She is also a five-time U.S. National Champion, World Trophy Champion, and Asian Open Champion. Smirnoff has won the title at the UK Open, is a three-time champion at the US Open, two-time champion at the Asian Open, five-time champion at the Dutch Open, and five-time US National Professional Champion. She has taken second at the British Open Blackpool Dance Festival and she is the first woman to also ever make the "British Professional Final" with three different partners.
Smirnoff was born Karina Smirnova in Kharkiv, Ukrainian SSR, Soviet Union on January 2, 1978. When she was five years old, she began taking ballet lessons, followed by gymnastics, aerobics, figure skating, ballroom dancing and piano. She chose to pursue ballroom dancing. In 1992, Smirnoff emigrated to the United States.
Smirnoff attended Nerinx Hall High School in St. Louis, MO and Christopher Columbus High School in New York and the Bronx High School of Science before going to Fordham University, during which time she picked up her interest in dancing again. Smirnoff graduated from Fordham University with a double major in economics and information system programming. During her academic studies, Smirnoff's goal was to go to law school and become an attorney. However she later came across a dance school in Brooklyn, New York, and after some time there dancing became her profession.
Early in Smirnoff's dancing career, she and Roman Nabatov competed as an amateur couple for USA. They ended their dance partnership in January 1997. Smirnoff soon after started dancing with Paul Killick in October 1998 as a professional couple for England; this partnership ended in July 1999. Immediately, Louis van Amstel and Karina Smirnoff, in July 1999, entered a professional dance partnership, representing the U.S.A; the partnership ended in December 2000. January 2001 to September 2005, Smirnoff was in a dance partnership with Slavik Kryklyvyy and they represented the U.S.A; this partnership thus far is her most successful one. Kryklyvyy and Smirnoff earned numerous top titles and high ratings together.
Her last professional partner recorded in competitions was Dmitri Timokhin representing Russia in October 2005. They won first place at the 2006 Grand-Prix Dynamo in Moscow. They finished dancing together in June 2006. Smirnoff was the project manager/director of a dancing event entitled "Day & Night", held on November 18, 2006 at the Hollywood & Highlands Grand Ballroom. She is featured in a nude pictorial in the May 2011 American issue of Playboy magazine.
Smirnoff was a performer on the third season of the ABC series Dancing with the Stars with celebrity partner Mario López. They finished in second place, losing to the team of Emmitt Smith and Cheryl Burke. Smirnoff returned to the show on March 19, 2007 for Season 4, this time partnered with Billy Ray Cyrus, country singer and Hannah Montana star. The pair was the seventh to be eliminated from the competition on May 8, 2007. Her partner for Season 5 of the show was current five-division world champion boxer, Floyd Mayweather Jr. On October 16, 2007, Karina and Floyd were the fourth couple eliminated from competition and came in 9th place.
She returned for Season 6, partnered with singer Mario and finished in 5th place. In Season 7, she was partnered with chef Rocco DiSpirito and they were the fourth pair to be eliminated with a finish of 9th place for the second time.
For the eighth season, Smirnoff's partner was Apple Inc. co-founder Steve Wozniak. They were eliminated in the fourth round on March 31, 2009, along with Holly Madison and her partner Dmitry Chaplin. For the ninth season, she was partnered with singer Aaron Carter. They were eliminated on November 10, 2009, placing fifth. In the eleventh season, she was partnered with The Situation from MTV's reality TV show Jersey Shore. They were eliminated in the fourth week. In the twelfth season of Dancing with the Stars, she was partnered with movie star, Ralph Macchio. They were eliminated in the semi-finals.
Smirnoff appeared on the thirteenth season of Dancing with the Stars, where she was partnered with All My Children actor J.R. Martinez. Smirnoff and Martinez ended up winning the competition against Cheryl Burke and Rob Kardashian, who was known for his family's television show, Keeping Up with the Kardashians. This was the first time Smirnoff had advanced to the finals since her inaugural season in season 3 with Mario López.