Thanks to a Camera Savvy Model, Fiji Water Became the Brand Star of the Golden Globes

#FijiWaterGirl gained tens of millions of social media impressions

The Fiji Water girl, also known as Kelleth Cuthbert, poses behind Holly Taylor. Getty Images
Headshot of Diana Pearl

A star was born at the Golden Globes—but it wasn’t Lady Gaga. Instead, it was Kelleth Cuthbert, a model who spent the Golden Globes red carpet portion of the evening holding a tray of Fiji Water bottles.

Given Cuthbert’s prime position on the carpet, just behind the parade of stars posing for photos, she was able to appear in the background of said photos. But it wasn’t just her carpet placement that led to Cuthbert becoming the unexpected star of the show: She also appeared to be posing for photos herself, staring directly into the camera while situated behind stars like Richard Madden and Jamie Lee Curtis.

After noticing Cuthbert’s epic photobombs, the internet was quick to dub her “Fiji Water girl” and praise her ability to successfully insert herself into nearly every red carpet photo from one of Hollywood’s biggest evenings. Even Fiji Water itself couldn’t resist joking about its newfound star.

The numbers confirm that Cuthbert’s photo savvy was a major boon for the brand: Since the start of the Globes, the hashtag #FijiWaterGirl has been used nearly 7,000 times (and counting) on Twitter, earning a whooping 98.9 million impressions on the platform, according to Brandwatch. (And the lesser-used hashtag, #FijiGirl, nabbed an additional 698,000.) And even on a night full of big stars, sentimental speeches and viral moments, the only other hashtag that earned more impressions during the Globes than #FijiWaterGirl was the #GoldenGlobes hashtag itself.

Was the photobombing and Fiji Water’s subsequent elevation from one of several award show sponsors to the most talked-about brand of the evening an inadvertent mixup? Was it a planned PR stunt? A stroke of last-minute brilliance on Cuthbert’s part? Or was it just, as a model, her natural inclination to stare at the camera with a smoldering gaze?

Fiji Water has not yet responded to Adweek’s request for comment about its viral water tray holder, so we don’t yet the know the answers to those questions. But there is no doubt that whatever it was, this is the sort of organically viral moment that brands dream about. And for Fiji in particular, it was a serious payoff after years of appearances at the Globes: The brand has served as the official water sponsor of the show since 2015, but this is the first year that sponsorship resulted in some serious brand buzz.

“I would have to assume it was planned in part, or at least a goal to identify photo opportunities, but you could never plan that level of result,” said Heidi Modarelli-Frank, partner and svp of public relations at advertising agency Marcus Thomas LLC. “It takes a special talent and an openness on behalf of the brand to allow the talent to have some freedom in how she executed.”

Clearly, Fiji took that moment and ran with it on social media, with the aforementioned tweet, as well as the brand’s number of retweets of the various stories about the #FijiWaterGirl. As Brian Salzman, CEO of relationship marketing agency RQ, said: “It gave them a personality. This is a great example of how a brand can stand out within a saturated market and position themselves as cool and humorous.”

No matter the planning that went into Cuthbert’s posing and positioning on the carpet, what no brand can truly plan for is the creation of a viral moment—let alone the most talked-about one of a major event like the Golden Globes.

“Becoming a viral sensation is priceless for a brand,” said Jeff Ragovin, chief growth officer for Social Native, a branded content platform. “It makes Fiji more than just a product, it’s now an inside joke, a social sensation, the ‘cool’ brand that people want to be associated with. Evoking emotions from consumers is key to standing out in the competitive landscape where social trends dominate buying behaviors.”

#FijiWaterGirl may have been a major moment for the brand, but will we see her again? Likely no, said Modarelli-Frank.

“The best way to capitalize is to let go of it,” she said. “There’s a danger in the brand trying too hard and being too heavy-handed. The best viral content is that which happens organically in the moment.”

Added Modarelli-Frank: “The Golden Globes are over. Start working on what comes next.”

@dianapearl_ Diana is the deputy brands editor at Adweek and managing editor of Brandweek.