Bollywood actress Poonam Pandey has died from cervical cancer at the age of 32. Her death was announced Friday in a post on her Instagram page.
“This morning is a tough one for us. Deeply saddened to inform you that we have lost our beloved Poonam to cervical cancer,” the post read.
Her manager, Nikita Sharma later confirmed her death to NDTV. “Her unwavering spirit amidst her health struggles was truly remarkable,” Sharma said.
Pandey began her career as a model, but made her film debut in Nasha in 2013. The erotic thriller’s poster prominently featured the actress partially undressed, and sparked outrage and protests in India.
Pandey most recently appeared on the first season of the Indian reality television show Lock Upp in 2022, where celebrities who are considered controversial complete challenges to escape imprisonment.
Pandey’s status as a controversial figure mostly stemmed from outrage over her outward sexuality. In 2011, she faced backlash after promising to strip if India won the Cricket World Cup. A year later, she posted a nude photo when her favored team Kolkata Knight Riders won. In 2023, Pandey joined OnlyFans.
Pandey once said she purposely sparked controversies as a way of helping her career in Bollywood. “It’s very difficult to get your own identity, especially if you come from nowhere. Hence, to get that identity and recognition, I thought only controversy could help,” she said.
Pandey married actor Sam Bombay in September 2020. Two months later, Pandey accused Bombay of physically assaulting her. After the arrest, she stayed with Bombay, saying “We are madly in love. And, which shaadi (marriage) does not have its ups and downs?” The couple eventually separated.
Bollywood actress Kangana Ranaut posted about Pandey’s passing on Instagram. “This is so sad. Losing a young woman to cancer is a catastrophe,” she wrote.
Munawar Faruqui, a stand-up comedian and one of Pandey’s co-stars on Lock Upp tweeted about her passing. “Shocking! can’t process the news,” he wrote. “Poonam was a great human being. Sad.”