Welcome to Pop Culture Week! While you can always find us waxing poetic about the hefty overlap between fashion and pop culture, we're dedicating the next five days to the subject of our favorite music, movies, TV, celebrities, books and theater, and how that all intersects with the fashion industry.
Unofficial celebrity fan accounts are now an integral part of modern-day fandom. On Twitter and Instagram, they provide a safe space to keep up with all your faves' photos, videos and activities and express your obsession openly with like-minded stans.
For me, they also inspire awe and curiosity. I've always wondered: Who is actually running these accounts? How do they find all of this content and post it so quickly? Where do they find the time? Is it legal for them to post these often copyrighted photos? Do they have day jobs? So I sought out to answer these questions in relation to the only celebrities whose fan accounts I regularly follow: Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen.
The child actresses-turned-fashion designers and style icons present an interesting challenge to the folks who run popular fan accounts like @olsensanonymous, @marykateandashleyo, @mkastyle, @lifestylemarykateashley and @olsenoracle, several of which began as Tumblrs and blogs before Instagram existed. Fans are obsessed with Mary-Kate and Ashley largely because of their personal style, making imagery particularly important and desired — but they aren't on social media themselves and make an effort to stay out of the public eye and shield themselves from paparazzi. This means that new photos and videos of the twins are few and far between, which in turn makes them all the more special and exciting.
Many of these accounts get around this by posting old paparazzi snaps (which they may or may not purchase), event and promotional images of the twins, while others, like Alyce Peeler of @olsenoracle — who, as it happens, was the only account who agreed to participate in this story — search high and low for new content, often finding it in posts from the Olsens's personal friends and colleagues.
Peeler does indeed have a job — as a commercial litigation paralegal for a large defense firm in Charleston, SC, where she often works 50-hour weeks — but says she spends even more time running @olsenoracle, previously known as @alyce. Since launching last October, it's become a trusted (and, I'd even say, respected) source for new Olsen content, shared with a palpable, genuine sense of enthusiasm and positivity that is both relatable and infectious. It's the place to go if you want to see the sisters at the CFDA Awards from every possible angle; for candid photos and videos of them at concerts and weddings sourced from their friends' accounts or fans who spot them in the wild; or for outfit credits, like the rare "High Wasted" T-shirt Ashley wore in a paparazzi photo earlier this week.
Read on for our interview in which Peeler opens up about her love for the Olsens, why she started her account, how she finds new photos of them, monetization and much more.
When did you first start admiring the Olsens? What do you love about them?
I was born a few years after Ashley and Mary-Kate and grew up following them. I watched every movie, read every book and bought every Mary-Kate and Ashley Walmart item my parents would allow. I wanted to be just like them. People find this shocking, but I wasn't a huge fan of 'Full House.' I was four years old when 'How the West Was Fun' was released, and that was when the love for them began for me.
Now that I'm close to my 30s, I've noticed a shift in what I love about them. My admiration stems from their fierce work ethic, their ability to say 'no' without feeling it necessary to explain why, their philanthropic work and, most importantly, the way they carry themselves. In my opinion, it's a rarity to find individuals who are unapologetically themselves and that is what distinguishes Ashley and Mary-Kate from the rest of celebrities. They don't chase trends, they create them without even trying. That's worth admiring.
Why did you decide to start an Olsen fan account?
There were't that many active Olsen fan accounts, and the ones I did come across weren't giving me what I wanted. I don't say that as a dig to other Olsen accounts because they are all wonderful in their own ways.
My goal is to give a glimpse into their lives in a way you wouldn't be able to do by following news articles fueled by paparazzi photos. I'm not going to post photos of them from their days on 'Full House' or any pictures from their childhood. I'm more interested in where they are today. Paparazzi photos and photo shoots are great, but I'd rather share videos of Mary-Kate dancing with her friend at a Rolling Stones concert, throwing food after the Met with Proenza Schouler's Lazaro Hernandez or Ashley holding a birthday cake at her friend's birthday picnic in California. I want to show you their real lives. People who say they don't smile have never visited my page. They smile. They laugh. They dance. They're normal people living as normal of a life as they can and I want to give their fan base a glimpse into those moments.
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How do you decide what to post and how often?
I typically post at least once a day but no more than twice a day. However, if it's fashion week, the CFDA Awards or the Met Gala, you can count on me to flood your timeline with videos and photos as the event takes place. When it comes down to deciding what to post, fans always appreciate new content. They also really like photo shoots and paparazzi photos of them, so I try to rotate between all of the above to give a little of everything.
Where do you source your images from, and are you ever nervous about using paparazzi photos?
The majority of my photos come from their friends' social media accounts or magazine shoots. Paparazzi images are tricky. One paparazzi photo can be found in hundreds of places on the internet, especially Pinterest, and becomes so diluted it can be difficult to figure out the direct source. I do my best to give credit [where it's due] and if anyone were to disapprove of a photo I would have no problem deleting it upon request. The website olsensobsessive.com has always done an incredible job of buying paparazzi photos when they release and that's where I source those types of photos, making sure to credit the site.
What kinds of images usually get the most likes and engagement?
Photo shoots they have done within the past decade.
How do you typically get new followers?
Friends will tag other friends in my posts. If an account with a large following tags me in their story or re-posts something, it tends to draw more traffic to my page. I often hear, 'How am I just now finding your account?!' So it seems to happen organically. If you keep at something consistently, put in a tremendous amount of time and have the patience to see it through, at some point people are going to notice. More people will follow. And if they don't, keep going anyway.
I love every aspect of running my page and it provides a nice break from my job. I didn't create it in hopes of gaining thousands of followers, I created it with the intention of connecting with other fans and providing them with quality content. The Row just [announced the launch of menswear] and who else is going to jump up and down with me when moments like this happen?! Hashtags can draw people to your page, too, but once you have them there it's all about making a connection that makes them want to stay.
Do you interact with other Olsen fans a lot?
Yes! Seeing some of their reactions to my posts are day-makers. They get just as excited as I do when I post new photos or videos and they never fail to lift my mood. Every day I read messages that blow me away or comments that make me cry from laughing so hard. I don't have one unread message in my inbox. Connecting with other fans is what my page is all about.
How do you find MK&A in other people's Instagrams/stories?
By spending hours searching, honestly. There is no trick or shortcut. You have to learn who their friends are, who they work with and what events they like to attend. Sometimes my followers will send me a post or photo if they come across anything, which is awesome and really thoughtful.
Have you ever interacted with real friends of theirs or people who work with them?
A couple of their close friends support my page, but I don't want to call anyone out in case they prefer to remain anonymous. Some of their co-workers follow me or look at my stories on a consistent basis, and I do a little happy dance inside every time I see that. I don't reach out to all of them, but when I have it's been nothing but love.
How much time do you spend on the account?
At this point, I probably spend more time on my account than I do my full-time job, and I tend to work 50-hour weeks. But I love it!
Do you ever get negative feedback from people?
I've received some mean comments here and there, but I'm lucky that they are few and far between. You can't please everyone, and the harder you try to do so the more miserable you will become. I choose to focus on the positive, supportive people. Ashley and Mary-Kate sage everything and I joke that it's a virtual sage when deleting mean-spirited comments.
Do you feel a sense of competition with other Olsen fan accounts?
Ironically, the largest Olsen accounts on Instagram don't post that often, and when they do it's rarely updated photos. Our goals seem to be different and we all have our own strengths. To be honest, there have been times when I felt frustrated, but I'm learning to keep pushing forward and focus my energy on my own content.
Have you been able to monetize it in any way or do you plan to?
I haven't made any money off of my page. In the future, it would be life-changing if I could find a way to pay down or pay off my student loan debt through my page, but I'm not sure how to go about it.
What's your overall goal?
To continue working hard to show the real side of Ashley and Mary-Kate, and be able to buy myself something from The Row one day! Their supporters are the sweetest and always say they hope I end up meeting [the Olsens], but I don't think of that as my goal. It would be awesome though! They have enough money to retire today and live comfortably for the rest of their lives, yet they choose to work hard every single day because they love what they do. That is an incredible thing when you really stop to think about it. I hope to one day be able to say the same thing.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.