Poonam Pandey: the Indian model who faked her own death

The Bollywood star has a reputation for outlandish stunts

Poonam Pandey
Pandey said she was 'proud' her social media stunt had helped to raise awareness of cervical cancer
(Image credit: Ashish Vaishnav/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

An Indian model has sparked an online backlash after faking her own death in what she says was a bid to raise awareness about cervical cancer.

On Friday, Poonam Pandey's official Instagram account issued a statement announcing the death of the 32-year-old, claiming she had "bravely fought the disease". 

But a day later, it emerged that the reality TV star and Bollywood actor was alive and well.

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Footage showed Pandey 'in good health'

Pandey's "death" was confirmed by her manager, Nikita Sharma, who issued statements that praised her "unwavering spirit amidst her health struggles" before she "tragically passed away". Sharmer told reporters that there was a "critical need for increased awareness and proactive measures against preventable diseases like cervical cancer".

The death announcement prompted a "flurry of obituaries" from various media outlets, said Al Jazeera, and Bollywood stars posted "mournful tributes". Pandey's Wikipedia page was also updated to reflect her supposed death.

But sceptics pointed to online footage of Pandey on a boat in Goa, "apparently in good health", that had been posted to her account only four days before the announcement.

'Yes, I faked my demise'

Known for her outlandish stunts, Pandey gained fame in 2011 after promising to "strip for the Indian cricket team if they won the World Cup", said Sky News

And she has gained further notoriety after admitting to her 1.3 million Instagram followers on Saturday that "yes, I faked my demise". 

"Extreme, I know,"  she said in a video posted on the platform. "But suddenly we all are talking about cervical cancer, aren't we? I am proud of what my death news has been able to achieve." 

Urging her followers to "bring #DeathToCervicalCancer", Pandey continued: "Unlike some other cancers, cervical cancer is entirely preventable. The key lies in the HPV vaccine and early detection tests. We have the means to ensure no one loses their life to this disease. Let's empower one another with critical awareness." 

In a subsequent post defending her actions, Pandey said: "Feel free to express your frustration, I understand. But this is not just lip service – instead, I'm committing my entire body to the service of cervical cancer."

According to the World Health Organization, India accounts for up to a quarter of the world's cervical cancer cases, with more than 200 women losing their lives to the disease each day. Health campaigners are urging the Indian government to implement national HPV vaccinations for young girls, a move that "in the UK has cut the incidence of cervical cancer by 87% in women now in their 20s who were offered the vaccine between the ages of 12 and 13", reported The Guardian.

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