Everything We Know About The Olsen Twins' Parents

Not many can say they were millionaires before they hit puberty, but Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen claimed the spotlight — and its resulting wealth — at a very young age. The fraternal twins began their long-lasting career at just nine months old as Michelle Turner on "Full House," and they jointly played the role. Throughout their young adulthood and teen years, they catapulted into iconic stardom, with many more TV and film roles. Combined with their income from their successful clothing line, The Row, they're now worth around $500 million, per Celebrity Net Worth. While that might sound like a hefty sum, it's not surprising for a pair whose careers began when they were just infants. By the fourth grade, they were already multimillionaires (via Entertainment Weekly).

Behind the Olsen twins' early-established success were two parents who worked hard to make it happen. Jarnette and David Olsen were not only driving factors behind the twins' stardom, but they also had some complications of their own. They had their ups and downs as the parents of a family in the limelight. In addition to the twins, they're also parents to daughter Elizabeth and son Trent, both of whom have acting careers as well. Here's a look behind the scenes at these show biz parents.

They were skeptical of 'Full House' at first

According to Life and Style Mag, Jarnette Olsen was pressured into auditioning the twins, Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, for "Full House." In the beginning, their father was reportedly opposed to it as well. "I didn't even want to be bothered with it," David Olsen told The Washington Post in a 1991 profile of the twins' success. "I said, 'Honey, if you want to do this, fine.'"

After the twins landed the gig, their parents again hesitated to continue their career at such a young age and even considered pulling them from the TV show after the first season. When they decided to continue with Mary-Kate and Ashley's joint role as Michelle Turner, however, their skepticism soon turned to surprise as the twins' popularity exploded. "They utilize their personalities pretty well," David told The Washington Post. "They're just kind of funny. They were almost like chimpanzees when they were little. You just dress them up and they're fun. I guess they're just photogenic."

They worked the twins hard

Similar to Kris Jenner, who is known as the mega-manager of the Kardashian family, the Olsen parents also co-managed their daughters' careers. Jarnette Olsen and David Olsen started a company, Dualstar, which created countless Olsen twin movies, books, merchandise, and more (via Nylon). Though Ashley Olsen insisted that her parents were never "stage parents" (via People), early fame wasn't always easy on the young girls. Mary-Kate Olsen told Marie Clarie in 2010 that she "wouldn't wish [her] upbringing on anyone" and recalled being a "monkey performer" for the screen.

In a 2009 interview with Marie Claire, Ashley also recalled the pressure of their busy lifestyle. "I look back at the things that we did and the clothes that we wore, and I think, 'Wow, we really were troupers.' It was almost like I was in the army," she explained. "School, work, homework, fly to New York, get in at 2 in the morning, do a morning show at 5 a.m., then another one at 7, then a radio interview at 10, you know?" She even noted her surprise at not "ending up" like Britney Spears, who had a public meltdown in 2007.

Jarnette and David divorced when the twins were young

As the "dadager" of the family, David Olsen's relationship with Mary-Kate Olsen and Ashley Olsen has been rumored to be complicated at times (via Life and Style Mag). To add to the complex dynamic, David and Jarnette Olsen also divorced in 1996, when the twins were just nine years old, per Entertainment Weekly. 

That same year, David married his former secretary, McKenzie Olsen (via IMDb). The couple went on to have two children together, Courtney Taylor Olsen and Jake Olsen. Tabloids and other media coverage painted the experience as a strenuous time for the twins, who were allegedly split in their loyalties. When David married McKenzie, Mary-Kate reportedly attended the affair while Ashley stayed home, according to Entertainment Weekly. However, David insisted that the experience wasn't difficult at all"The reality is that the transition has been very smooth," Dave claimed to EW in the family's first interview after the split. "Everyone sees eye to eye. The girls are fine."

And in a 2004 People profile, Ashley confirmed that the split wasn't as dramatic as it seemed. "To be honest, we were kind of busy at that point," she said. "We had so many people that loved us that we were like, 'That's okay. Things will be better this way.' We were very mature for our age."

David's rumored financial woes

Despite managing the twins and creating a successful brand that has since cashed in millions, David Olsen may have still run into financial problems. In 2010, tabloids and gossip blogs began reporting that David had filed for bankruptcy. Rumors held that David had fallen behind on mortgage payments for his home in Tarzana, California. Owing the bank about $2.2 million, he allegedly opted to file for bankruptcy to avoid losing the house. 

Many wondered at the time why his daughters, who took over their company Dualstar after they turned 18, didn't come to his aid, and fans were full of speculation about a possibly strained father-daughter relationship. However, none of these rumors were ever confirmed, and the twins have had nothing but positive things to say about their parents to the media. Given how private the Olsen twins tend to be, we may never know what happened for sure.

In May 2020, Mary-Kate Olsen began going through a messy divorce of her own. She filed for an emergency divorce from her husband, Olivier Sarkozy, but her request was denied

The family didn't make a big deal about their fame

While Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen were major household names in the 1990s, their family didn't hype it up. Their parents, David and Jarnette Olsen, didn't come from Hollywood lineages, and so the international success of their daughters was a novel concept to them. David had previously worked as a mortgage broker before shifting into real estate, according to the New York Times, while Jarnette was a former ballet dancer who became a homemaker when they had their four children.

When the girls played Michelle Tanner on "Full House," David said that the family often missed the episodes as they aired. "They know they play Michelle," David told the Washington Post, "but we don't even watch the show all the time on Friday night. With four kids, everyone running around, 8 p.m. comes and goes."

This lack of fixation on their celebrity led to discretion in Mary-Kate and Ashley's lives. They rarely give interviews, they don't participate in social media, and they largely stay out of the limelight. In an interview with i-D in 2021, Mary-Kate said that they're "discreet people — that's how we were raised." That discretion came from both parents, but especially their mom, Jarnette. As The New York Times noted, Jarnette never spoke to the press about her daughters and rarely joined them at public events.

Elizabeth Olsen spoke about their upbringing

Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen's younger sister, Elizabeth Olsen, also became an actor. She spoke about their upbringing with The Guardian in 2012, and firmly refuted the idea that their parents, David and Jarnette Olsen, pushed their children into the spotlight. "My parents had very little to do with my sisters' job ... at least not after getting them that first job," Elizabeth said. "They always did what they could to hook them up with the right people to handle things, like being child stars and managing assets and running production companies ... but they never pretended they could do it well themselves." Elizabeth emphasized that David and Jarnette let Mary-Kate and Ashley run their own brand and careers. "And my parents were so not [stage managers] at all," she went on. "My sisters run their own thing now," the Marvel star said. "They have since they turned 18."

Along the way, there were still moments of tension in the family as Mary-Kate and Ashley reached superstardom. David spoke about the dynamic with The New York Times. ”The other kids may feel that the girls get to travel a little more,” David said. ”But on the other side, sometimes the girls miss being away from their friends for a month." He joked that Mary-Kate and Ashley complained that Elizabeth was the favorite kid. "You have the same . . . they're not jealousies, but the same frictions that you just have growing up with siblings," he added.