After stealing the spotlight on the Golden Globes red carpet earlier this year, L.A. based model Kelleth Cuthbert, a.k.a. the Fiji Water Girl, is now suing the company responsible for her famous moniker.
Cuthbert — whose real name is Kelly Steinbach — has filed a lawsuit against Fiji Water and parent corporation The Wonderful Company, claiming that they misappropriated her likeness and violated her right of publicity.
According to documents obtained by ET, Cuthbert claims the companies capitalized on her fleeting fame by initiating a “worldwide cardboard cutout marketing campaign based on the unauthorized use of [her] photograph, likeness, and identity.”
Fiji Water, however, staunchly denied the model’s claims in a statement released to ET on Thursday.
“This lawsuit is frivolous and entirely without merit,” the company’s statement read. “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.”
Cuthbert made headlines during the star-studded show on Jan. 6, by striking bold poses and casting fascinating gazes while standing behind celebrities on the red carpet. The suit claims that Fiji Water began printing cardboard cutouts of Cuthbert the following day.
On Jan. 8, the model’s suit alleges that Fiji Water “attempted to negotiate an agreement with [her] agent” but that “no agreement was reached authorizing Fiji Water to use [her] photograph, likeness or identity” in their campaign.
Cuthbert goes on to claim that she became aware of the campaign on Jan. 9, “When a cardboard cutout was reported at Bristol Farms in West Hollywood.” Later that day, the model alleges that the company asked her to meet with them at their office in Los Angeles, where she says they offered her “gifts to entice [her] to sign away her rights” to the name “Fiji Water Girl,” and tried to get her to authorize the use of her likeness.
She claims she did not agree to their terms, but alleges she was “pressured” by the company to record a video of “a fake signing of a fake document to simulate [her] signing on as a Fiji Water Ambassador.” However, the suit claims that the document was not a real legal agreement, and that it was never signed by Fiji Water either.
The lawsuit also included snapshots allegedly showing the cutout of Cuthbert — taken on the red carpet at the Golden Globes — in different stores “in Los Angeles, in other parts of the United States, and around the world in order to market Fiji Water products.”
The lawsuit also claims that the company photoshopped her into famous photographs and still frames from movies to capitalize on her popularity on their social media accounts.
Furthermore, the docs allege that Cuthbert’s legal representatives believe that her fame as the “Fiji Water Girl” generated more than $12 million worth of “brand exposure.”
Cuthbert is seeking damages in an amount to be determined at trial, including compensatory or statutory damages, as well as attorney fees and court costs.
ET spoke with Cuthbert the day after her appearance on the red carpet, and the model seemed enthusiastic and optimistic about her future working with the water company.
“There’s a lot of stuff coming up,” Cuthbert said at the time, referring to her possible appearance at upcoming events during the months-long awards season. “So you’ll definitely see me again.”
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