American conjoined twins Abby and Brittany Hensel have been in the public eye for most of their lives. Their first appearance on Oprah took place in 1996, when they were just six years old. By the time they graduated college in 2012, they were headlining their own reality TV show on TLC, Abby & Brittany.
But then, before you know it, the two dropped off the public radar.
So, what happened to Abby and Brittany? We’ve got the full scoop on why you never hear about these conjoined twins anymore!
Who are Abby and Brittany Hensel?
Mostly, we’re going to focus on how these conjoined twins rose to fame, why they seemingly disappeared, and what they’ve been doing lately. First, though, we need to start by answering a more basic question: who are Abby and Brittany?
Abby and Brittany were born on March 7, 1990 as a rare pair of conjoined twins. Conjoined twins only happen in every 50,000 to 60,000 births. The chances of survival at birth is low for conjoined twins, so Abby and Brittany were already a living miracle.
Then came a difficult decision for their parents Patty and Mike Hensel, a registered nurse and a carpenter/landscaper: should they try to separate the twins?
While some conjoined twins can be successfully separated by surgeons and survive the operation, Abby and Brittany’s chances were low. This is because they are dicephalic parapagus twins, meaning they have two heads on one shared torso. Only 11% of conjoined twins are dicephalic parapagus twins, and their chances of surviving a separation is extremely low.
Because of that, their parents decided against attempting such a separation. As such, Abby and Brittany have grown up together, essentially functioning as two different minds inhabiting a single body.
It can be difficult to imagine how these two are able to live and work as conjoined twins. To better understand their daily life, it’s important to understand how their anatomy works.
Basically, Abby and Brittany share a number of vital organs. This includes the intestines, liver, bladder, and reproductive organs. But they each have their own individual heart, stomach, pair of lungs, spine and spinal cord.
Furthermore, each twin has control of one arm and one leg. So while the twins are perfectly capable of doing things like driving a car, the act takes serious concentration and coordination. In fact, even the act of walking or running requires plenty of coordination.
Abby and Brittany experienced fame at a very young age. When they were just six years old, they made two appearances on The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1996.
This brought the two a certain measure of fame, and they made appearances in other places (including multiple appearances in the once-popular Life magazine and multiple documentaries created by Advanced Medical). However, the two wouldn’t truly catapult into stardom until they landed their own reality television show.
Getting a reality television show
If you’re familiar with Abby and Brittany Hansel, it probably wasn’t from their 1996 appearances on Oprah. Instead, you probably remember them from their popular TLC reality show called (fittingly enough) Abby & Brittany.
The twins starred in this TV show in 2012 when they were 22. The reality program showed important events such as their graduation from Bethel University and their quest to find a post-college job. Along the way, the show gave us a glimpse into their lives with friends and interesting trips to places in Europe.
At only eight episodes, though, the show was relatively short-lived. And the last episode premiered nearly a decade ago. What have the twins been up to since then? Did they stop being famous because their 15 minutes were up, or was this an intentional decision on their part?
Avoiding the public eye
While the twins never made an official statement, it looks like stepping out of the public eye was a deliberate decision on their part. Despite making numerous media appearances throughout their lives, the two stopped making public appearances of almost any kind after the conclusion of their reality show. Considering that the show ended with the two preparing for their first real job after graduating college, it seems likely they wanted to focus on living normal lives and enjoying a relative amount of privacy.
Speaking of privacy, the twins once had a joint Instagram account where they would post pictures and updates about their daily lives. However, they haven’t updated that account in about seven years. But that doesn’t matter because we now know what the two have been up to recently, and their career is very interesting!
A career in teaching
These days, Abby and Brittany teach elementary school in New Brighton, Minnesota. They have a concentration in math and teach both fourth and fifth grade.
How does all of this work? The two dished about it in an interview with the BBC. And in the interview, they answered a burning question: do they get two salaries or only one?
“Obviously, right away, we understand that we are going to get one salary because we’re doing the job of one person,” Abby said.
Still, Abby is hopeful that they will one day get additional compensation due to both their experience and the fact that each twin has her own degree and her own teaching license.
“As maybe experience comes in, we’d like to negotiate a little bit, considering we have two degrees and because we are able to give two different perspectives or teach in two different ways.”
The most heartwarming part of this story? Abby and Brittany’s students absolutely love this adorable teaching duo! Watch in the video above!