The name ‘Emily Mariko’ should not be unfamiliar to anyone who has been on their phone in the past week. If it is, she created the salmon rice bowl that everyone is making. Ring a bell?
The 29-year-old breakout star seems to have everything going for her. Her usual content consists of waking up for an early morning workout, preparing an amazing meal immediately after and continuing organizing her seemingly already picture-perfect home. And she got engaged on Saturday.
It seems so easy to romanticize the life of someone other than yourself. Imagine being able to jump out of bed, run 5 miles and cook three meals a day with fresh ingredients sourced from your local farmers market; I know I can’t. Can any of us? Should any of us?
I found myself pining over recreations of Mariko’s notorious salmon rice bowl creation, just to remember that I don’t even like salmon. Hypnotized by the essence of the content, I found pleasure in watching Mariko prepare dishes out of her painfully organized kitchen as I ate whatever was being served in my sorority house that day.
A variety of benefits are promoted by Mariko’s content; exercising, eating whole foods, buying locally grown produce and exploring cultural dishes. But, what are you meant to do if you don’t have access to these resources, or even just the time they take?
She’s the perfect “it girl” for our society to target as an image of what we all should be doing, even if it is virtually impossible for most of us to duplicate.
Our society is miraculously able to strategically pick out said “it girl” from a sea of a million other well-functioning women. Being a successful woman should not be based on your ability to cook and clean, and should not be rewarded by a TikTok algorithm.
While I am not critical of Mariko herself, I am critical of the culture of our Internet that managed to bring 4.6 million TikTok followers to this, essentially, completely normal person. Obsessing over an individual for promoting completely standard habits is not healthy, contrary to the motivational spirit her content seems to bring to those on the internet.
The momentary motivation quickly turns into spite. I am temporarily sucked into ‘bettering’ myself, when, at the end of the day, what is there to better? I am reminded of everything I am not, and how difficult it may be to reach the same level of affluence as Mariko. As a 29-year-old woman with a BA in neuroscience from Columbia University, Mariko is not the picture of ease and access. The average monthly rent in San Francisco’s Bay Area, where she calls home, is over $3,000.
Mariko’s most consumed content consists of her preparing meals, typically silently, for the masses of users to view. We assign her an entire identity constructed on what we consider she must be like based on her content. Should Mariko’s entire identity as an independent, adult woman be construed as being tidy and well-organized? We continue to reduce women to these perceptions of femininity, evaluating their significance in our media and culture only once deemed a valued enough construct.
Honestly, I have no way of mimicking her lifestyle as a junior in college, so why does it feel like she’s the pinnacle of what we should work to be? Organized, hard-working and now a glorified TikTok star. Although the last part of that may be completely out of reach for most of us, the initial two are not. Focusing on how you yourself can achieve your own goals, within your means, will help you reach your highest potential organically.
For now, I am a 20-year-old college student without millions of TikTok followers and a perfectly organized fridge, and that’s nothing to beat myself up about.