Before she was killed by her brother to protect “family honour”, 25-year-old Qandeel Baloch had become somewhat of an icon in Pakistan, inspiring and shocking the conservative nation in equal measure.
The controversial model hit the headlines in March after promising to strip if Pakistan defeated India in the World T20, a pledge that outraged many but also won her numerous fans and cemented her place as a risqué but popular internet sensation.
She even offered her half a million Facebook fans a “trailer to the full show”, only to have her page temporarily blocked following a shower of complaints.
Earlier, Qandeel took to social networking sites to ask her fans whether they’d prefer a “strip dance” or a “nip slip” if the Pakistani team won at Eden Gardens. She also sent a message to Shahid Afridi before the big match that she was willing to give the Pakistan skipper “anything” if his team beat India.
Born in Pakistan’s Dera Ghazi Khan, Baloch steadily climbed the social media popularity charts by posting risque videos and images on social media websites, including Facebook.
Her so-called antics triggered much speculation on why she acts the way she does. Some said she belonged to a conservative family and wanted to break free, while others said she was the child of a powerful figure from a second or third wife.
“She is all about seeking attention, which suggests a restricted family background,” says psychologist Faisal Mamsa.
Nationalist parties of Balochistan insisted she was not from their province, despite her surname. “She is a fake Baloch,” says nationalist party leader Ali Muhammad Kurd. “She needs to be exposed.”
But the backlash did little to dent her popularity, with her videos showing her in suggestive poses and dances sold on DVDs.
Many saw her as a symbol of resistance against religious orthodoxy that is increasingly clamping restrictions on the things citizens, especially young women, can do. Her social media profiles spawned many others in Pakistan and triggered comparisons with socialite Kim Kardashian.
Qandeel’s career highlights comprise television appearances, where her antics brought her into the limelight more than her turns in TV shows magazine shoots.
The memory of her Pakistan Idol audition lingers, says one writer, while Qandeel prides herself on being a morning show favourite, her cattiness bringing on the drama that makes ratings shoot up.
Her risqué videos on the internet even prompted discussions on whether she was breaking any media laws. But legal expert Sara Shah said, “The only thing she is doing is spreading vulgarity, for which there is no specific procedure other than a complaint at the police station.”
Commentators said she was the flagbearer of a countrywide surge in Pakistan of people pushing their sex appeal — mainstream actresses such as Mehwish Hayat and Ayesha Omar, who were hitherto only pretty faces on TV, turning on the charm in dance numbers, and male models and actors stripping to reveal bare chests on Instagram.