The "Fiji Water girl," model Kelleth Cuthbert, is locked in a legal battle with the company, which is now accusing her of extortion.
Cuthbert became a viral sensation during the Golden Globe Awards as the "Fiji Water girl." The model was hired to walk around the red carpet, sneaking glimpses of the mineral water into photographs and handing it out to celebrities. However, according to a report by The Blast, Cuthbert and Fiji now have a lot of disagreements about the nature of her contract.
Cuthbert was hired as a brand ambassador for Fiji, for which she was to be paid $90,000. On Jan. 31, she filed a lawsuit against the company, claiming that Fiji used her image without her consent for a new marketing campaign. Her likeness was printed on cardboard cut-outs, reminding fans of her viral photobombs at the Golden Globes.
Cuthbert claimed that her agent was still trying to negotiate terms for the campaign when it went live. Furthermore, she accused the company of offering her "gifts to entice" her into signing away her likeness, and even of faking her signature. Cuthbert said that Fiji “pressured [her] into video recording a fake signing of a fake document to simulate Steinbach signing on as a Fiji Water Ambassador.”
Fiji's response was published on Monday. It states that Cuthbert is acting out of "simple greed," and trying to “capitalize on her fleeting 15 minutes of internet fame." The company added that Cuthbert has “bitten the hand that feeds her.”
Fiji is countersuing Cuthbert, claiming that she sought to bully the company while breaching her own contract. The suit says that Cuthbert “attempted to extort close to half a million dollars from Fiji because she wanted a better deal than the original $90,000 she had originally accepted.”
Fiji and its legal team said that the company “refused to pay this steep ransom and instead insisted upon its contractual rights.”
As evidence, Fiji has Cuthbert's original contract, which they say was not signed falsely or under coercion. In addition, the company has added a post from Cuthbert's Instagram to the suit, noting that she had seen and approved the cardboard cut-outs during a visit to the Fiji offices. Cuthbert has since deleted the post.
Cuthbert's attorney, Kecia Reynolds, is standing strong by the model's side.
“[T]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," she said.
“Fiji Water’s complaint is meritless and Kelleth is confident she will prevail in court," she finished.