Legal battle for Fiji Water Girl

Model stands and poses in background of shot with actor Richard MaddenImage copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

The model is seen here behind Best TV Actor winner Richard Madden

A model who found viral fame by arguably outshining celebrities on the Golden Globe red carpet is locked in a legal battle with the bottled water company that helped make her famous.

Kelly Steinbeich, who uses the name Kelleth Cuthbert to model, became known overnight as the Fiji Water Girl.

She had been photographed smiling as she held a tray of water bottles behind celebrities at the event in Hollywood.

She and Fiji are now feuding over the use of her image in marketing.

The Canadian model, 31, filed a lawsuit against Fiji Water and its owner, the Wonderful Company, in January after they used her likeness for a promotional cardboard cut-out.

She accused the company of unauthorised use of her photograph, likeness and identity for a worldwide advertising campaign.

In a countersuit filed on Friday, the owners of Fiji Water said Ms Steinbeich had knowingly signed an exclusive one-year deal worth $90,000 (£70,000) and accused her and her agents of “simple greed”.

Image copyright
Getty Images

Image caption

Ms Steinbach posing behind actress Judy Greer

They described her lawsuit is a “blatant attempt to skirt her contractual obligations” and said she was now trying to extort them for up to $500,000 (£385,000).

“Ms. Steinbach has now bitten the hand that feeds her by suing the very company that is entirely responsible for providing her the opportunity and the means to capitalize on her fleeting 15 minutes of internet fame,” the lawsuit alleges.

Since the model’s photographs were shared widely in January, the model has amassed more than 200,000 followers on Instagram, made television appearances and scored endorsement deals of her own.

In interviews after she went viral, Ms Steinbach denied she had been asked to photobomb the images, insisting she had simply been doing her job of “hydrating the stars”.

“If you’re going to be trapped in a photo, you gotta look good,” she told local Los Angeles television channel KTLA 5.

“There is not just a camera – there are so many cameras that you are caught in the crossfire no matter where you stand. You’re just in somebody’s shot. You can’t avoid it.”

Her legal team have described the countersuit as a publicity stunt.

“Kelleth will not be bullied by Fiji Water, the Wonderful Company, or its billionaire owners,” her lawyer, Kecia Reynolds, told CBS News.

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