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Entertainment & Arts

‘Fiji Water Girl’ sues company for using her likeness in cardboard cutout campaign

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Kelleth Cuthbert, right, was dubbed “Fiji Water Girl” during the 2019 Golden Globe Awards.
(Jen Yamato / Los Angeles Times)

The “Fiji Water Girl” is unhappy with the company’s thirst for using her 15 minutes of fame.

Kelleth Cuthbert, dubbed the “Fiji Water Girl” by the internet when images of her photo-bombing celebrities on the Golden Globes red carpet went viral, filed a lawsuit alleging that the company is using her likeness without her permission in a marketing campaign.

Cuthbert, who was stationed at a highly visible spot on the red carpet to serve Golden Globe attendees bottles of Fiji Water, strategically angled herself into numerous photos with celebrities.

In a complaint filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court, Cuthbert, whose real name is Kelly Steinbach, claims that her appearance during the Golden Globes broadcast generated more than $12 million of exposure for the water brand.

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Jamie Lee Curtis
“Fiji Water Girl” Kelleth Cuthbert photo-bombs Jamie Lee Curtis at the 76th Golden Globe Awards.
(Matt Sayles / Invision for Fiji Water/Associated Press)

ALSO: Fiji Water photo-bomber wins the Golden Globes red carpet: ‘You’ve got to angle’

The lawsuit alleges that although Cuthbert met with Fiji Water about a cardboard cutout campaign, they never reached an agreement and she never gave authorization for the company to use her “photograph, likeness and identity.” It additionally claims that Fiji Water “pressured” her into a “fake signing of a fake document” in order to record a simulation of an agreement in case one was reached in the future.

Fiji Water, however, said it had reached an agreement with Cuthbert.

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“This lawsuit is frivolous and entirely without merit,” said Fiji Water in a statement. “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.”

A representative for Cuthbert released a statement saying the lawsuit was “a last resort” for the model, “who had hoped to discreetly resolve this dispute.”

“Fiji Water used her image without a contract, without consent and without paying her, all for Fiji Water’s financial gain,” said the statement. “Models make a living off the use of their image. No one would expect other professions to work for free. Fiji Water’s cardboard cutout campaign used Ms. Cuthbert’s image unlawfully and she just wants what is fair.”

tracy.brown@latimes.com

Twitter: @tracycbrown


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