I must have been seven or eight the first time I watched “It Takes Two”, the story of a lonely rich girl Alyssa (played by Ashley Olsen) and an orphaned tomboy Amanda (played by Mary-Kate Olsen) that meet at summer camp and switch places after discovering they’re each other’s double.
I recently made my husband watch it with me on a night in; we discovered it still stands true as a heartwarming story of family, love, and adventure even twenty-four years after its premiere.
This is not unusual to the Olsen twins’ legacy as actresses.
I should know—growing up, my family would take a weekly trip to Blockbuster and I’d usually bring home a VHS featuring them as leads. I’d admire the covers in the aisles carefully choosing what adventure I’d join them for next in their series of musical mystery investigations or one of their many feature-length films.
Their genesis in my memory is indivisible from my own childhood.
Ashley and Mary-Kate seized an audience of young women that still rivals that of other entertainment queens like Taylor Swift (126 million Instagram followers) and Selena Gomez (167 million Instagram followers).
The Olsen brand diversified into fashion and makeup in 2004 by selling a collection with their namesake at Walmart, making their magic accessible to households like my own years before Kylie Jenner’s billion-dollar makeup empire would ever be discussed.
We’ll never actually know where the Olsen twins stand in comparison to their contemporaries because they’ve created a lane entirely of their own. I cannot overemphasize this point.
The Olsens cannot be compared because there are no other modern icons that have been acting since the age of 2 that have then retired from acting at the peak of their popularity only to remove themselves from the public eye, diversifying their brand and business acumen into a wildly successful fashion empire.
The Olsens released what would be their last film, New York Minute, in 2004. Two years later, they debuted their luxury fashion line, The Row named after Savile Row in London.
The Olsens also own Elizabeth & James, a women’s lifestyle brand of apparel, accessories, and fragrances founded in 2007 which recently premiered a collection at Kohl’s.
Today, their fashion empire is valued at $1 billion.
In many ways, the Olsen twins ushered in modern stan culture.
We grew up with their straight-to-VHS films, their fashion collabs, and they delivered blue eyeshadow into my ten-year-old hands at the peak of their iconography.
My own story with the Olsens was one of admiration.
For better and worse, they were muses before the conception or ubiquity of Instagram existed.
Yet unlike other icons that capture the admiration and imitation of American women, they maintain a distance from the public unlike any other celebrity.
Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen don’t have social media.
Their private lives remain out of tabloids and they disperse no crumbs of speculation for public fodder. This leaves fan accounts like @olsensdaily, @olsensanonymous, @mkastyle, and @lifestylemarykateandashley with the task of covering their life, their gatherings, their movements for those of us watching.
I discovered Alyce’s account in the summer of 2019 finding her attention to the minutia of the Olsens’ interests and professional achievements fascinating.
From her coverage of the Elizabeth & James expansion to Kohl’s and her in-depth research on how to imitate the Olsens’ style with affordable alternatives, Alyce’s account stood scores above the rest in its acute understanding of the Olsens’ brand and allure, duplicating the enigma that exists among the twins so ardently admired without effort.
In January of 2020, Alyce’s account was suddenly deactivated by Instagram with no notification or warning due to a series of Instagram stories she posted that featured the Olsen twins smoking cigarettes, something they’ve done for years.
Her story was in response to critics who urged her to censor photos of their smoking habit due to impressionable followers. A follower admitted to reporting the story and Alyce’s account has been lost since. In the wake of this loss, I asked her to discuss with me how she grew this account to 90,000 followers and what her next move in its absence may be.
Let’s talk about the source of all this trouble. The smoking incident. I remember catching a bit of it on your stories and as it was happening in real time but could you go back to the beginning and provide some context around what led you to post the photos of the Olsens smoking back to back?
People would post rude comments under my posts or send me direct messages being hateful towards Ashley and Mary-Kate/my page because they will be smoking cigarettes in photos that are posted. I always deleted these comments and depending on how bad they are, I would often times block the person to prevent them from accessing my page again.
I’ve always joked about how I sage my page by deleting any negative comments – I like to keep a clean space and positive energy.
They’ve been smoking for over a decade now and often times, because they are so private, they are photographed smoking because it’s the only time paparazzi can catch them out and about. They spend a lot of their time working at their office headquarters, so they’ll pop outside to take smoke breaks and in return, we get incredibly fashionable photos of them (and yes, they have cigarettes in hand).
I posted a story full of photos of them smoking cigarettes because I was fed up with people constantly making mean comments about them on my page, or even worse, trying to tell them what they should or should not do, or what I should or should not post. I have made it clear from day one on my page that I post what I want to post and that Ashley and Mary-Kate are grown adults, free to do whatever they choose to do.
Someone got so offended by my story of photos of them smoking that she reported my story as spam to Instagram. Instagram then deleted my entire Instagram page because of this person reporting my page.
How much criticism would you say you’ve received for posting evidence of the Olsens’ smoking habit; was it an isolated incident or a larger percentage of followers asking you to stop?
It was not an isolated incident. It will come from people who don’t even follow me, just trolls in passing that see my page on the “explorer page” and instead of going about their day they choose to leave a nasty comment about them smoking.
That’s probably the most common criticism I receive, but all of my followers, especially the ones who have been following me from the beginning, they all love and appreciate Ashley and Mary-Kate for exactly who they are. Cigarettes and all.
I have a following of incredible individuals who believe life choices are yours to make and that women should not be told what they can and cannot do. Ashley and Mary-Kate are successful, smart and hard-working women – a lot like the women who follow me. I often remind people on my page that no one is perfect, we all have flaws, we all have vices and we should not judge others for being human. Ashley and Mary-Kate aren’t hurting anyone, they are not asking to be role models and they have and always will remain very unproblematic, private and authentic.
I think that’s part of simply being an adult – understanding that each person has different preferences and learning to live with the acceptance of those differences.
Could you tell me what inspires you to post this unsanitized version of the Olsens?
It is who they are. Unfiltered, natural, raw and real. I would not be portraying them in a genuine light if I didn’t feature them exactly as they come. I’d like to think my page became what it is because I am a hidden middle-man, providing photos and information.
I don’t want anything filtering through me, my opinions or even my preferences unless I am specifically asked my opinion on something.
It isn’t about me. My page is dedicated to Ashley Olsen and Mary-Kate Olsen, and because I have followed them for over two decades I have learned a tremendous amount about them.
Why do you think people who claim to be fans demand a sanitized version of them?
I have no idea.
If you want me to be honest, I truly don’t get that. I know social media has played a large roll in conditioning society to see the “best” side of people, a highlight reel of perfect moments/people but that’s not real life, and in my opinion, that is so far from who Ashley and Mary-Kate seem to be. People claim they want authenticity but turn around and bash imperfections. Little do people know, you can’t have one without the other.
I know there are probably fan accounts of them that don’t post photos of the sisters smoking cigarettes, so if that is what someone is looking for then they should follow those accounts and not bother following mine. That’s the beauty of social media, you are not forced to follow any account. You can exit the page at any time. You can mute a page, block a page, restrict a page, the options are endless.
Just because you don’t like something doesn’t mean it shouldn’t exist. Tolerance is a very important practice society seems to be lacking. I see things and hear things every day on social media that I don’t like or agree with, but I’m not going to waste my energy trying to report each little thing just because it doesn’t sit well with me. That’s not a valid reason to report something and it discounts the millions of other people in society that may agree or like the things that I don’t. To each their own.
How did you learn your account was deleted?
Around midday on Thursday, January 16, 2020, I was checking some notifications and looking through my page (I had been on my page through out the morning) when all of a sudden I was logged out and taken to the page where you log in. I thought that was strange, tried to log back in and it kept giving me an error message.
I never received any form of communication from Instagram letting me know what happened or why I couldn’t access my account or search my account name.
On Sunday, January 19, 2020, I received a direct message on my personal account from someone who admitted that they were the reason the Olsen Oracle account was deleted by Instagram after they reported my story as spam because they didn’t like how long my story was regarding the photos of them smoking cigarettes. She sent me a screenshot of the message she received from Instagram notifying her that my account was deleted due to her report of it being spam. If she had not messaged me with this information I would not know what happened to my page or why it is gone.
If your account cannot be restored, would you restart from scratch?
I would if Instagram changed their policies.
I can’t build all of this from scratch again on such shaky grounds, knowing that all it takes is one hateful person erroneously reporting my account for all of it to be taken away from me. I need a more concrete foundation if I’m going to try and rebuild what I had before. So I guess the answer to that question is no, because Instagram is not going to effectively change its ways.
What kept you going with your account considering the amount of work it took?
My love for Ashley and Mary-Kate. It was never about making money. From day one, I created Olsen Oracle with the intention of providing admirers with what we all lacked – a social media presence from Ashley and Mary-Kate.
There were plenty of accounts that posted older photos of them, but I wanted real-time updates of what was currently going on in their lives and what current projects they were working on.
If you ask me, that is why so many people gravitated towards my page, because I took a different approach and people genuinely loved it.
I am 29 years old, I grew up following them from pre-school and onward. So many women my age grew up the same way and I can’t tell you how many messages I would receive from women my age telling me I reignited that love for Ash and MK, that they had forgotten about them over time and that my page allowed them to renew their love for Ashley and Mary-Kate as the adults that we are now.
How can people support you in reinstating your account?
If you have any kind of platform, simply post about what happened and ask Instagram to fix the mistake—it could make a big difference.
Even if you do not have a platform to share what happened, report the issue to Instagram. The more people that report the issue, the more attention it will bring it to Instagram.
When you’re signed into Instagram:
- Go to ‘Settings’
- Select ‘Help’
- Select ‘Report a Problem’
- Select ‘Something Isn’t Working’
You will then be prompted to write a short message explaining that Olsen Oracle was deactivated as a result of being incorrectly flagged as spam and should be reinstated.
What prevents people from just unfollowing or ignoring what doesn’t cater to them?
I feel like we are living in an era of opinionated entitlement.
It seems hard for people to look away from things that bother them and look towards what motivates them, makes them happy, things they like. It’s easier to judge others and focus on what you don’t like in other people because that takes away from the time you have for self-reflection.
Many people will say, “I don’t like this person” but stop short when the follow-up question should be, “what is it that makes me not like this person and why do I allow them to affect me so much?” If you see pages that aren’t being run the way you prefer, do what I did and create your own.
Focus so much on what you are doing that what other people choose to do doesn’t hold any bearing on your life.
* This post was written in thoughtful collaboration with Alyce Peeler, the owner of the currently deactivated Olsen Oracle Instagram account.
* Olsen Oracle was restored by Instagram shortly following this interview