Kelleth Cuthbert did not anticipate becoming a meme at the 76th annual Golden Globes on Sunday. The model planned to simply show up for work as a Fiji Water ambassador, a gig she’s booked a few times before. But no one can plan for virality, no matter what your very logged-on digital marketing cousin tells you. And several hours after she first began passing out bottles of designer water to parched celebrities, Cuthbert found herself the subject of tweets, tagged in Instagrams, and an overnight sensation.
“My brain can’t even comprehend what’s happening or why people are interested in knowing anything about me,” she told the Cut over the phone on Tuesday. “It’s such a surreal experience, but I’m having a lot of fun.”
At first, the model, who started being scouted when she was 17 and studying for a social-work degree in her native Canada, didn’t realize that she was going viral — even after people told her. “I didn’t at all understand what anyone was saying,” she admits. “They were like, “oh, you’re trending on Twitter,” but I thought they were talking about Fiji or the Fiji girls as a whole. I had no idea they they were talking about me specifically. I didn’t really fully grasp it until a few hours later when I had Wi-Fi service and was able to look at what was going on.”
Cuthbert credits the moment to the fact that she was placed in a “high-traffic” area by the event’s coordinators; at the time, she says she was focused more on doing her job than staying in a photographer’s line of sight. “There’s just photographers everywhere,” she says of red carpets. Avoiding the cameras at an event like the Golden Globes, which is teeming with paparazzi, is apparently as hard as it looks.
“No matter where you move, you’re in somebody’s shot. I don’t know, you just have to look at what you’re doing and be aware of where everyone is. But know that you can’t avoid it,” Cuthbert explains. As for the different looks she makes in a number of the photos, she says that was a force of habit: “I don’t even think there was a point where I made any conscious decision [to lean into the photography]. I think from so many years of modeling, when I hear a shutter, I just kind of give a face.”
She wasn’t able to watch the actual Golden Globes ceremony — she was busy preparing for one of the after-parties, where she was slated to work — but says she had a favorite photo from the evening. “I only just saw this last night but the one where I’m photobombing Heidi Klum kissing her fiancé and showing off her rings is legendary,” she says.
Since her rise to fame, she’s appeared on the Late Late Show With James Corden and recorded with E! News and Glamour. Her Instagram has also exploded; on Sunday, she had a very respectable 50,000 followers, but that grew rapidly to more than 180,000 (at press time). She’s also found support in her fellow Fiji girls, none of whom begrudge her for being the anointed one.
“We’re in a group chat and are all having a good laugh about it,” Cuthbert says. “They’re all very sweet and very supportive of everything that’s going on.” Fans, too, are being supportive; for the most part, she notes, most messages she’s received have been entirely positive. “People just enjoy the levity of the situation,” she adds. “They just wanted to have a good laugh that night.”
Given how quickly the internet moves, it can be hard to remember that less than 48 hours ago, Cuthbert was just a model showing up to a job. As such, it’s understandable that she doesn’t yet know what her next career move will be. “I definitely want continue working with Fiji,” she says, and isn’t ruling out a repeat performance at any other awards shows this season.
“I would love to host the Oscars,” she adds with a laugh. The job is, technically, still open.