Kelleth Cuthbert, a model who rose to prominence as the “Fiji Water Girl” during the 76th Golden Globe Awards, filed a lawsuit Thursday against the company that made her famous.
In the civil complaint, Cuthbert, whose real name is Kelly Steinbach, alleged that Fiji Water created a “worldwide cardboard cutout marketing campaign” based on the unauthorized use of her “photograph, likeness, and identity.”
According to Steinbach, Fiji initially attempted to negotiate an agreement with her agent, but no agreement was reached. Soon after, cardboard cutouts of the model appeared in several grocery stores, prompting the lawsuit.
Cuthbert became an unexpected star at the Golden Globes after she appeared in the background of numerous celebrity photographs while sporting a blue Marchesa dress and passing out Fiji waters to stars on the red carpet. Additionally, her legal team estimates that she generated more than $12 million worth of brand exposure from her work on the red carpet.
Fiji Water disputed the accusations in a company statement, calling the lawsuit “frivolous” and “entirely without merit.”
“After the Golden Globes social media moment, we negotiated a generous agreement with Ms. Cuthbert that she blatantly violated,” the statement, obtained by CBS MoneyWatch, reads. “We are confident that we will prevail in court. Throughout our history, we have had a sterling reputation working with talent.”