Jennette McCurdy is ready to move on and look back

When Jennette McCurdy was 16, she was in her third year on “iCarly”, the hit Nickelodeon teen sitcom. Millions of young viewers admired her for her comic portrayal of the wisecracking Sam Puckett of her main character, and she was proud that her lucrative business was helping to support her family.

McCurdy was also living under the strict control of her mother, Debra, who oversaw her career, dictating her meals—her dinners consisting of shredded chunks of low-calorie bologna and lettuce sprinkled with dressings—and even showers.

Her mother had breast and vaginal exams, which she said were cancer screenings, and shaved her daughter’s legs while McCurdy remained largely uneducated about the changes her body was going through.

She struggled with obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and anxiety caused by the constant attention she received as a character, but she felt trapped in her work. She also believed that she owed her unwavering loyalty to her mother, who recovered from breast cancer when Jeannette was very young, only to the recurrence of cancer in 2010, at the height of her daughter’s fame.

Debra McCurdy passed away in 2013, and Jennette, 30, is still reckoning with the oomph of her mother, who channeled her into a trade that gave her vision and financial stability while she was in control of virtually every aspect of her daughter’s existence.

When Jennette McCurdy writes her memoir, Simon & Schuster will publish it on August 3. 9, it was clear to her that her relationship with her mother would provide her narrative power. “It’s the heartbeat of my life,” she said recently.

The book is titled “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” and its cover features a picture of McCurdy, a half-smile narrowed on her face, holding a pink funeral urn with scrapbooking peeps over its rim. Presentation may be unacceptable to some readers; The author is well aware. But she also feels that it neatly sums up a story about coming of age that is alternately terrifying and funny.

Growing up as she is, feeling tenderness and anger towards someone she saw with tremendous strength while fighting for her life, she said, “You can’t believe how hard it was and how funny it was at the same time. That’s my sense of humor.”

“I feel like I’m done processing and putting in the work to earn a title or idea that seems provocative,” she added.

Although McCurdy may have the resume of a Hollywood veteran, she carried herself as a wide-eyed tourist on a visit to New York in late June. Over afternoon tea at B.G.’s restaurant in midtown Manhattan, she stared at fellow patrons, solicited recommendations for Broadway theatre, and berated herself about a transcendental meditation class she took near her home in Los Angeles.

“So far, I haven’t seen any results, but we’ll see,” she said with a chuckle.

When it came to new endeavors, McCurdy said, “I think things should seem normal. A big part of my life has been about forcing or pushing things. So when something feels like it’s working, I’ll let it go, and whatever else could fall by the wayside.” .

As McCurdy tells in her memoirs, she was six years old when she began auditioning for acting roles, after being nurtured at work by her mother, who was herself discouraged from becoming an actress by her parents.

McCurdy grew up in Southern California, and starred in TV commercials and shows like “Mad TV,” “Malcolm in the Middle,” and “CSI” before hitting “iCarly” debut in 2007. However, she had no illusions About who was really benefiting from these achievements. As she wrote the moment she learned she booked “iCarly,” “everything will be better. Finally my mum will be happy. Her dream has come true.”

McCurdy has endured many embarrassments and insults at Nickelodeon, writing about being portrayed in a bikini in a wardrobe and being encouraged to drink alcohol by a fearsome character she simply calls The Creator. In situations where her mother was present, Debra did not intervene or speak, telling Jennette that this was the price of success in the entertainment industry: “Everyone wants what you have,” she would tell her daughter.

When McCurdy was promised a minor on “iCarly,” she assumed she’d get her own show — only to receive a co-star in “Sam & Cat,” which she linked with future pop sensation Ariana Grande.

There, she says her superiors at these shows prevented her from pursuing career opportunities outside the show while Grande thrived in her extracurricular work. As McCurdy writes, “What finally emptied me was when Ariana came whistling because she had spent the previous evening playing charades at Tom Hanks’ house. That was the moment I broke up.”

As McCurdy grew older and more independent, her relationship with her mother became more strained. The book reproduces an email her mother calls a “whore,” a “float” and an “ugly monster,” and then concludes with a request for money to buy a refrigerator. When Debra relapsed from cancer and passed away, then-21-year-old Jennette was liberated and left to roam a complex world without her guidance, struggling with ruinous romantic relationships, bulimia, anorexia, and alcohol abuse.

iCarly ended its original run in 2012, ran “Sam & Cat” for only one season from 2013-2014, after which, McCurdy writes, she turned down a $300,000 offer from Nickelodeon if she agreed not to speak publicly about her experience at the network. (A Nickelodeon press representative declined to comment.)

She was free to reclaim her personal life and pursue other projects, such as the Netflix science fiction series “Between”. But she found it difficult to let go of the resentment of the way she was treated when she was younger. As she said in an interview, “I felt like all these decisions were being made on my behalf and I was the last to know about them. This is really infuriating. It led to a lot of anger.”

So far, McCurdy has found that returning to the age of her child’s stardom has re-emerged with hard feelings for a parent, and the industry, which has failed to protect her.

“My whole childhood and adolescence have been taken advantage of,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears. “It still gave my nervous system a reaction to saying that. There were cases where people had the best intentions and probably didn’t know what to do. And also cases where they did – they knew exactly what they were doing.”

Marcus McCurdy, the eldest of Jennette’s three siblings, said their mother was constantly fidgety as they grew up.

“You always walked on eggshells – would my mom be cute or crazy today?” He said. “One day she would be fine, and the next day she would yell at everyone. Every holiday was so exciting. She would have lost her mind at Christmas if nothing was perfect.”

Friends and colleagues from Jennette McCurdy’s time as a child actress have said they can feel nervous in her relationship with her mother, even if they don’t know the finer details yet.

“Ginette can be extroverted, very progressive and bright and electric,” said pop singer and American Idol finalist David Archuleta. “I can also tell that she was very guarded, very protective of her mother and they were very close.”

Archuleta, whose father’s career closely controlled his career when he was a minor, said such arrangements can be devastating for children.

“Because you’re always with that parent, they don’t really let you get around anyone else,” said Archuleta. “You don’t look at it as something to control — you look at it as, ‘Oh, they’re looking for me. “And they make you feel that everyone is against you.”

Archuleta added that over time, the parent may become toxic. “You get where it is,” you can’t make any decisions on your own. You cannot do anything alone. You are very stupid. “

Miranda Cosgrove, star of iCarly, said that although she quickly approached the show with McCurdy, at first she was unaware of the many difficulties her friend was facing, which McCurdy only revealed when they were both grown.

“When you’re young, you’re totally in your head,” Cosgrove said. “You cannot imagine that the people around you are having more difficult struggles.”

“Don’t expect things like that from the person in the room who makes everyone laugh,” Cosgrove added, in a quieter voice.

For McCurdy, opening herself up to the wider world was a long-term process. In her late teens and early twenties, she wrote articles for The Wall Street Journal that shared some of her visions of childhood stardom. But today, she feels, she wasn’t completely outspoken.

She explained, “If I had been honest at the time, I would have said, ‘Yeah, I wrote this and then I went and forced myself to throw up for four minutes after that. “

A few years ago, McCurdy began writing a new series of personal essays, including several about her mother, that she shared with her manager at the time. “My boss sent me a nice email saying, ‘That’s cool – I really don’t know what to do with this. “I won’t forget ‘xoxo’ at the end.” (Mccurdy no longer works with that manager.)

Instead, she started doing a one-woman show, also called “I’m Glad My Mom Died” in Los Angeles. Although the pandemic hampered plans to take the show on the road, McCurdy used some of her free time to craft the memoir. “I really wanted to build it a lot more, go deeper into the childhood side of the story and work through the arc in a way that you can only do with a book,” she explained.

Marcus McCurdy said he supported his sister’s decision to write her memoir, even if calling it “I’m Glad My Mom Died” caused some consternation in the family.

“Our grandmother is very upset about that nickname,” Marcus said, adding that he and his sister share the same sense of humor. “It’s more of a coping mechanism,” he said. “You can either say, ‘Woe to me, my life is awful. Or you find the humor in these things really tragic.

Archuleta also said he was enabling McCurdy to write her book. “It gave her back some of her strength and confidence,” he said.

McCurdy writes another set of articles about her entry into her twenties, as well as a novel. (She said the protagonist is “either who I wish I was in some aspects, or who I wish I could never be in others. But maybe I am, right?”)

Aside from a few viewing parties her family had for her first TV spin-off, McCurdy told me, “I didn’t watch any of the shows she was on.” For her, these were documents fraught with her suffering and unwelcome reminders of the powerlessness she felt at the time.

A few years ago, after her Netflix series was canceled, McCurdy decided to take a break from acting. As she wrote in her memoir, “I want my life to be in my own hands. Not an eating disorder or a casting director or an agent or my mom. My property.” She did not participate in the recent “iCarly” reboot on Paramount+. But McCurdy said her experience with her solo show has shown her that there may be ways that performing can be constructive for her in the future.

“I felt important to mend some of the already burdened and complicated relationships I had with acting,” she said. “I felt like I was finally saying my words and saying the things I wanted to say. I am myself.

Although McCurdy still finds it uncomfortable to think about her past, it also makes her hope to focus on the present and see the friends and colleagues who are a part of her life because she alone has chosen to be in them.

“I have people around me now who are very supportive and very loving,” she said. “It makes me cry of joy. I feel safe. I feel a great deal of confidence and openness.”

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