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What is Reality Winner’s real name? Whistleblower's family and background explored

Mafalda Costa June 15, 2021
is reality winner her real name
Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images

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Is Reality Winner a real name or an alias? The NSA contractor accused of leaking information in 2016 is set to be released to a halfway house, where she can be reunited with her family. As Ms Winner makes headlines, people are struck by her unique moniker.

Photo by Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Who is Reality Winner?

Reality Winner is a former National Security Agency contractor who pleaded guilty in 2018 to leaking an intelligence report about Russian interference in the 2016 election.

She had been arrested in 2017 and charged with sending a classified report about election interference to reporters at The Intercept.

The report described hacks by Russian intelligence operatives against local election officials and a company that sold software related to voter registration.

On Monday, 14 June 2021, her attorney wrote in a post on Twitter that Winner was released from prison.

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“I am thrilled to announce that Reality Winner has been released from prison,” Alison Grinter Allen wrote. “She is still in custody in the residential reentry process, but we are relieved and hopeful.”

According to CNBC, a Bureau of Prisons website says that Winner is currently located at a reentry facility in San Antonio. Her release date from the facility is listed as Nov. 23, 2021.

Is Reality Winner a real name or an alias?

Many people who first heard about Reality Winner assumed her name must be an alias or a codename.

In fact, as unusual as it may seem, Winner’s real name is indeed Reality Leigh Winner.

During an interview with the Daily Mail, Gary Davis, Reality Winner’s stepfather, said that her odd name had been bestowed on her by her late father, Ronald Winner.

He said: “He [Winner’s father] always wanted to have a ‘Real Winner’ so he named her Reality Leigh Winner. It’s just a beautiful name…everyone who knew her just loved the name Reality and it stuck with her.”

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The Winner family

Reality is the daughter of Ronald Winner and Billie Winner-Davis.

According to New York Magazine, Ronald and Billie had agreed that the latter would name their first child – whom Billie named Brittany – but their second was Ronald’s to choose.

He noticed, on a T-shirt at their Lamaze class, the words I COACHED A REAL WINNER. 

Ronald wanted a success story and felt that an aspirational name would increase his chances of producing one. 

And right there and then, the name Reality Leigh Winner was born.

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Mafalda Costa is a second year BA Journalism student originally from Portugal. Her main passions if life are music, arts and culture, while she's particularly knowledgable on cinema and anime.