There is no Lennay Kekua, but the woman whose image was used to create Manti Te'o's fake girlfriend appears to be one Diane O'Meara, a marketing executive in Los Angeles. Yes, she has a lawyer, and, no, she won't be telling her side of the story right now. The New York Post, Inside Edition, and local Los Angeles news stations are just some of the many outlets scrambling for interviews with O'Meara, whom they have identified as the woman Deadspin called Reba in its account of the hoax concocted around the Notre Dame star and the woman whose private Facebook and Instagram photos were used on national TV and appeared on Kekua's fake Twitter account.
The big question surrounding O'Meara now is really the same one facing Te'o: Was she a hoaxer or a hoaxee? Also: Was she the person who broke the news to Te'o? Was she the one who Te'o says he talked to for hours at a time? Was she the girl who Te'o said was the "most beautiful girl" he's ever seen? Or did someone just steal her photos off the Internet and associate them with a person who never existed?
The explanations from Te'o and Notre Dame, which are being questioned across the country, maintain that Te'o found out about the hoax when the woman he had been talking to on the phone called him about news reports that she had died of leukemia. From Notre Dame Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick's press conference Wednesday night:
On the morning of December 26th, very early morning, Manti called his coaches to inform them that, while he was in attendance at the ESPN awards show in Orlando, he received a phone call from a number he recognized as having been that he associated with Lennay Kekua. When he answered it, it was a person whose voice sounded like the same voice he had talked to, who told him that she was, in fact, not dead.
O'Meara did not deny or confirm her involvement on camera to Inside Edition, which was the first outlet to
stalk catch up with O'Meara right outside her office. "Again, not commenting," she said. "So go and contact my legal attorneys and they will help you out."
But an O'Meara relative told the New York Post what most of the reports have suggested — that O'Meara, whose describes herself on Twitter as the "most driven person you'll ever meet," has been overwhelmed by the Te'o story, and the sudden attention. "Somebody stole her identity ... [O’Meara’s family] found out about it yesterday. They were shocked," Olga Volkov, a relative, told the Post, who adds that O'Meara is "a good person" from "a very good family." As Deadspin reported, O'Meara came to realize that her image had been plastered over TV as that of a dead girl, but she did not say if she was the one who informed Te'o:
Still, one fishy O'Meara connection remains: She appears to have been a former high-school classmate of Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, a Te'o friend suspected of running Kekua's social-media accounts, connected in a strange new car-accident link, and thought by many to have possibly orchestrated the entire hoax. Deadspin reported that, often, when Kekua was supposed to show up, Tuiasosopo showed up instead — and that Tuiasosopo had met men through fake profiles before. Deadspin also got many of its details from Tuiasosopo.
Then again, ripping off someone's picture from Facebook to use it in a hoax is pretty easy, as Catfish has showed us. O'Meara's lawyer says he's currently reviewing the case.
Update: Tuiasosopo has reportedly admitted to a friend that he was behind the hoax, according to ESPN's Shelley Smith.