Poonam Pandey was a beloved Bollywood actress. “Every living form that ever came in contact with her was met with pure love and kindness,” her death announcement on Instagram read Friday morning.
Except Pandey isn’t actually dead.
“I am here, alive,” the actress wrote on Instagram one day after the news of her untimely (and untrue) passing broke. She admitted to the stunt on Saturday and then turned all the media attention on her—which included heartfelt obituaries, thousands of mournful comments and trending status on social media—toward cervical cancer, which she had previously said was the cause of her “death.”
“Poonam Pandey is ALIVE and well!” the actress wrote in a joint Instagram post with the media group Hauterrfly, an Indian website targeting millennial women. “Her bold act aims to spotlight the urgency of regular screenings, early detection, and the power of knowledge in conquering this silent threat.”
“Cervical Cancer didn’t claim me, but tragically, it has claimed the lives of thousands of women who stemmed from a lack of knowledge on how to tackle this disease,” Pandey wrote in her reveal.
The stunt, which attempted to frame Pandey as a daring fighter for terminally ill women, backfired on her tremendously. Upset fans called her an attention-seeker and panned the ridiculous hoax.
“Exploiting a serious issue like cervical cancer for cheap publicity is awful and disgraceful,” one angry fan commented. “Faking your own death is a new low.” Another added, “Next time people won’t take you seriously, you just destroyed your entire credibility.”
Pandey, who previously admitted to stirring up “controversy” in an attempt to advance her fame, was then compelled to issue a not-quite apology over the backlash. She implied that angry fans were distracted by the shocking nature of the stunt and didn’t see the “greater purpose” she was “committing her entire body to.”
“While I do understand how you would have perceived this in bad taste, I also implore you to consider the greater cause. Before passing judgement on the act, I urge you to recognize the alarming concern burdening women worldwide,” Pandey wrote.
She then assured her fans that her service was “not just lip service” and said the “intervention was necessary,” pointing to the headlines that cited cervical cancer as her cause of “death.” In the days since, Pandey has promoted several infographics and posts related to cervical cancer awareness, all while shamelessly centering her own participation.
Fans remained unconvinced. “Unfollow,” went the chorus of replies.