Child labor laws breed the strangest phenomena.

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were born just two minutes apart on June 13, 1986. Mary-Kate is the oldest of the twins, that must be the explanation for why her name always appears first. The twins were your average infants for a few months until in October, thanks to their smiles and the practice of casting twins in infant roles so that they could get twice the number of hours allowed by law, they were cast in as Michelle Tanner in the new sitcom, Full House.

Cute child actors, even cute identical twin actors, are a dime a dozen, so how do you explain the jump from child television stars to multi-millionaires barely old enough to drive? Two words: Brilliant marketing. Robert Thorne became the girls' manager when they were four years old. At age six, the girls released their first video, creatively titled Our First Video. In 1993, Dualstar was founded to manage the girls, Robert Thorne is CEO.

In 1995, the girls star in their first movie, It Takes Two. Two years later, the first Mary-Kate and Ashley book is published (they've sold over 29 million to date). At age 14, the girls launch a magazine, and introduce their clothing line at Wal-Mart. They've starred in two television series of their own (Two of a Kind, So Little Time), straight-to-video releases (Passport to Paris in which our girls get their first on-screen kisses, Winning London, Our Lips are Sealed, Holiday in the Sun, and their most recent release, Getting There--depicting what happens when you let 16 year-olds go on an unsupervised road trip). There are Mary-Kate and Ashley video games and fashion dolls, and the line keeps expanding. You can find almost any product marketed for 8-13 year-olds with a label featuring two identical smiling blonds these days.

Oops, did I say identical? They claim to be fraternal...but I need proof before I believe that two people can look that much alike without sharing DNA...

According to Fortune magazine, the girls are worth a cool $38 million each, and with the way that their products are taking off, that figure is only going to get higher. Must be nice to know that once their cuteness wears off, they won't have to work a day in their lives.

At age 18, they'll take over Dualstar as co-presidents. Though every time the twins' names come up in conversations, I hear dire predictions of their future in the wonderful world of pornography, the odds are stacked pretty high against it (the economic motivation for starring in porn just isn't there for these chicks). I'd put my money on at least one of them developing a pretty nasty coke habit one of these days, and after a stint in rehab, joining her sister in writing a tell-all memoir and marketing an Olsen Twins 12-step program. But I've been wrong before.

Facts from Fortune magazine--

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