This Is Why the Fiji Water Girl is Suing Fiji Water

Not many of us watch the Golden Globes to catch glimpses of the promotional models but the ‘Fiji Water Girl’ caught the public’s eye and made a big splash in Fiji Water’s promotions.

Who is the ‘Fiji Water Girl’?

Kelleth Cuthbert, dubbed the Fiji Water Girl by the public, and born Kelly Cuthbert is a 30-year-old Canadian model. She was hired by Fiji Water for the 2019 Golden Globes to pose and promote their product. Cuthbert went above and beyond with her task: Located in a spot with a lot of celebrity traffic, she strategically positioned herself to appear in all these celebrities’ glamour shots.

Jamie Lee Curtis was not amused by Cuthbert’s cameo.

Why is Cuthbert suing Fiji Water?

The issue began when Fiji Water started a campaign that utilized the image of Cuthbert in cardboard cutout form. In the complaint she filed to the Los Angeles County Superior Court, she says her appearance at the Golden Globes generated $12 million for the Fiji Water brand, and claims that this is Fiji Water unlawfully using her image. She says although she did meet with Fiji Water about a cardboard cutout campaign, she never gave the brand permission to use her “photograph, likeness or identity.” A representative for Cuthbert says this lawsuit was “a last resort for the model, who had hoped to discreetly resolve this dispute.”

Cuthbert’s representative said in a statement, “Fiji Water used her image without a contract, without consent and without paying her, all for Fiji Water’s financial gain. 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.”

FIJI Water’s response

Fiji Water claims this lawsuit to pointless, saying they are not stressed about the court proceedings, confident they will prevail. “This lawsuit is frivolous and entirely without merit.”

Supposedly Fiji Water did come to an agreement with Cuthbert: “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.” But Cuthbert says she was bribed with gifts and tricked into signing away her rights. She says Fiji Water, “pressured her into video recording a fake signing of a fake document to simulate her signing on as a Fiji Water Ambassador.” she has since destroyed the alleged document and claims the brand has no right to use her likeness.

Cuthbert has “bitten the hand that feeds her”

Kelleth Cuthbert and another Fiji Water girl at the Golden Globes
Kelleth Cuthbert, right, and another FIJI Water Ambassador, left, at the 2019 Golden Globes. | Stefanie Keenan/Getty Images for FIJI Water

Fiji Water has now retaliated against Cuthbert with a countersuit. The brand says she has “bitten the hand that feeds her.” Fiji Water says not only has she violated their agreement, but she “attempted to extort close to a half million dollars from Fiji because she wanted a better deal.” According to the documents, the $90,000 deal included an agreement that she would act as the Fiji Water ambassador for a year, appearing in 3 Fiji Water promotions and not advertising any other foods or beverages in her term as ambassador.

Fiji Water alleges the initial agreement was done over email before being made official in person. After the videotaping of the document signing, Cuthbert took the only signed copy and “intentionally destroyed” it.

Cuthbert’s attorney, Kecia Reynolds, responded: “The complaint filed by Fiji Water today is an obvious publicity stunt to counter revelations of Fiji Water’s unlawful actions, however, Kelleth will not be bullied by Fiji Water, the Wonderful Company, or its billionaire owners.”

Reynolds adds, “To be clear, Fiji Water has not ‘fed’ Kelleth, Fiji Water has never paid Kelleth and there was not an agreement, not an email agreement or fake document agreement.”

Documents or not, the court proceedings are still in progress and we will see if the justice system leans toward the girl or the brand.