Why are Emily Mariko’s TikTok videos so popular?
Photo-Illustration: by The Cut; Photos: @ emilymariko / TikTok
It happened to me: The name ‘Emily Mariko’ kept coming up in Slack discussions at work and on my various social media feeds, and at the end of the week, I was seriously considering putting an ice cube on the leftovers of rice, and wondering how the heck I got here.
If you’ve been spending time online lately, I’ll assume something similar has happened to you as well. In the past month alone, the fresh-faced, fashionable, and lifestyle influencer with bright kitchen lighting, a minimalist leisure wardrobe, and a knack for making easy and healthy foods with Asian roots. grew her TikTok membership from 70,000 to over 2 million, without her ever even saying “like and subscribe.” She has also spawned countless other online “reactions” or videos to her videos.
“You see, I really thought – I really thought – I was safe from being influenced by ambitious lifestyle content, âsaid my former colleague and now Vogue editor Sarah Spellings in her own TikTok video this week on the subject. “And then she came.”
Why is she – Emily Mariko, a 29-year-old woman from the Bay Area – so addicting to watch? What makes her simple recipes so special? In addition to expanding her pre-existing YouTube channel, she’s also launching a Substack newsletter titled âEmily’s Life Plan for the Weekâ, because of course she is. And you’re telling me it’s all because she smashed a bunch of leftover salmon with a fork? (This video, posted on September 21, currently has over 33 million views.)
TikTok’s viral recipes come and go, but something about Mariko and her intoxicating milquetoast vibe seems more important. According to Embedded, an internet newsletter by Kate Lindsay and Nick Catucci, this recipe for Salmon-Sriracha-Mayo-Rice-Bowl-with-Avocado-and-Dried Seaweed was so popular that “people got excited when she recently ate salmon – because that means she’ll be using the leftovers for the rice bowl any minute.
But why? Below, I’ve spoken to a handful of TikTok enthusiasts in an attempt to break down what, exactly, makes Emily Mariko’s content so appealing.
Basically, we are all human beings who salivate at the sight of food. (I had to stop and make a snack like three times while writing this.) Unfortunately, I can’t reach the screen and take a bite of Emily Mariko’s meals. I can’t feel them. I can’t taste them. But I can indulge in the sensory pleasure of hearing him prepare them. Obviously, she knows it and she makes full use of her tools and environment, running the world’s most delicate version of to crush in his immaculate, empty kitchen. In this viral salmon video, for example, we hear ice cubes vibrate when she opens her freezer drawer, the light squirt of Sriracha, the salmon squish under her fork and the crackle of seaweed when she takes her first bite. . Because she says so little in her videos, the recipes speak for themselves.
Maybe she was born with it, maybe it’s her healthy lifestyle, but Emily Mariko appears to have very fair skin and well-conditioned hair. She is often dressed as if she has just come out of a workout, or will be training in the near future, or has just had a comfortable and relaxing day at home. But her wardrobe is neither flashy nor sexy. She doesn’t wear a lot of bright colors or fancy sweatpants. Like his recipes, his style is tasteful and easy. She doesn’t seem like she’s trying too hard.
While I can’t say that I actually tried any of Mariko’s meals (what am I supposed to do, pull out a pen and take some TikTok notes?), I will say they look pretty plentiful, which is normally not my takeout after seeing someone prepare a healthy lunch.
âShe eats real food,â said Kathleen Hou, Cut’s beauty director. âI think this is the start of a new kind of wellness. Less lemon water. âHot girls drink regular milk,â but they also eat bread. “
Of course, Mariko eats plenty of farmer’s market vegetables and enviable-looking California avocados. âBut she seems to have a balance,â Hou continued. âLike, she eats Philadelphia Cream Cheese. I can’t remember the last time a Wellness Cream Cheese was featured.
Hou also pointed out that because Mariko doesn’t offer precise measurements or actual recipe instructions, her videos are less didactic, more user-friendly. âHer food is healthy without being weird or judgmental about it,â she said.
âThere’s something about her that makes her more palatable to the jaded influencer,â added Spellings.
As someone who never cooks and is generally bad at eating, the fact that I can watch a video of Mariko cooking herself a meal and think, Hm, I could probably do that, it’s nothing. Scrolling through your feed is a bit like watching art at MoMA; I know I can’t really cook as well as her (and certainly not as cleanly), but her videos make me want to give it a try.
“I think I like it because everything is very clean and minimalist and almostâ¦ pseudo-aspirational?” says Orthographs. âLike, what she does is so within my reach to do. She just makes great food for herself and her partner. It’s not really intensive.
For some people, Mariko’s videos are achievable in an inspiring way. For others, it’s just nice to watch someone else accomplish something, and Mariko seems like a very successful person.
Daise Bedolla, Cut’s social media editor, described the experience of watching Mariko’s videos as giving “the pleasure of watching someone do what you wish you had the energy to do.” Or, the “opposite of Schadenfreude. “
“I think I love watching Emily’s TikToks for the same reason I love watching Home Edit, “she continued.” It all seems so put together in a way that I don’t have the discipline to. Do you like cooking your meals? I tried it once – forget it. All those folks at TikTokers / Instagram has that kind of charisma and charm, where they make it look so easy and then you try it, and it’s not the same. But it looks cool! “