Kelleth Cuthbert a.k.a. Fiji Water Girl is taking legal action against the company that made her famous

By Joelle Goldstein
January 31, 2019 07:12 PM
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Fiji Water is in some hot water.

Almost a month after Kelleth Cuthbert a.k.a. Fiji Water Girl stole the show at the 76th annual Golden Globe Awards for photobombing a number of stars on the red carpet, the model is now suing the company that helped her become an overnight success.

Cuthbert, whose real name is Kelly Steinbach, is taking legal action against Fiji Water and its parent company, The Wonderful Company, for allegedly creating a marketing campaign around her viral Golden Globes moment without permission, according to documents obtained by The Blast.

In court documents obtained by the outlet, the model alleged that the day after the Globes, Fiji Water “intentionally created cardboard cutouts of Steinbach for use in a cardboard cutout marketing campaign.”

Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for FIJI Water

On Jan. 8, Fiji Water attempted to negotiate an agreement with Cuthbert’s agent, but it was too late as a cardboard cutout of the model was already standing outside of Bristol Farms in West Hollywood, the documents read.

The cutout was even captured by paparazzi in the background of a shot of John Legend leaving the grocery store.

John Legend leaving a grocery store with a cardboard cutout of Kelleth Cuthbert in the background
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She also alleges in the documents that Fiji offered her “gifts to entice” her permission and “pressured Steinbach into video recording a fake signing of a fake document to simulate Steinbach signing on as a Fiji Water Ambassador.”

Her legal team claims those documents were not an agreement — Cuthbert eventually destroyed the papers — and despite Fiji knowing they were not official, they began capitalizing off of her image and likeness, according to The Blast.

Cuthbert is now requesting that the company stop using the cardboard cutouts and pay her for monetary damages, the outlet said.

In a statement to PEOPLE, Fiji Water refuted Cutherbert’s claims.

“This lawsuit is frivolous and entirely without merit. After the Golden Globes social media moment, we negotiated a generous agreement with Ms. Cuthbert that she blatantly violated,” they told PEOPLE. “We are confident that we will prevail in Court. Throughout our history, we have had a sterling reputation working with talent.”

Cuthbert did not immediately respond to PEOPLE’s request for comment.

Kelleth Cuthbert with Richard Madden
Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for FIJI Water

On Jan. 6, Cuthbert became the talk of the night after she stood behind stars on the red carpet with her tray of Fiji Water.

Cuthbert, who usually works as a fashion model and commercial actress, said she wasn’t intentionally trying to steal the spotlight — but rather her modeling instincts took over. Of her big Golden Globes moment, Cuthbert explained that the photos simply came about by “looking at the camera at the right time.”

“There’s tons of photographers everywhere. It doesn’t matter where you stand, you’re in the crossfire of every shot,” she explained to PEOPLE. “You’ve gotta have good face, at least, if you’re gonna be hovering in the background frequently.”

As the evening went on, Cuthbert quickly became one of the most talked about topics on social media, with more than 50,000 tweets sent out about her on Twitter in just a few short hours.

The model, however, was unaware of her instantaneous fame as she stood on the carpet phone-less.

Kelleth Cuthbert with Jamie Lee Curtis
Matt Sayles/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

“I had absolutely no idea what was happening because I obviously didn’t have my phone on me,” she said of the social media craze happening while she worked.

“I felt very cut off from everything. I didn’t find out until the last stragglers of the red carpet were heading into the awards ceremony, and all these people walking by started shoving their phones in my face and showing me that I was trending on Twitter, but I didn’t understand the magnitude of it till later,” she added.

RELATED VIDEO: Fiji Water Girls Return to the Red Carpet at the 2019 Critics’ Choice Awards After Going Viral

As a result of her Fiji Water stint, Cuthbert also recently landed an acting gig on The Bold and the Beautiful.

On Jan. 15, she posted a photo to Instagram with several cast members from the CBS soap opera, including Nia Sioux, Heather Tom, Courtney Hope, and Darin Brooks.

The show — which is currently in its 32nd season — also shared two photos on their own account featuring Cuthbert photobombing her fellow actors.

Cuthbert’s episode is set to air on Feb. 6, a rep at CBS confirmed to PEOPLE. The one-episode guest appearance will see Cuthbert take on the role of “Raine,” who is a Forrester Creations model.