The young woman who unwittingly became the face of Notre Dame football player Manti Te’o’s fictitious girlfriend, Lennay Kekua, was as shocked as anyone when she received a call from Deadspin reporters last week, notifying her that for months her private photos had been used by fake online accounts.
Lennay Kekua, purportedly a Stanford student who died in mid-September of complications due to leukemia, was originally believed to have been Te’o’s longtime girlfriend. However, their love story was revealed to be an elaborate hoax involving at least one or more of Te’o’s male acquaintances, in an ensuing takedown piece published by Deadspin.
The woman has since been identified by various news outlets as a Diane O’Meara, 23, of Los Angeles, who graduated from California State University, at Long Beach. O'Meara now works as a marketing executive, multiple media reports said.
When Deadspin first broke the story, its was careful to protect O’Meara’s identity, explaining her relationship to the alleged hoaxer Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (they were high school classmates,) but referring to her only under the pseudonym “Reba.” Reportedly at O’Meara’s request for anonymity, Deadspin even blurred her face in the photos they published.
O’Meara confirmed that the photos on Lennay Kekua’s Twitter account had been taken from her own Facebook, as she slowly pieced together how identity theft had taken place. "That picture," she told Deadspin during a phone interview, "is a picture of me from my Facebook account."
After overcoming the initial shock, O’Meara reportedly related a story from December 2012. She said that Tuisasosopo, a high school classmate whom she had not spoken to in years, messaged her with a somewhat odd request. Tuisasosopo said that his cousin had been involved in a car accident and saw her photos on Facebook and thought she was pretty, she claimed. O’Meara said that she agreed to take a photo of herself for Tuiasosopo’s cousin, holding a sign that said “MSMK,” to be included in a slideshow intended to help cheer him up. She said that she didn’t ask what MSMK represented, and Tuiasosopo didn’t offer an explanation.
But despite O’Meara’s hesitation in associating herself with the strange hoax, just two days after the story first broke, various publications including the Daily Mail, The NY Post, and The Atlantic Wire had all published stories publicly outing O’Meara, and some had even spoken to her friends and relatives.
O’Meara has already obtained a lawyer, the Atlantic Wire reported, and has only responded to reporters’ questions to say that she is not prepared to make a statement yet. When a Los Angeles affiliate of CBS KCAL9 caught O’Meara on camera in the parking lot outside of her office building, she maintained her silence, telling reporters “Really, right now I’m not making any comments… So go ahead and contact my legal attorneys and they’ll help you out.”
The news station also reported that they had gotten I touch with O’Meara’s lawyer, who did not agree to be interviewed on camera but said that he was reviewing the case and felt it was too premature to make a statement yet.
Jill covers a little bit of everything for IBTimes, from U.S. and World News to Pop Culture. She is a lifelong New Yorker, and holds her bachelors in Media & Culture from...