Catfishing. It’s one of the most shocking forms of inappropriate online behaviour that many have found themselves victims of since the birth of the internet and dating apps.
Since 2012, television presenter Nev Schulman has been exposing some of the most astounding cases of people misleading others online in a bid to find love on the MTV series, Catfish: The TV Show. And if you think you saw it all, Netflix recently released the documentary, Untold: The Girlfriend Who Didn’t Exist, and honestly, we’ve lost all faith in humankind.
The film follows the journey of Manti Te’o, a rising American football star who fell victim to an elaborate catfishing hoax that got out of hand and made his life spiral out of control.
Manti thought he was in a relationship with a young LA-based woman, Lennay Kekua, who he later found out had tragically passed away on the same day as his grandmother. However, Lenny was very much alive and was, in fact, a person named Ronaiah Tuiasosopo, who has since transitioned after the catfishing scandal came to light. As well as using her original name Ronaiah, she also now uses the nickname Naya and she/her pronouns.
During the documentary, Naya attempts to explain why she catfished Manti, noting that while it was a “completely selfish” thing to do, she was “in love with being looked at in this way” as she navigated working through the confusion around her gender identity.
“The Lennay profile was not necessarily a way out but a way to something else,” she said. “At that time, I knew for sure there was something inside of me that just wanted to scream out and be like, ‘Why am I different?'”
“There were a couple of encounters online where it was like, ‘This guy’s cute. Let’s see where this goes.’ I knew what was right and wrong, but I was too far in love with being looked at in this way. It was completely selfish, but it was what made me happy. It was what I wanted to be a reality.”