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Obsession with the Olsen twins lives on
FULL House debuted more than two decades ago, but it's not unusual to be still inexplicably interested in Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen. They might not be on your radar, yet the moment you see the reclusive celebrity twins give an interview, you're going to click on the story.
On Monday, the actresses-turned-fashion moguls broke their usual shield of privacy to give an interview to The Wall Street Journal. The story was ostensibly to promote their luxury clothing brand, The Row, and its new men's collection.
However, this excerpt received the most attention: Now 32, the Olsens are still sensitive about references to their childhood career, and also to suggestions that as twins they are interchangeable.
While they work together closely, their adult lives are emphatically independent. Ashley, who once expected to become an architect, is considering a move back to Los Angeles from New York. Mary-Kate, who in 2015 married Olivier Sarkozy, a French banker and the half brother of former French president Nicolas Sarkozy, says she is firmly ensconced in New York.
Still, the sisters, who have two siblings and two half-siblings, often appear to think in unison, completing each other's sentences. Ashley, who said their relationship is "a marriage and a partnership", added: "It's been 32 years of learning how to communicate. We've had ups and downs."
They run a fashion empire, but it is consistently the sisterhood angle that has resonated. HuffPost: "Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Give Rare Joint Interview About Sisterhood". Entertainment Tonight: "Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen Describe Their Relationship as a Marriage".
Such headlines reveal one reason for our culture's mild obsession with the Olsen twins. The personal lives of celebrities are typically a point of fascination, but when their families are involved, it only increases the interest - particularly if there's a bond between sisters, which can be wonderful yet often fraught.
Our theory: One reason the Kardashians work so well as a pop culture magnet is because of the many complicated sister relationships. It's an infinitely relatable topic.
The twin twist adds an unusual angle: Who hasn't wondered about what it would be like to have a twin? Mary-Kate and Ashley shot to fame as adorable six-month-olds when they were cast as Michelle Tanner on ABC's Full House. It's rare for producers to keep the same babies in place as a show goes on, but the Olsens proved to be remarkably charismatic. Michelle soon became the breakout star of the show.
Washington Post reporter Jay Mathews wrote in a 1991 profile of the sisters, noting their "mesmerising" quality: "Like much of the viewing public, my family and I are hopelessly infatuated with the Olsen twins. It is difficult to stop watching them, and as the producers of Full House began to realise the twins' power over an audience, and to invent dialogue and bits of business for them, the programme became a must."
When Full House wrapped in 1995 after eight seasons, the twins were already millionaires, commanding US$80,000 per episode; they even had a direct-to-video series, The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley.
For many young girls, the twins were their first celebrity idols. Fans felt a powerful connection as they watched the twins grow up in the public eye. As quite a few millennial women can tell you, Olsen nostalgia has a powerful hold.
An E! Online ode to the twins in honour of their 30th birthday reads: "We ran home from school every day to watch them on TV. We begged our parents to buy us every video. We, for some godforsaken reason, spent our allowance money on membership fees to their fan club. So much of our collective youth is ingrained in our memories of them - make mention of any Olsen movie or milestone and we can bet there are thousands of women who can recite exactly what that moment meant to them."
The Olsens starred in TV and movies for the next decade, although Ashley lost interest in acting around 2004. Mary-Kate continued to take on various roles for several more years, and eventually retired as well.
They became entrepreneurs, primarily, launching clothing lines that helped bump their company, Dualstar Entertainment Group, to US$1 billion in annual sales.
In adulthood, the twins have largely shunned attention. Naturally, this only ramps up the curiosity about their lives. These stars could have chosen any path they wanted, and they chose to step out of the Hollywood spotlight. The Wall Street Journal noted that even their fashion brand, The Row, has an unusually low-key social media presence.
Ashley told the paper: "We're not product pushers. I don't know if it's because of the way we grew up - we just don't like talking about ourselves or talking about what we're doing ... It's not really our approach." WP