The “Fiji Water Girl” who found social media fame thanks to her expert-level photobombing during the 2019 Golden Globes is now suing the brand for allegedly using her image while cutting her out of the profits.
Kelleth Cuthbert, born Kelly Steinbach, quickly went viral last month after viewers spotted her on the red carpet stealing the show while standing in the background of photos with various celebs. However, Cuthbert appears to no longer be happy in her relationship with the water company. The 31-year-old model filed a lawsuit against the Fiji Water Company and The Wonderful Company, accusing both parties of profiting off her image by creating marketing materials centered around her without her permission, The Blast reports.
Cuthbert claims that on Jan. 7, a day after the Golden Globes and her subsequent rise to fame, Fiji Water “intentionally created cardboard cut-outs of Steinbach for use in a cardboard cutout marketing campaign,” according to court documents obtained by the outlet.
She claims that the company then tried to work out a deal with her agent the following day, but the day after that, Cuthbert and her agent were informed that a cardboard cut-out featuring her image had already been set up and spotted at a Bristol Farms location in West Hollywood, The Blast reports. In fact, a paparazzi photo of John Legend taken outside the store shows the singer rolling his cart out past the Fiji Water cut-out.
Cuthbert went on to claim in the suit that the company tried to use gifts in an effort to seduce her into signing the rights to her image over to Fiji Water, and later “pressured Steinbach into video recording a fake signing of a fake document to simulate Steinbach signing on as a Fiji Water Ambassador.” She later destroyed the document, which she says was not a legally binding agreement, according to The Blast. She reportedly further claimed that the company was aware that no agreement existed between them, but still continued to use her image.
The model believes that her viral fame has made millions in brand exposure for the company, The Blast reports. Now, she wants the company to pay up: In addition to asking a judge to force the company to discontinue use of the cardboard cut-outs with her image, she is also seeking monetary damages, according to the outlet.
A representative for Fiji Water refuted Cuthbert’s claims in a statement to Page Six, and further accused the model of violating an agreement she’d had with them.
“This lawsuit is frivolous and entirely without merit,” it said. “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.”
[Photo: Getty Images]
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