Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist Review – the unbelievable accounts of an insane love story

By Romey Norton
Published: August 16, 2022 (Last updated: December 5, 2023)


A gripping conversation starter with enough perspectives and energy to push viewers into forming their own opinions.

Netflix’s Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist was released on Tuesday, August 16th, 2022, in two parts.

The first installment from Untold Volume 2 is a two-part documentary called The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, which features conversations with both Manti Te’o (NFL player) and Ronaiah Tuiasosopo (who has since come out as a transgender woman and prefers to go by “Naya” and she/her pronouns but still also uses the Ronaiah Tuiasosopo name). Across these two episodes, we are given a story that I think Nev and Max (Catfish) will be jealous they didn’t get to cover. 

Manti Te’O was an impressionable young teen, trying to be a professional NFL player, who was caught in a scandal as he was cat-fished online by someone who was seriously manipulative and controlling. This story is almost unbelievable and if I weren’t watching people review and explain their parts in the story I wouldn’t have believed it. 

Ronaniah and Manti began talking online — but Ronaniah was cat-fishing him, pretending to be a woman called Lennay Kekua. As Manti’s career was building and fame was setting in, his affections began to decrease to the person he’d never met, and in retaliation, Ronaniah (pretending to be Lennay’s brother) tells Manti that Lennay has died. Absolutely mind-blowing, that someone would be that callous and cruel. 

Manti, obviously upset and devastated, was propelled into more fame as this story brought him a lot of sympathy, empathy, and attention from fans. Unfortunately for both of them, someone gave a tip to the magazine Deadspin, who then began investigating the allegations that this “girlfriend’s death” was a hoax. Now, like all good journalists, they found the truth and published it. 

America is a very masculine country, and the focus then became on Manti’s sexuality, rather than the deception. The NFL wanted to know if he was gay — and many were put off picking him for their teams. This scandal not only cost him his dignity but millions and millions of dollars. 

We have exclusive interviews with Manti and Ronaniah/Naya, and whilst Ronaiah has come out as transgender and hinted at their actions regarding Manti being due to her not knowing herself, I found her hard to empathize with. She seemed to place herself as a victim and gave little remorse for her previous actions. Whilst I think both she and Manti are extremely brave for these interviews, and appreciate them for being so open and vulnerable, I couldn’t give her the same sympathy as I had for Manti. We also hear from journalists, and family members, and even have Dr. Phil on there. Their raw and honest interviews really do give this documentary depth.

Overall this documentary is an excellent watch. There is a lot to this story — it’s gripping and certainly a conversation starter. Getting different perspectives adds a lot of energy and gets viewers to think and create their own opinions on the subject at hand. Manti Te’O, for me, is a victim and this documentary is up there with the wildest ones I have seen recently. I highly recommend watching if you’re a fan of sports, scandals, documentary series, and serious drama.

What do you think of Netflix’s Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist? Comment below.

You can watch this series with a subscription to Netflix.

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