From ballerina to gamer and entrepreneur: The Mari Takahashi origin story

On CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, Takahashi explains her unusual career path, being on Survivor, working for the YouTube giant Smosh and becoming, and now creating, her own content.

Patrick Holland Managing Editor
Patrick Holland has been a phone reviewer for CNET since 2016. He is a former theater director who occasionally makes short films. Patrick has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing, fast-paced world of phones, especially the iPhone and iOS. He used to co-host CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast and interviewed guests like Jeff Goldblum, Alfre Woodard, Stephen Merchant, Sam Jay, Edgar Wright and Roy Wood Jr.
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Patrick Holland
2 min read

Mari Takahashi is one of the most interesting people you should know. For 10 years she was a professional ballet dancer. And now she's a widely known and respected gamer and entrepreneur.


Mari Takahashi's life reads like the origin story of a comic book character. For 10 years, she was a professional ballet dancer. Then she took an acting gig for a YouTube video, which launched her into a different career doing sketch comedy and playing video games for the YouTube behemoth Smosh. She also co-founded the channel Smosh Games and is now on her own as an entrepreneur. Oh, and she was on the CBS show Survivor, specifically the Millennials vs. Gen X season.

On CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast, Takahashi explains her origin story and how she enjoys the creative freedom afforded by living during the early days of online content creation.

"I was a professional ballerina for about a decade, and then I took a YouTube gig on the side thinking that it wouldn't turn into anything. And that was with an incredibly huge empire on the internet called Smosh," said an upbeat Takahashi. "For the past 10 years now, I have been in this realm getting to not only play video games and create content, but co-founding a channel through Smosh. In general, I'm continuing to spread out and see what I can do, because there is no real road map with what you do in this digital realm. We're still writing the book."

This past summer, Takahashi was a correspondent on the Quibi and Polygon show Speedrun. The series covered a mix of gaming news, culture and trends. Takahashi's role allowed her to explore in-depth and compelling stories centered on gaming topics outside the mainstream. I should note that I interviewed Takahashi at the end of July, a month before the final episode of Speedrun aired.

"We interviewed an individual named Steven Spohn who is a disabled gamer. He is the COO of AbleGamers. And he's really outspoken about how important it is for games to become more accessible to disabled players," said Takahashi. "I was also able to talk with another player, named EbonixSims, who has been modding Sims accessories and hairstyles, skin color, in order to better serve the black community. And it's these stories that I feel like I'm able to check my own privilege and learn more about and say, 'Gosh, I never knew that.'"

During our conversation, Takahashi discusses how her professional ballerina past helps her in her current career as a gamer and host. She also opens up about her obsession with the PS4 game Ghost of Tsushima. And we talk about the time she was on Survivor.

Listen to my entire conversation with Takahashi on Spotify or Apple Podcasts. You can find Takahashi on Twitter, YouTube and Twitch. Also, you can subscribe to I'm So Obsessed on your favorite podcast app. In each episode, Connie Guglielmo and I catch up with an artist, actor or creator to learn about work, career and current obsessions.