Has Emily Mariko Found the Recipe for Success?

TikTok content creator Emily Mariko has arguably taken the internet by storm with her salmon rice bowl recipe, but has her rise to fame really been so quick? For those who do not spend 12 hours a day on TikTok, her recipe includes mashed-up salmon and rice, microwaved with an ice cube and parchment paper on top. It is then mixed with soy sauce, sriracha, Kewpie mayonnaise (Japanese mayo) and avocado, with seaweed snacks on the side.  

Although Mariko posted her first TikTok video in May 2020, she has only gone “viral” within the past two months, gaining almost five million followers since this past September. What casual viewers of Mariko might not know is that she is no newbie to the social media space. In fact, she actually has a YouTube channel with over 430,000 subscribers that she started back in 2012. 

A look into Mariko’s background gives some insight into how she has been able to amass such success. Mariko attended Columbia University in New York City and graduated in 2014 with a bachelor of arts in neuroscience. From there, she started working for L’Oréal in product development and global marketing. She then changed career paths by moving to San Francisco to begin working for Facebook. In 2018, she left the popular social media company to pursue a career as a full-time YouTuber.


Mariko has been in the game for a long time and has gone through many different phases, reflected through her social media accounts. Originally called “Sharewear,” her channel initially solely focused on fashion and lifestyle content. When she left Facebook, however, her channel assumed her full name, although her type of content remained the same.

Like Mariko’s YouTube channel, her content on TikTok was also originally all fashion-based. However, during Mariko’s first year on TikTok, her videos for the most part were only getting between 5,000 and 20,000 views per video. An outfit-of-the-day video from September 2020 has around 9,500 views and another get-ready-with-me video from August 2021, posted right before she “blew up,” has around 60,000 views. 

In July 2021, Mariko began posting meal prep videos in the midst of her fashion content as she started incorporating health and fitness into her life. Then, in August 2021, she posted a TikTok video making lettuce wraps and it became her first video to garner two million views.

Mariko posted her first ASMR-style video on Aug. 16, 2021, which consisted of no talking or music, just the noise of her making salmon burgers, which got 4.6 million views. Mariko posted the now-infamous salmon rice bowl recipe this past September, which currently has over 70 million views. 

Mariko now sits at over six million followers on TikTok, and all her recent content is centered around health and fitness. Her videos consistently get over a million views per post, but the videos that include her speaking typically receive the lower end of her average view count. This is not that surprising, however, as her ASMR-type videos pose no language barrier and are therefore accessible to anyone in any part of the world. This is arguably a large part of the reason why Charli D’Amelio, the most followed person on TikTok with over 120 million followers, gained so much popularity at the beginning of her career — her no-talking, just-dancing videos posed no barriers.

That being said, it is easy to watch Mariko’s videos and feel that she lives an unattainable lifestyle because of her abnormally clean kitchen, expensive grocery hauls and overall extremely put-together look. When you hear her speak, however, she is just another normal person. 

Relatability is not always the number one goal though. Take the Kardashian/Jenner family or Paris Hilton for example: the public admires them for having a lifestyle they can only dream of having. People like to see a glimpse of life at the top and Mariko gives people that on a small scale, which is likely why her narrated, more relatable content does not perform as well. 

In fact, there are many comments on a recent video of hers showing off her outfit for a date night that reflect this, one user even commenting, “This humanized Emily Mariko for me.” Her inhuman ability to take care of herself is why people enjoy her content — she is an idealized version of themselves. This is exactly what keeps users going back to social media platforms, such as Instagram. Even though people know everything they are viewing is part of a carefully-curated feed, they simply cannot help themselves. 


However, creators who quickly rise to stardom rarely stick around for long. It is an unsustainable amount of growth, as there are simply not enough users to continue to grow, which is evidenced by Charli D’Amelio’s plateau in followers. This fast growth also means the creator does not have time to develop a relationship with the viewer, meaning the viewer does not have an incentive to come back. 

The creator economy is ever-changing and always looking for the next big thing. Emma Chamberlain, for example, rose to fame on YouTube in 2017 right at the end of YouTube’s “perfect Pinterest/Tumblr girl” era of oversaturation and ‘fakeness.’ While earlier YouTubers were desperately trying to become the “girl next door,” Chamberlain truly was one. Her no-nonsense, raw personality connected with viewers and made her the star that she is today, one who attends the Met Gala, fashion shows and gets to travel all around the world

To attain social media success, there needs to be a gap to fill, and Mariko may have found it. Some users are tired of all the same “sounds” (audio played underneath a video that anyone can use) circulating through the TikTok app and feel like her soothing content is refreshing. Mariko has been at the social media game for almost ten years and worked at one of the biggest social media companies in the world, so will she stick around? People will have to wait and see.

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