With the debut of the Netflix revival Fuller House, a lot of people are wondering: Where’s Michelle Tanner? And by that they mean, where are Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, the twins who played the young character on the original Full House? The two have been out of the spotlight for quite some time, but they’re far from inactive. Together, the Olsen twins run Dualstar, which sells products in stores across America, and own their own fashion line. Some estimates put their combined assets at up to $1 billion. Let’s look at how they got there.
Ashley & Mary-Kate on Full House
The Olsen twins were born on June 13, 1986, in Sherman Oaks, California, outside Los Angeles. Mary-Kate and Ashley are actually sororal twins, not identical, even though they look very similar. When they were six months old, their parents took them to audition for an upcoming ABC sitcom Full House. Both twins were cast to fill the role, so the producers would be able to comply with child labour laws. This meant that Mary-Kate and Ashley would alternate who played Michelle during tapings. The illusion was even carried to the credits, where Michelle was credited as being played by “Mary Kate Ashley Olsen” through seasons two through seven, so audiences wouldn’t know there were two actors behind the character.
By 1992, the twins were becoming stars in their own right, and began to appear outside of Full House, as separate characters. Their first film was To Grandmother’s House We Go, which was first broadcast on ABC. The TV-movie was more successful than the network had anticipated, which encouraged the Olsen twins to establish Dualstar, which would take the lead on producing many of their movies through the 90s.
The next year, Mary-Kate and Ashley had another holiday film, this one celebrating Halloween. Double, Double, Toil and Trouble. The film was met with positive reviews, and earned the twins a Young Artist Award for Best Youth Actress in a TV miniseries or Special. In 1994, the girls starred in How the West was Fun, and also started The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley, a series of musical mystery shorts. The series produced 11 episodes between 1994 and 1997, and led to an accompanying book series.
Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Fun Club
In 1995, Full House ended. It had run for eight years, earning Ashley and Mary-Kate a fair number of awards and nominations. They won Best Young Actor Under Five in 1989 and 1990, and won two more Best Young Actor awards for their age groups before the show would wrap.
After the end of Full House, the Olsens starred in It Takes Two. The film also starred Steve Guttenberg and Kirstie Alley, and for the family flick it was, did pretty well. They also started a second series of videos. You’re Invited to Mary-Kate & Ashley’s… run until 2000, and helped keep the twins popular among children after their Full House tenure.
The Olsen twins also had a fan club until 2000, where subscribers would get a magazine and a catalog to buy additional Mary-Kate and Ashley collectibles. Mary-Kate & Ashley’s Fun Club was even advertised before most of their made-for-TV films.
Through the rest of the 90s, Ashley and Mary-Kate Olsen continued to release media through Dualstar, and appear in guest spots across network television, including All My Children and 7th Heaven. They returned to their own series on ABC with Two of a Kind in 1998, but the series only lasted a year.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen as Teenagers
By 2001, the Olsen twins were no longer child actors. Both 15, the girls weren’t letting their age limit their careers. They starred in So Little Time and Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action! Despite earning Mary-Kate a nomination for a Daytime Emmy, So Little Time was cancelled after one season. Mary-Kate and Ashley in Action!, an animated series, ran for two seasons, supported by massive merchandising efforts.
New York Minute was their second feature film, and Ashley’s last acting role. The film was produced by Dualstar and released in 2004. The girls also turned 18 that year, which meant they became co-presidents of the production firm. In order to secure the future of the company, they moved away from focusing on just being a media production house to releasing products for the teen market. They also signed a pledge to give full maternity leave to employees working at their factories in Bangladesh.
Mary-Kate drew headlines on herself in 2004, when she confirmed long-circulating rumors that she had an eating disorder. She announced she was entering treatment for anorexia nervosa, which led to several sponsors cancelling their relationship with the Olsen twins.
The Olsen twins had worked with Wal-Mart earlier in the decade to promote a clothing and beauty line for the company, called Real Fashion for Real Girls, but after they became the presidents of Dualstar, they ended the relationship to focus on more legitimate fashion. They created The Row, a couture fashion label, and in 2007 created Elizabeth and James, a retail line inspired by their personal wardrobes.
Mary-Kate and Ashley: Fashion Icons
To promote their expansion into the world of fashion, the twins co-authored Influence, a book of interviews they conducted with fashion designers that inspired them. The book was published in 2008, to promote their tee-shirt line StyleMint and Olsenboye, their line offered at J.C. Penney department stores.
In 2011, the Olsen twins worked with TOMS Shoes, designing shoes for children in impoverished regions. Their work with TOMS earned them a role as joint creative directors at Superga, the Italian shoe brand, and also led to Wall St. Journal naming them Innovator of the Year in 2012. They also won the top award at the 2012 Council of Fashion Designer Awards.
Mary-Kate also began a relationship with Olivier Sarkozy in 2012. She married the half-brother of the former French President Nicholas Sarkozy on November 27th, 2015. Around this same time, rumors began circulating that Ashley Olsen had contracted Lyme disease, a complex and incurable disease transmitted by tick bites.
What are the Olsen Twins Doing Now In 2023?
The Olsen twins haven’t been on television since announcing their retirement as actresses in 2012. Their last appearance was in the 2013 documentary Scatter My Ashes at Bergdorf’s.
What have they been up to since? For one thing, they’ve been working on their luxury fashion brand The Row, which they co-founded in 2006. In August 2018, they released a new line of menswear that included knits, denim, and suits. Allegedly, they had conducted two years of research before launching the collection.
Not everything worked out the way they had intended, however. In the summer of 2020, they were forced to lay off half of their staff due to financial difficulties, which stemmed from the Covid-19 pandemic. One of their largest accounts, Barneys New York also filed for bankruptcy, which further complicated the situation.
Fortunately, things eventually got better and in the fall of 2021, they launched their first children’s collection, which consists of t-shirts, hoodies, pants, and hats. That same year, they were nominated for their eighth Accessories Designer of the Year Award from the Council of Fashion Designers of America (they had previously won the award four times).
In celebration of the company’s 15th anniversary, they also gave a rare interview in 2021. In fact, Mary-Kate had warned their interviewer beforehand that “[they’re] a bit out of practice.” During the interview, they revealed that their parents had raised them “to be discreet people” and that if they had their way, they wouldn’t be the faces of their brand at all. As for how they spend their days, they’re usually in their offices designing clothes most of the time.
Last fall, Mary-Kate, a longtime equestrian, also competed at the Longines Global Champions Tour in Rome, Italy. She and her horse ultimately finished second in the 2 Phases Special event and in third place in the Against the Clock No Jump Off event. Previously, she and her horse had finished in sixth place at the 2019 Champions Tour in Madrid, Spain.
That’s not all, she also filed for divorce from her ex-husband Olivier Sarkozy, after he terminated their lease without her consent. According to reports, Mary-Kate had wanted children while Sarkozy did not. Due to the covid-19 pandemic, however, things were delayed. This led her to file an emergency order—one that would let her proceed despite the circumstances, however, it was denied a day later. In the end, it wasn’t until January 25, 2021, that the divorce was finalized.
As for Ashley, she is currently dating Louis Eisner, the son of Eric Eisner, a noted philanthropist who’s also the former president of The Geffen Company. Though it hasn’t been confirmed, many have speculated that the two had gotten engaged back in 2019 after she was seen wearing a ring on her finger.