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Fiji Water Girl: 'I've been photobombing since I was a kid'

At the 2019 Golden Globes, model Kelleth Cuthbert went viral for holding a tray of water, and she still can't believe the splash she made.

Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
CNET freelancer Gael Fashingbauer Cooper, a journalist and pop-culture junkie, is co-author of "Whatever Happened to Pudding Pops? The Lost Toys, Tastes and Trends of the '70s and '80s," as well as "The Totally Sweet '90s." If Marathon candy bars ever come back, she'll be first in line.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper
3 min read
Kelleth Cuthbert at Golden Globe Awards

That's Kelleth Cuthbert and her water tray in the background making a splash as actor Idris Elba, his fiance Sabrina Dhowre and his daughter Isan Elba smile for the cameras at Sunday's Golden Globes.

Stefanie Keenan

Kelleth Cuthbert says she would've spent a little more time on her hair and makeup Sunday had she known she was about to become the biggest meme of the 2019 Golden Globe Awards.

Cuthbert, a model in her early 30s originally from Toronto, was actually one of four Fiji Water "ambassadors" assigned to work the awards show. Wearing a deep-blue Marchesa Notte gown "exactly the color of the Fiji Water bottlecap," she said Monday, she circulated with a tray of water bottles, instructed to keep the celebrities hydrated. 

It wasn't that Cuthbert ("Kelleth" is an old high-school nickname for "Kelly") lucked out and nabbed a prime spot over the other water ambassadors. It was pure chance that she was the one of the four who landed in so many photographs, she told me by phone from Los Angeles, where she now lives. 

But since she didn't have access to social media as she circulated the red carpet, Cuthbert, now widely dubbed "Fiji Water Girl," didn't realize she was becoming perhaps the first meme of 2019 until her work was nearly done. 

"I had no idea until right as people were trickling in (to the awards show)," she told me. Attendees had been showing her the social-media buzz building on their own  phones , but Cuthbert says she "didn't understand the scope" of her viral fame.

Her water work lit a fire: a spokesperson for Twitter reports there were more than 50,000 tweets about Cuthbert on Sunday night. And she also helped the water company earn more than $12 million in ad impressions, marketing analytics firm Apex Marketing Group told Yahoo Finance.

Should her newfound celeb status lead to acting roles or other opportunities, she's willing to dive in. "It's hard to say where (the viral fame) will lead," Cuthbert said.

Photobomber to the stars is kind of a natural role for her. 

"I've been photobombing since I was a kid," she said with a laugh. "My family ... we're all a bunch of hams."

She does have a favorite photo of the many she appeared in Sunday: It's the one where she appears behind actor and comedian Jim Carrey. She remembers the moment, but notes that like all her photobombs, it went by "super fast. It's a split second. [The actors] are all on a mission."

She also has a favorite meme of the ones she's appeared in. It's the one that proclaims, "dress for the job you want, not the job you have." And she says it might encourage her not to neglect her own dressing up in the future.

Though Cuthbert looked beautiful, she didn't have a stylist to fix her hair and makeup. In fact, she set her alarm to get up early and get ready, then rethought things and slept in.

"No one's really going to be looking at me," she remembers telling herself. 

Only millions, it turns out. 

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