Q: Could pop-star siblings who are trying to break into the music business (Ashlee Simpson, Haylie Duff, etc.) make it on their own if they didn't have a famous relative? Or are they just mooching off a family member's fame?

Libby Greismann, Potomac

A: Mooching, probably, but it's more like extending the genetic franchise for maximum profit. Very often, siblings are all good at the same thing. (Olympic swimmer Michael Phelps's sisters, Hilary and Whitney, swam competitively before he did.) We've all known a family where every child becomes a high school star for something, be it sports, performance, homecoming queen or smarts. What are the odds, in a nation of millions of eligible candidates, that the president and the governor of Florida should be brothers, and their dad is a former president? Celeb sibs are merely hoping for the same dynastic phenomenon.

Is there another one like you at home, Britney?

Why, yes, there is.

Gone are the days when we used to get all, or most, of what a showbiz family had to offer in one serving, a la the Jackson 5 or the Osmonds (only to find that each family had one final secret weapon: the kid sister). Now we get the unknown sibling as a second course, and no matter how hard the new kid tries to distinguish herself, the cynic in most consumers just won't allow it.

And let's not forget the parents. Where the rise of Jessica and Ashlee are concerned, it's Dallas psychologist/church minister Joe Simpson -- manager, producer, reality show director, professional hand-holder -- who, with his wife, Tina, is a genius at marketing their two daughters. But there's bad news, MTV: They have no more children.

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