Jarnette Olsen takes her newborn girls to audition for an ABC sitcom, Full House, at Lorimar Studios in Culver City, Calif., and they beat out nine other sets of twins. "They were more open to strangers," Full House executive producer Jeff Franklin told the Washington Post. "They were smiling all the time." When Full House debuts in Sept. 1987, the twins share the role of Michelle Tanner and earn $2,400 each per episode.
The Olsen family hires entertainment industry attorney Robert Thorne to negotiate the twins' salary up from $4,000 per episode to $25,000 and then to $80,000 by the end of the show. Thorne becomes the CEO of the twins' Dualstar Entertainment Group in 1993 and helps guide the enterprise into a billion-dollar company.
The 6-year-old twins record their first album, Brother for Sale, the release of which launches the Olsen phenomenon. ''I like the song called 'I Want to Trade My Brother,''' Mary-Kate tells PEOPLE. ''Yeah,'' Ashley agrees with a giggle. ''When we were rehearsing it, our brother Trent said, 'I hate that song!'''
To Grandmother's House We Go airs on ABC as their first TV movie. It's a ratings hit, and Ashley and Mary-Kate make $125,000 each. "I like being an actress," Ashley tells PEOPLE in 1992.
The girls star in Our First Video, which goes straight-to-video. Their total video output of 47 titles pulls in $750 million. The six-year-olds sing and dance in seven kid-friendly music videos such as "No One Tells the President What to Do" and "Peanut Butter."
The twins star as identical strangers on their first big-screen movie, It Takes Two, which also stars Steve Guttenberg and Kirstie Alley. Together, the twins earn $1.6 million for the film. The movie brings in $19 million in ticket sales, and then $75 million in home-video sales.
Dave and Jarnette Olsen separate, but they share custody of their children – Ashley, Mary-Kate, Trent and Elizabeth – and continue to manage the twins' careers.
ABC enlists the twins for a new show called Two of a Kind, which debuts in the same Friday night timeslot as their former TV hit Full House. "We really wanted to do it because we're playing different characters instead of sharing one," Mary-Kate tells Entertainment Weekly. ABC cancels the show after one season due to poor ratings.
The Mary-Kate and Ashley fashion line launches in Wal-Mart stores and includes sportswear, swimwear, sleepwear, eyewear, footwear, bags, accessories and jewelry. Their line becomes the fastest-growing fashion line for tweens and teens in the U.S., racking up more than $400 million in sales at Wal-Mart in 2003.
The twins add another achievement to their resumés. They and their manager, Thorne, are co-editors-in-chief of Mary-Kate and Ashley magazine, which hits newsstands at a premium price of $5.95. "There's a void to fill," Thorne tells Salon. "We'll talk about how to deal with a boy trying to give you your first kiss, as opposed to how do you deal with a teen pregnancy."
BIOGRAPHY (top to bottom): Warner Bros./Everett; Warner Bros./Everett; Warner Bros.; INTERFOTO USA/SIPA; Zuma