Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist review


Poster for Netflix’s new documentary, Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist

Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist is a great story that reveals a catfish scandal that affected a college football player both on and off the field.

The stunning documentary, released August 16, 2022, tells the truth and the full story behind a catfishing scandal about Manti Te’o. It is a two part series with both episodes running about an hour long.

The directors interview Manti and Ronaiah (Lenney) about both their sides of the story. Lenney created a fake Facebook account and would talk to men as a fake identity. Te’o was the football player who was considered the best linebacker in the country and was hurt by the actions.

Te’o was in his fourth year at The University of Notre Dame when he found out his online girlfriend had died of Leukemia. That same day he had also gotten the bad news of his grandmother passing. This story caught the attention of all news networks around the country.

Te’o was the main attraction in college football for his resilience and playing through tragedy while still being one of the best players in the country. He had been “dating” Lenney for around 2 years, with never having met in person, just over phone calls. There were small red flags within this “relationship” but Manti had checked family members and friends about Lenney. Lenney did in fact exist but was not behind the account talking and texting with Te’o. She had gone to high school with some of Te’o’s family members and the family was okay with the relationship because he was happy and they trusted this was a real person.

Te’o ended up finding out this was all a made up account and his “girlfriend” was not real. He found out just days after winning a huge game against USC and just before the Heisman Trophy presentation which is awarded to the best player in college football. He was a finalist for this award. Te’o also had the biggest game of his career looming; he was playing in the national championship against Alabama.

While all this was going on, Deadspin, a news publication, was searching more into his loved ones dying. They found conflicting information about how and when Lenney died. 

They broke the story in January of 2013 sending the country into a frenzy of confusion. Major news outlets reported bashing him. This made his draft stock plummet and was put on a hot seat. This ended up taking a major toll on Te’o and was never the same from a football perspective again.

He was drafted by The San Diego Chargers and went on to play 7 years in the NFL. He was never a top talent though. He had mediocre stats and was not nearly as successful.

This opened the eyes of many American youth around the country and the importance of safety online. The scandal was the first major catfishing incident and was the first time many people had heard of catfishing.

Now parents teach kids safety about how to be safe and how to check if people are real on social media.