The most marketable twins of the early 2000s

Mary Allessi

More stories from Mary Allessi


Nostalgia has a habit of repeating itself.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were among the first twins in show business to make a name for themselves. 

Child labor laws found producers scrambling for twins, to be able to have enough time with child stars to complete a scene. This is how, at nine months old, Mary-Kate and Ashley began building their empire.

At the start of their careers, the twins’ parents didn’t know what they were signing up for. They sent their children into an audition, on a whim. Little did they know, their daughters would soon become the face of the American sitcom: Michelle Tanner.

Full House” quickly became one of the most popular shows of its kind, by tackling realistic, everyday struggles. The unconventional family dynamic set the show apart and gave it a whole new layer of relatability. 

Michelle Tanner captured the hearts of people tuning in from all over the country, with classic lines like “you got it, dude,” and “aw, nuts!” She was the blueprint for sassy youngest children.

Although Tanner was well-loved and cared for by her on-screen family, the Olsen twins were not receiving the same degree of attention behind the scenes. 

Without their parents on set, the twins were forced to rely on their on-set caretaker and acting coach, Adria Later. 

Every aspect of the twins’ lives was controlled by “Full House,” giving them little room to live. These problems were only amplified in 1990, when the twins’ dad hired entertainment lawyer Robert Thorne, to take the girls’ career to the next level.

Headlines swirled about the future for the twins after “Full House” ended, with many speculating that Mary-Kate and Ashley’s 15 minutes of fame were over. However, Thorne recognized the marketability of the twins and ran with it. 

Thorne made it his mission to take Mary-Kate and Ashley from famous child actresses to a brand. This transition simultaneously took the girls from overworked to full-blown machines. 

In their breaks from “Full House,” the twins would film VHS movies for the production company which their father and Thorne created for them, known as Dual Star Productions. Through this company, the twins would be seen as two different characters for the first time. 

Mary-Kate and Ashley grossed over a billion dollars, between television, films and merchandise, but at what cost? 

If you go back and watch old Olsen twin interviews, you can tell that these girls were not normal kids, nor did they have the chance to be. They were actors first, children second, and they never had a say in the matter.

Although “Full House” is one of the most family-friendly shows known to television, the environment on set was anything but. These girls were working with three, well-known male comedians who didn’t censor themselves for the sake of children. 

Bob Saget used his crude and borderline pedophilic behavior on the Full House set as funny talk-show anecdotes for years, leading him to be dubbed TV’s “dirty dad.” 

Most notably, he pretended to perform sexual acts on a life-sized dummy of Michelle, to amuse his fellow cast and crew members. He later found out that cameras were rolling and the children were able to watch him from their rooms. 

Furthermore, their parents depended on them financially and were incentivized to exploit their daughters. 

Despite the fame and fortune, the Olsen twins “wouldn’t wish (their) upbringing on anyone.”


Allessi can be reached at [email protected].