A star was born on Sunday night at the Golden Globes, and it wasn’t Lady Gaga. Early on, a striking young woman working at the event on behalf of Fiji Water started showing up in red-carpet photos of celebrities, a Where’s Waldo in a blue gown. She sometimes looked directly at the camera, with an apparent smirk, and other times appeared serenely lost in thought, always with her little tray of Fiji bottles like an old-fashioned cigarette girl. Naturally, America was captivated, and faster than you can say “Natural Artesian Bottled Water,” the woman became a meme: Fiji Water Girl. She was later identified as Kelleth Cuthbert, a Los Angeles–based model whose Instagram following has already tripled. Was it all a stunt? (A marketing firm estimated to Yahoo Finance that Fiji earned the equivalent of $12 million in ad impressions.) What does it even mean to go viral anymore? Is anyone feeling parched? In between TV appearances, Cuthbert kindly agreed to answer a few questions.
Slate: Was this your first gig as a Fiji water girl?
Kelleth Cuthbert: I’ve done other red carpets. I did the Emmys.
What instructions did Fiji give you?
To make sure everyone stayed hydrated.
How do you spot people in need of hydration?
Their skin is pale. They look like they’re in a bad mood.
How much Fiji water do you think you gave away on the red carpet?
There were cases and cases that we went through. There were a few other brand ambassadors working, so between the four of us, we just unloaded an absolute ton of cases.
Did any of the other Fiji brand ambassadors make it into photos?
Yeah, I saw some photos of them floating around. I think I was in a position where I got most of the photos, but they were working super hard transporting water to everybody.
So you really weren’t trying to be a meme? Even just a little?
No! There’s photographers everywhere on the red carpet, and no matter where you stand, you get caught in the crossfire. You have to serve good face no matter where you’re standing, because you’re inevitably in someone’s shot.
What does “serving good face” mean?
You have to be at least vaguely prepared for a photo to be taken. You have to be aware of where the cameras are. If you’re going to get caught in the moment, you might as well look all right doing it.
Do you think the brand ambassadors who didn’t become memes are jealous?
I don’t think so. We’re all in a group chat having a good laugh about it all.
Do you drink Fiji water?
I do, yup.
What do you think of the environmental impact of plastic bottles?
That’s beyond my red carpet experience. I’m just excited to keep people hydrated.
It seems like you’re a practiced photo-bomber. Where did you learn your ways?
I’ve had a long life of photo-bombing, intentionally and unintentionally. I’m always in the way of people’s photos. My family and friends are all a bunch of goofy people, so we definitely do a lot of photo-bombing.
What makes for a good photo-bomb?
It’s best when the people are completely unaware. It’s kind of ruined when they at all catch on to you being there. You have to be very silent in your creeping up to them, very sneaky, tip-toes.
Where did the dress you wore come from?
It came from Fiji. It’s a Marchesa dress. They’ve got a selection of blue dresses to match their bottles.
I thought it almost matched but was a little off.
In person, it’s the exact bottle-cap blue.
Were you afraid you would blend in, and no one would be able to tell you from the water bottle?
That’s always a fear that you have to have. You’ve got to angle yourself and your bottles just right.
You also had a tray you were holding the water bottles with. Do you often hold things in trays?
No, I think that’s a thing exclusive for Fiji waters, they’ve got to be served on a tray. It looks classy.
Who was your favorite celebrity to stand behind?
I saw a lot of the photos and they all made me laugh, but I really liked the Jim Carrey one.
Which of the memes people made did you like best?
My favorite meme of the ones that are about me is the one where I’m serving water to Kim Kardashian, her Paper magazine [cover], with the champagne.
Will you be at the Oscars?
Maybe. I hope so.
What about the real Fiji, do you think you’ll ever go there?
I would love that.
Support our independent journalism
Readers like you make our work possible. Help us continue to provide the reporting, commentary and criticism you won’t find anywhere else.Join Slate Plus