Esports has changed a lot over the years. What started as a bunch of amateur gamers coming together for a little bit of friendly challenge has blossomed into a pantheon of challenges and tournaments where professional gamers compete for the championships. These athletes dedicate their lives to their games, spending hours training alone or in their teams. They develop complex strategies and almost inhuman reflexes to hone their skills. However, the professional world of esports is very much a boy’s club. This was especially true in the early days. Yet, several women are breaking through the glass ceiling to stand proudly beside their male counterparts.
One unique aspect of esports is that most leagues are not separated by genders. While there are a few noteworthy exceptions, most competitions are co-ed. So when a female athlete kicks butt, she really kicks butt.
These women are found in a whole host of games. Top female athletes compete in everything from Dead or Alive 4 to StarCraft II and beyond. This list celebrates the top ten best paid female esports athletes. Most of them have made their names in a single game series (namely Counter-Strike), but a couple have jumped through a wide variety of games and genres. Some managed to make all of their fame and fortune in a single magnificent moment while others have a long and rich career. One thing is for certain though, all of these women are amazing.
15 Jamie “Missy” Pereyda
Also known as PMS Missy, Jamie is notable for two reasons. The first is that she is the only Quake III Arena player on this list. The second reason is that she won her grand total of $15,000 at a single tournament. She placed first in the female-only division at QuakeCon back in 2005. The rest of her team, Sarah “Rocket Queen” and Therese Anderson of Girlz of Destruction (g0d), took second and third place respectively. Jamie left Girls of Destruction in 2007 when she signed onto Pandora’s Mighty Soldiers’ (PMS Clan) in 2007. Jamie hasn’t placed in any other notable tournaments since her initial win, but that didn’t stop her from becoming one of the best known female gamers at the time. She and many other female gamers helped to pave the way for women in esports. Even so, when it comes to the best-paid esports athletes of all time, Jaimie only places 2,645th on the global scale.
14 Tang “Eloise” Haiyun
Although there are a lot of Chinese-American woman on this list, Tang Haiyun is the only Chinese woman to fight her way to the top paying women in esports. She’s won $16,047.72 from 16 different tournaments, rocketing her into 14th on this list and 2,519th place on the worldwide list of best-paid esports athletes. Tang first began her career in professional video gaming on the World of Warcraft guild STARS. After that, she moved into Hearthstone and joined Tempo Storm because it offered her the chance to compete in Western competitions. She is one of the original professional Hearthstone players and one of the few Chinese players to be recognized globally. Like many other Hearthstone players and gamers in general, Tang streams her games on her twitch channel. She streams daily despite her limited English and does try her best to interact with her English speaking audience.
13 Ksenia “vilga” Klyuenkova
Ksenia Klyuenkova is the only female Russian esports player to make this list. However, even at the 13th spot, her esports career is impressive. She’s won 1st in 14 of the 16 competitions that she has placed in over the years. Her accomplishments are even more impressive when you take into account that all of her victories have occurred in the past four years. Ksenia and her team have taken 1st in the Intel Challenge Katowice three years in a row. Already, Ksenia and her team have placed 1st in three tournaments in 2017.
Ksenia is a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive gamer exclusively in the competitive circuit. She plays for Team Secret alongside Juliano, Nylon, Mimimicheater, and zAAZ. In 2015, she was a member of Bad Monkey Gaming before joining Team Secret in 2016. Ksenia has earned $17,234.43 and is the 2,393rd best-paid player in the world.
12 Rumay “Hafu” Wang
Rumay Wang began her gaming career in the wildly popular MMORPG World of Warcraft. She quickly started to top the leaderboards. After high-school, she started streaming full-time on her twitch channel and continues to do so today. She started competing professionally at places like Blizzcon and the Major League Gaming Pro Circuit back in 2008. Since then, she’s won $17,366.67 from 8 tournaments. Rumay’s first victories were solely in World of Warcraft competitions in 2008. However, she expanded her repertoire of games and placed first at the DreamHack Summer 2011 in the Bloodline Champions 3v3 competition. After that, Rumay placed in two Hearthstone: Heroes of Warcraft competitions. She’s the 2,380th best-paid player in the world.
As acclaimed as Rumay is in the world of esports, she is mostly focused on her daily streaming. She has over 475,000 followers on twitch and is currently focused on streaming ARENA in Hearthstone.
11 Alice “ali” Lew
Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive are not easy games to play, much less master to the point where you can play them professionally. However, Alice Lew has managed to do just that. She’s won ten major tournaments over a period of seven years and earned $18,000. Out of those ten tournaments, she placed 1st in seven of them. Most of her claim to fame comes from placing or winning in the Electronic Sports World Cup Counter-Strike Female division.
Alice not only played for, but founded the all-female Counter-Strike team Ubinited. Eventually, Ubinited signed on with Counter Logic Gaming Red. She’s been playing games professional for over 15 years. Unfortunately, despite her lengthy career and high ranking among the best paid female players, Alice is 2318th best-paid player in the world. It’s a shame, especially because she and her team placed first at the Electronic Sports World Cup six times in a row.
10 Vanessa Arteaga
Coming in at number ten is Vanessa “Vii” Arteaga. She’s a native to Modesto, California and has paved the way for other female gamers. Vanessa was the first female player to be drafted into a full-time professional league for fighting games. She was the top pick for the Champion Gaming Series draft for Dead or Alive 4 back in 2008 where she won $15,000. Her only other world class tournament was the 2007 Champion Gaming Series Dead or Alive 4 Individual Tournament. There she received a $5,000 prize. Unfortunately, Vanessa’s time as a pro-gamer was short. Vanessa no longer works as a pro-gamer. After leaving esports, she went on to work for Pro-Gam3r Magazine before becoming a freelancer. Even so, her short and bombastic time in the world of esports has earned her a spot on this list. Unfortunately, in terms of worldwide esports player salaries, Vanessa only comes in at #2154.
9 Stephanie “missharvey” Harvey
Although Stephanie has gone by many gamertags over the years, she is best known as misshavery. Stephanie has won a total of 5 global Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournaments. She joined the Counter-Strike team Counter Logic Gaming Red and was a member of the team from 2015 until June of 2017. Over the course of her professional esports career she played 2,031 rounds, had a headshot rate of 49.8%, killed 1,325 times, died 1,396 times, and played on 81 different maps. Stephanie earned a total of $21,305.23 from 16 tournaments. Her largest prize was $3,779.64. However, despite her impressive career, she is only ranked 2032nd for worldwide player salaries. Although, she is the 64th best-paid player in Canada.
In addition to her career as a pro-gamer, Stephanie worked for over seven years as a game designer for Ubisoft Montreal. She is most notably credited for working on Far Cry Primal.
8 Julia “juliano” Kiran
Julia is one of the few Swedish professional esports players. She began her career in Counter-Strike 1.6 and earned her first major victory in the 2013 Electronic Sports World Cup. She and her team, Druidz, won first place and a $5,000 prize. Since then, she has played in 20 tournaments and earned $22,048.51. Even so, she is ranked 1987th on the world esports earning chart.
Julia switched to playing Counter-Strike: Global Offensive several years ago. Although most of her professional career was focused on playing Counter-Strike and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, she has dabbled in Dota 2 and Heroes of Newerth. She is currently the in-game leader for Team Secret and recently brought her team to victory in the 2017 Intel Challenge Katowice. The other members of her team are Zainab “zAAz” Turkie, Michaela “mimimicheater” Lintrip, Anna “Ant1ka” Ananikova, and Ksenia “vilga” Kluenkova.
7 Christine “potter” Chi
Fans may know Christine by her two other handles “potter 4jane” and “Ubinited potter.” Christine is another American athlete who focuses on Counter-Strike 1.6 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Christine has played extensively as an individual player and on teams. She was a member of Ubinited for a while. However, she is now a member of Counter Logic Gaming Red. Over the course of her career she has earned $22,895.25 and won $3000 in her last tournament. She has played 2,103 rounds on 83 different maps. She had 1633 kills with a headshot rate of 25.3% and died 1,425 times. It’s just a shame none of them were against Voldemort.
Christine first started playing Counter-Strike when she was 13-years-old. Since then, she has become one of the best female athletes. Much like her fellow female pro-gamers, Christine is only 1939th on the world wide pay scale for pro-gamers.
6 Zainab “zAAz” Turkie
Zainab is the other Swedish player on this list and one of Julia’s teammates on Team Secret. She has played for many teams over the years including FNATIC, MeetYourMakers, Les Seules, Pink Zinc, ALTERNATE, and Bad Monkey Gaming. Like many of the others on this list, she began her professional esports career in Counter-Strike 1.6 before moving on to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. Zainab has won 21 tournaments and earned $24,918.51 over the course of her career. At least $1,500 of that came from tournaments she participated in when she was 17 years old. Zainab has played in nearly 3,000 rounds on 123 maps. She’s killed 2,470 times with headshots an impressive 52.4% percent of the time. To top it all off, she’s only died 1949 times to give her a Kill to Death ratio of 1.27. Yet, with all of this, she’s only ranked 1831st on the overall highest earnings for esports athletes.
5 Sarah “Sarah Lou” Harrison
Sarah Lou’s career as a professional is fairly unique. For one, she is the only woman from Britain to earn a top spot in the world of esports. Additionally, her entire net worth comes from a single tournament win back in 2008 where she placed first in the 2008 Championship Gaming Series Season. She won $50,000; half of the $100,000 prize. The other half went to her Birmingham Salvo teammate, Deng “Messy” Ming Zhi. Sarah’s game of choice is also unique as she is only one of three players to professionally compete in Dead or Alive 4 on this list. Sarah’s older sister Ruth, is also a famous professional Dead or Alive 4 player. Fans have referred to them as the Venus and Serena Williams of esports. These girls kick butt in the virtual world, but Sarah is only ranked at 1107th on the esports highest earnings chart.
4 Marjorie “Kasumi Chan” Bartell
Marjorie is the second female gamer on this list who has made a name for herself in Dead or Alive 4. Much like Sarah, Marjorie made her money through two tournaments. The first was when she competed independently and came in second during the Championship Gaming Invitational back in 2006. The prize for second place was $5,000. Marjorie made history by being the first woman to make it to the finals in the Championship Gaming Invitational. For her second tournament, Marjorie teamed up with Chicago Chimera to win first prize in the 2007 Championship Gaming Series Season. She earned an amazing $50,000 from that single tournament, bringing her total to a whopping $55,000. Her partner, Jeremy “Black Mamba” Florence, received the other half of the 2007 prize. Interestingly enough, that 2007 Championship Gaming Series Season was the first live video game contest broadcast to feature 60 full-time professional esports athletes.
In terms of world ranking, Marjorie sits at 1025th for top earning pro-gamers.
3 Ricki Ortiz
Ricki first made a name for herself through Tekken before expanding her roster to a variety of fighting games including Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike, Street Fighter IV, Street Fighter V, Tekken Tag Tournament 2, Street Fighter X Tekken, Marvel vs. Capcom, and more. Ricki joined Evil Geniuses in 2010. She has fought in over 60 competition and earned a grand total of $80,530.18 from her winnings. Ricki’s biggest win was during the 2016 Capcom Cup where she received $60,000 for taking second place. Ricki absolutely dominates in the world of esports, and it’s not hard to see how she made it into the third spot on this list. However, her worldwide ranking puts her at 746th in line for the best-paid esports athletes.
2 Katherine “Mystik” Gunn
Katherine was, at one point, number one on this list. However, her winnings and standing on the list all boil down to three victories in 2007, 2008, and 2010. Like two of the previous members on this list, she also placed in the championships for Dead or Alive 4. Both her 2007 and 2008 Championship Gaming Series Season placements earned her $15,000 and $7,000 respectively. Unfortunately, she didn’t place first in either tournament. Katherine’s real victory came in 2010 where she placed first in WCG Ultimate Gamer Season 2. WCG Ultimate Gamer pits gamers against one another in a combination of real life challenges, isolation chambers, and head to head in game contests. Katherine won the $100,000 prize after claiming the final victory in Halo: Reach. Her grand total in prize money is $122,000, placing her at second on this list but only at 471st on the global scale.
1 Sasha “Scarlett” Hostyn
Sasha has earned her place as number one on this list. Unlike many of the others, she did not gain the majority of her winnings through only a handful of tournaments. Instead, this Canadian gamer has participated in 116 tournaments over her career. She is one of the best StarCraft II players with a penchant for the Zerg. Sasha’s favored strategy is the creep spread. Her professional esports career began in the 2011 all female league NESL The Iron Lady. Sasha managed to get first place during in that years' Iron Lady Cup #4 and Iron Lady Cup #5. In 2012, Sasha was recruited into Eclypsia. Since then, she has played for a number of teams. Today, Sasha plays for Team Expert.
Over the course of her career, Sasha has earned an impressive $180,162.82. Unfortunately, while she is the best paid female esports athlete, she is only the 307th best-paid player in the word.