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August 8, 2007

Ashley Olsen: The Coolest Girl in the World

ashley olsen

Ashley Olsen

Photo Credit: Ruven Afanador

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"I love driving," she says, behind the wheel now, "but sometimes I'm not too good with it because I spend too much time looking in the rearview mirror if I know I'm being followed. You don't respond like, 'Oh, there's paparazzi.' It's more like, 'There's a man, and he's gonna attack me.' That's how your body responds." She flicks her cigarette butt out the window. As she pulls into the factory parking lot, the paparazzo rolls to a stop outside; when she's done, he'll follow her home.

Inside the factory, crammed with bolts of cloth, sewing machines, and wardrobe dummies, Ashley strokes, tucks, tweaks, and takes the measure of a fit model in a sleek stretch-leather mini, a miraculously simple little black dress — pulling her hair back into a chaotic knot while whispering instructions to the seamstress like, "Increase the shoulder seam three-quarters" and "It has to be tight enough so that her crack doesn't show when she bends over." It's hard to picture her enjoying anything more. Nothing flaky or diva-like about it-she just really loves doing this work.

"I live a very normal life — I have friends; I've always gone to school. The part that's not normal is that I've been working since I was 9 months old, but at the same time, it's completely normal to me," Ashley tells me over a plate of raw vegetables and hummus and a bowl of popcorn drizzled with truffle oil. We're sitting by the rooftop pool at Soho House in New York City, nine days after meeting in L.A. "I used to struggle with it more because I used to take things more personally. When I was kind of 16 to 18, I couldn't get out of the weeklies. When I came to [NYU], it was really tough for the first couple of months because I couldn't show up to some classes, because there'd be paparazzi outside." Once, a student protesting Wal-Mart put up flyers everywhere that said, "Mary-Kate and Ashley support child labor." "So we couldn't go to school for a week." She has yet to graduate.

Everything about them was scrutinized, spun, served up for comic fodder — even the eating disorder Mary-Kate was treated for two years ago. "That situation was more about how destructive the media can be to a person emotionally, to their identity, their public persona," Ashley says. "It's really sick." Their love lives have long been a public parlor game; Ashley admits to having a newish boyfriend and delights in no one knowing who he is.

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