Poonam Panday: Indian model, TV star and actor dead at 32

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Bollywood actor and model Poonam Pandey has died at just 32 from cervical cancer.

A post to the Instagram account of Poonam Pandey stated the star had passed away on Thursday, local time in Mumbai, India.

“This morning is a tough one for us,” the post read.

“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.

“In this time of grief, we would request for privacy while we remember her fondly for all that we shared.”

The Indian press has reported Pandey’s manager Nikita Sharma said she was diagnosed with the disease “sometime ago”.

Ms Sharma said Pandey’s death was “tragic” and has left the “entertainment industry in shock and mourning,” reported NDTV.

Pandey’s last post just four days ago and showed her attending a boat party.

Since New Year, her Instagram account has been updated around 15 times – but it’s not clear when the images and video were taken.

Born in 1991 in Kanpur in Uttar Pradesh, 500km south east of Delhi, Pandey, rose to fame when she reached the finals of India’s annual Gladrags Manhunt and Megamodel Contest in 2011 then appeared on the cover of the Gladrags fashion magazine.

Nude shoots

Pandey courted controversy in 2011 when she said she would strip for India’s cricket team if they won the World Cup.

The team did but Pandey didn’t strip for them because of the controversy around her promise. However, she did load a video onto social media of her stripping at the Wankhede cricket stadium in Mumbai at night.

Pandey the did various nude shoots and stunts which turbocharged her following but also led to criticism.

In 2013 she starred in the Bollywood film Nasha where she played the lead role of a schoolteacher who one of her students becomes obsessive over.

She went onto star in multiple other Indian films as well as the reality TV shows Fear Factor in 2011 and Lock Upp in 2022.

Pandey was a semi-finalist in the latter show, where controversial celebrities become “prisoners” and have to battle for rewards.

She married her boyfriend Sam Bombay in 2020 but that relationship has been marred by domestic violence allegations.

‘How is this possible’

Some online have questioned the timing of her death announcement given the sheer number of recent social media posts where Pandey looked at the peak of health.

“How is this possible? How could someone die of a cancer instantly?” asked one.

“How can a person who is suffering from cancer look so healthy and also dies all of a sudden?” said another.

However, others mourned the star’s passing.

Fellow Bollywood star Ranaut said: “This is so sad. Losing a young woman to cancer is a catastrophe”.

Another remarked: “This is where we get to learn that you don’t know what someone is going through in private but still always had a smile in public”.

“She was such a brave girl. Smiling and laughing ‘til the end”.

Australia’s cervical cancer success

Cervical cancer starts in the cervix which is in the lower part of the uterus. The human papillomavirus, also called HPV, is linked to most cervical cancer cases.

The HPV virus is passed through sexual contact with the immune system almost always neutralising it. But in a small number of cases the virus can survive and it can then be a factor in turning cervical cells cancerous.

In Australia, in the 1980s, it was the sixth most common cancer among women. But cervical cancer rates have since fallen dramatically.

That success has been put down to the rollout of both the National Cervical Screening Program and offering young people the HPV vaccine.

Some researchers have suggested that Australia could be the first country to eliminate cervical cancer, sometime in the mid-2030s.