That was just from meeting her in Samoa."
The ESPN report says that Tuiasosopo introduced Kekua to Mauia and that Mauia described her as an athletic, tall, beautiful woman with long hair and a "volleyball-type of physique."
"She looked like a model," he told ESPN.
In the lengthy radio interview, Alema Te'o said he first met Tuaisosopo in Los Angeles when Notre Dame played USC late last year.
"He said ... that he did all these fundraisers for leukemia and that he was doing some things currently on behalf of Lennay, this so-called Manti's girlfriend.
"During the course of that conversation, there were a number of things that raised a bunch of red flags to me. He made comment that he was with Troy Polamalu at the Polamalu foundation doing football camps and helping with the music side of things, which was not true."
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