The most talked about moment of this year’s Golden Globes has officially turned ugly, with the Fiji Water Girl now suing the brand that made her a viral sensation.
Model Kelleth Cuthbert, real name Kelleth Steinbach, has initiated legal action again Fiji Water Company and The Wonderful Company claiming they created a marketing campaign off her image without her permission, according to legal documents obtained by US website The Blast.
At last month’s Golden Globes, Cuthbert made international headlines after she photobombed celebrities like Jamie Lee Curtis and Richard Madden on the red carpet while working as a promotional model for Fiji Water.
Cuthbert alleges two days after the Golden Globes, Fiji Water tried to negotiate an agreement for a cardboard cut-out marketing campaign of her.
But the next day cardboard cut-outs of Cuthbert were spotted outside a Los Angeles grocery store.
She also alleges Fiji Water tried to offer her “gifts to entice” her to sign away the rights to her image and “pressured” her into “video recording a fake signing of a fake document” to pretend she was signing on as an ambassador.
According to The Blast, the document Cuthbert signed “wasn’t an agreement” and was later destroyed.
In a statement, Fiji Water labelled Cuthbert’s claims “frivolous and entirely without merit,” adding they were “confident that we will prevail in court”.
“After the Golden Globes social media moment, we negotiated a generous agreement with Ms Cuthbert that she blatantly violated,” they added.
The Fiji Water Girl stunt has proved lucrative for the brand, with marketing analytics firm Apex Marketing Group estimating the viral story was worth about $AU16.77 million in advertising.
“Since this went viral it took the (brand) exposure to a new level not seen in prior Golden Globes,” Apex Marketing Group president Eric Smallwood told Yahoo Finance.
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Her following on Instagram has also skyrocketed from 54,000 before the Golden Globes to more than 226,000 followers.
But not everyone was pleased about being involved in the Fiji Water stunt, with actor Curtis unhappy that she had been photobombed by a product on the red carpet.
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So, my husband, who doesn’t look at a lot of show business news sites, just mentioned that I was on the CNN website. 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. 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. Clearly this angle shows that I moved from her being behind me and yet from the side it still happens. The sponsors of events need to get permission from people when they get them to take their picture next to products.
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Explaining in an Instagram post that she purposefully avoids being photographed next to branded content, Curtis said Fiji Water should have sought permission from her before the photo was taken.
“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,” she wrote.
“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.”