After gaining internet fame by photobombing nearly every red carpet press picture at the Golden Globes, the Fiji Water Girl is now suing the luxury water brand over the use of her likeness in a marketing campaign.
The model turned meme, Kelleth Cuthbert (real name Kelly Steinbach), tells The Hollywood Reporter that Fiji didn’t obtain proper permission before creating cardboard cutouts of her. Instead, they offered an unofficial document labeling her as a brand ambassador.
Steinbach says the company pressured her into signing the document on camera for what she thought was a staged simulation of her joining as a brand ambassador before revealing that she was actually signing on with Fiji.
Steinbach’s legal team says the document, which the model destroyed, was not binding and that Fiji was aware that a deal wasn’t reached before distributing the cutouts.
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The suit is targeting Fiji for monetary damages, with Steinbach estimating the “Fiji Water Girl” meme has generated at least $12 million in exposure for the brand. She is also requesting the disposal of the cutouts and the discontinuation of their use in marketing campaigns.
Fiji denied the claims of misconduct with Steinbach, releasing a statement refuting the accusations.
“This lawsuit is frivolous and entirely without merit,” a Fiji Water spokesperson states. “After the Golden Globes social media moment, we negotiated a generous agreement with Ms. Cuthbert that she blatantly violated. We are confident that we will prevail in court. Throughout our history, we have had a sterling reputation working with talent.”
Steinbach’s presence in the photos set the internet on fire, but did cause some disdain by some attendees.
“I specifically moved away from the blatant promotions by Fiji and Moet where young women with their trays filled with their wares stood near a designated camera,” Curtis wrote on Instagram. “I knew why there was a photographer poised there, and I moved away as I said out loud that I didn’t want to be doing advertising for either.”
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