Indian actress and model model Poonam Pandey says she faked her own death to raise awareness of cervical cancer, adding her actions were “necessary” to raise awareness around the malady.
A statement announcing her death was posted on her Instagram page on Friday.
Her 1.3 million followers were told: “This morning is a tough one for us. Deeply saddened to inform you that we have lost our beloved Poonam to cervical cancer.
“Every living form that ever came in contact with her was met with pure love and kindness.”
Pandey’s management team also confirmed her death to media outlets, Sky News reports, while colleagues and co-stars posted tributes on social media.
Now it turns out the whole thing was a fake.
Pandy followed her original post with another on Saturday revealing she was still very much alive and apologised to her fans for shocking them.
“Yes, I faked my demise. Extreme, I know. But suddenly we all are talking about cervical cancer, aren’t we?” Pandey said. “I am proud of what my death news has been able to achieve.”
“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 and ensure every woman is informed about the steps to take.”
She then urged her followers to “bring #DeathToCervicalCancer”.
In a later post defending her actions, she 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.
“Once you’ve portrayed your sentiments, I invite you to visit www.poonampandeyisalive.com, my gift to you, where we can come together to combat cervical cancer.”
According to the World Health Organization, India accounts for nearly one-quarter of the world’s cervical cancer cases, with more than 200 women losing their lives every day to the disease.
Pandey, a 32-year-old reality TV star and sometime Bollywood actor, shot to fame in 2011 when she promised she would strip for the India cricket team if they won the Cricket World Cup.