‘I’m alive, I didn’t die’ says influencer who faked her death for this reason

Key Points
  • An Instagram post on Poonam Pandey’s account said the influencer had “bravely fought” cervical cancer and died.
  • A day later, Pandey posted a video message admitting to faking her death to raise awareness about the disease.
  • Unlike Australia, the HPV vaccine is not provided in Indian schools and few women get screened for cervical cancer.
Poonam Pandey admits faking her death was “extreme” but shocking people to raise awareness about cervical cancer was “all I wanted to do”.
On Saturday, the 32-year-old Indian model, actress and influencer sparked a backlash online after admitting on social media that she had staged her death, saying she was proud of what her “death news has been able to achieve”.
It followed a statement on her Instagram account on Friday, written as if a third party had posted it, informing her followers that Pandey had “bravely fought” cervical cancer and died.
“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,” it said.

The news sent shockwaves on social media with Indian media outlets confirming the death and colleagues and co-stars paying tribute to Pandey on several platforms.
It also came as a surprise to her followers who said there had been no signs that Pandey had been unwell, with several resharing her posts from last week.
In a video message on Saturday, Pandey said: “I’m alive, I didn’t die from cervical cancer. Unfortunately, I cannot say that about the hundreds of thousands of women who have lost their lives because of cervical cancer.”
She also talked about the lack of awareness in India about the HPV vaccine designed to prevent the sexually transmitted human papillomavirus, which can cause cervical cancer.

However, her fake death announcement was soon met with online criticism which included accusations that it was “distasteful” and a “deceptive stunt”.

Pandey issued an apology but said she was “proud” and had achieved what she had set out to do which was “to shock everyone into the conversation we are not talking enough about”.
“Yes, I faked my demise, extreme I know. But suddenly we all are talking about cervical cancer, aren’t we?” Pandey said.

According to the World Health Organisation’s most recent data, just 2 per cent of Indian women had been screened for cervical cancer in the five years to 2019 and more than four million had died from it in India that year.

India’s Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman announced that her government would encourage cervical cancer vaccination for girls from nine to 14 years of age, as reported by Business Today.
The report also said that Sitharaman
The HPV vaccine is free in Australia under the National Immunisation Program for young people aged 12 to 13 and is primarily provided through school immunisation programs.

In Australia, about 80 per cent of adolescent girls are vaccinated against HPV and screening is offered to women every five years.

Through her Instagram post, Pandey implored people to “consider the greater cause” and shared a link to the Poonampadleyisalive.com website which is understood to contain information about cervical cancer, screening and vaccinations.
The website was inoperational when SBS News attempted to access it.
Pandey began her modelling career in 2010 and has garnered a reputation for outlandish stunts and risque behaviour.
She pledged to strip for the India cricket team if they won the 2011 Cricket World Cup at home, later posting a video online of her shedding her clothes at Wankhede Stadium where the tournament’s final was held.
She said no pharmaceutical companies had been involved in her latest social media ‘campaign’ and she had not made any financial gains from it.

Cancer Awareness, Prevention and Early Detection Trust, an NGO based in India said in a social media post it was glad Pandey was alive.

“Let us use this opportunity to redouble our efforts in educating and spreading awareness about the risks of Cervical Cancer and the preventive measures we can take to safeguard ourselves and others,” it said.
Pandey and Schbang, the advertising company that worked on the stunt, have apologised to anyone who may have been “triggered” by the campaign.
In a statement on LinkedIn, Schbang said the term ‘cervical cancer’ had become one of the most searched terms on Google, with more than 1,000 articles published on the topic.
It acknowledged not everyone agreed with the approach taken, but hoped the pro-bono campaign would spread awareness and prevent deaths.

– With inputs from AFP

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