Jennette McCurdy is ready to move forward and look back

When Jennette McCurdy was 16, she was in her third year on “iCarly,” Nickelodeon’s hit teen comedy. Millions of young viewers admired her for her comedic portrayal of sam puckthe prankster friend of the main character, and was proud that her lucrative job helped support her family.

McCurdy also lived under the strict control of his mother, Debra, who supervised his career, determined his meals (his dinners consisted of shredded pieces of low-calorie bologna and lettuce drizzled with dressing), and even managed his showers.

Her mother gave her breast and vaginal exams, which she said were cancer checks, and shaved her daughter’s legs while McCurdy remained unaware of the changes her body was experiencing.

She battled obsessive-compulsive disorder, eating disorders, and anxiety brought on by the constant attention she received as a celebrity, but felt trapped in her work. She also believed that she owed her unwavering loyalty to her mother, who had recovered from breast cancer when Jennette was very young, only for her cancer to return in 2010, at the height of the fame of her daughter.

Debra McCurdy died in 2013, and Jennette, now 30, still has the gravitational pull exerted by her mother, who brought her into the trade that gave her visibility and financial stability while controlling virtually every aspect of her daughter’s existence. .

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

The book is titled “I’m Glad My Mom Is Dead,” and its cover features an image of McCurdy, a narrow half-smile on her face, holding a pink funeral urn with strings of confetti poking out of the rim. The presentation may be off-putting to some readers; the author is well aware. But he also feels that he accurately encapsulates a coming-of-age story that is alternately heartbreaking and bitingly funny.

When you’ve grown up like her, feeling both tenderness and anger towards a person you’ve seen wield immense power while fighting for his own life, she said, “You can’t believe how difficult and how ridiculous it is at the same time.” . That’s completely my sense of humor.”

“I feel like I’ve done the processing and pushed myself to win a title or a thought that feels provocative,” he added.

Although McCurdy may have the resume of a seasoned Hollywood veteran, she was a wide-eyed tourist on a visit to New York in late June. Over afternoon tea at the BG restaurant in midtown Manhattan, she looked around at other customers, asked for Broadway theater recommendations, and berated herself for a transcendental meditation class she had taken near her home. her in Los Angeles.

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

When it comes to new ventures, McCurdy said, “I think things should feel natural. Much of my life consisted of forcing or pushing things. So when I feel like something is working, I leave it at that and anything else can fall by the wayside.”

As McCurdy recounts in her memoirs, she was 6 years old when she began auditioning for acting roles, after being guided by her mother, who herself was discouraged from becoming an actress by her own parents.

Growing up in Southern California, McCurdy was involved in television commercials and shows like “Food TV” “Malcolm in the Middle” Y “CSI” before landing on “iCarly,” which debuted in 2007. However, he never had any illusions about who was really benefiting from these achievements. As he writes of the moment she found out she had booked “iCarly,” “Everything is going to get better. Mom will finally be happy. Her dream has come true.”

McCurdy endured various embarrassments and indignities on Nickelodeon, where she writes about being photographed in a bikini at a dress fitting and being encouraged to drink alcohol by an intimidating figure she simply calls the Creator. In situations where her mother was present, Debra did not intervene or speak, instructing Jennette that this was the price of success in show business: “Everyone wants what you have,” she told her daughter. .

When McCurdy was promised an “iCarly” spinoff, she assumed she’d be given her own show, only to receive a co-star slot on “Sam and Cat” which paired her with future pop music sensation Ariana Grande.

There, he says that his superiors in these programs prevented him from pursuing professional opportunities outside of the program while Grande was thriving in her extracurricular work. As McCurdy writes, “What finally undid me was when Ariana came in whistling with excitement because she had spent the night before playing charades at Tom Hanks’ house. That was the moment I broke down.”

As McCurdy grew older and more independent, her relationship with her mother became more strained. The book reproduces an email in which her mother calls her “ZARRA”, “LOCA” and “UGLY MONSTER”, and then concludes with a request for money to buy a refrigerator. When Debra had a recurrence of cancer and died, Jennette, then 21, broke free and left to navigate a complex world without her guidance, dealing with destructive romantic relationships, bulimia, anorexia and alcohol abuse.

“iCarly” ended its original run in 2012, and “Sam & Cat” ran for just one season between 2013 and 2014, after which, McCurdy writes, he turned down a $300,000 offer from Nickelodeon if he agreed never to speak publicly about his experiences. on the net (A Nickelodeon press representative declined to comment.)

He was free to reclaim his personal life and pursue other projects, such as the Netflix sci-fi series “Between.” But she found it difficult to let go of the resentment of how she had been treated when she was younger. As she said in an interview: “It seemed that all these decisions were made on my behalf and that I was the last to know about them. That is really infuriating. It made me very angry.”

Even now, McCurdy found that revisiting the era of her childhood stardom resurfaced raw feelings about a father and an industry that had failed to protect her.

“My entire childhood and adolescence were highly exploited,” she said, her eyes brimming with tears. “It still gives my nervous system a reaction to say it. There were cases where people had the best of intentions and perhaps didn’t know what they were doing. And also cases where they did: they knew exactly what they were doing.”

Marcus McCurdy, the oldest of Jennette’s three brothers, said their mother was constantly volatile when they were children.

“You always walked on eggshells, are you going to be a good mom today or a crazy mom?” he said. “One day she would be fine, the next day she would be yelling at everyone. Every holiday was super dramatic. She would go crazy over Christmas if something wasn’t perfect.”

Friends and colleagues from Jennette McCurdy’s time as a child actress said they could feel the strain in her relationship with her mother, even if they didn’t know the exact details yet.

“Jennette can be outgoing, very sassy, ​​bright and electric,” said David Archuleta, the pop singer and “American Idol” finalist. “I also realized that she was very cautious, very protective of her mother and they were very close.”

Archuleta, whose career was closely controlled by her father when she was a minor, said such arrangements can be destructive to children.

“Because you’re always with that father, they don’t really let you be with anyone else,” Archuleta said. “You don’t see it as a control thing, you see it as, ‘Oh, they’re taking care of me.’ And they make you feel that everyone is against you.”

Over time, Archuleta added, the parent can become toxic. “It gets to where it’s like, ‘You can’t make any decisions on your own. You can’t do anything on your own. You’re too dumb.’”

Miranda Cosgrove, the “iCarly” star, said that although she and McCurdy grew close quickly on the show, she was initially unaware of the many difficulties her friend faced, which McCurdy only revealed as they grew older.

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

In a softer voice, Cosgrove added, “You don’t expect things like that from the person in the room who makes everyone laugh.”

For McCurdy, opening herself up to the rest of the world has been a long-term process. In her late teens and early 20s, she wrote essays for The Wall Street Journal who shared some of his thoughts on child stardom. But today she feels that she was not completely truthful.

“If I had been honest at the time,” she explained, “I would have said, ‘Yeah, I wrote this and then I went and made myself throw up for four minutes afterward.'”

A few years ago, McCurdy began writing a new series of personal essays, including several about her mother, sharing them with her manager at the time. “My manager sent me a nice email saying, ‘This is great, I really don’t know what to do with this.’ I will never forget the ‘xoxo’ at the end.” (McCurdy no longer works with that manager.)

Instead, she began performing a one-woman show, also called “I’m Glad My Mom Died”, in Los Angeles. Although the pandemic prevented plans to take the show on the road, McCurdy used some of his spare time to write the memoir. “I really wanted to flesh it out a lot more, get more into the childish aspect of the story and work through the arc in a way that only a book can,” he explained.

Marcus McCurdy said he supported his sister’s decision to write her memoir, even if her calling it “I’m glad my mom is dead” has caused some consternation in the family.

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

Archuleta also said that it was empowering for McCurdy to write his book. “He’s given back some of his strength, his confidence,” he said.

McCurdy is writing another series of essays on becoming herself in her 20s, as well as a novel. (Her leading lady of hers, she said, is “either who I wish I was in some ways, or who I hope I’ll never be in other ways. But it’s probably me, right?”).

Aside from a few watch parties his family threw for his first episodic television job, McCurdy told me, “I’ve never seen any of the shows I’ve been on.” To her, these were documents laden with her suffering and unwanted reminders of the helplessness she felt at the time.

A few years ago, following the cancellation of his Netflix series, McCurdy decided to take a break from acting. As he writes in his memoir, “I want my life to be in my hands. Not from an eating disorder or a casting director or an agent or my mother. Mine.” She was not involved in a recent Paramount+ revival of “iCarly.” But McCurdy said her experience with her one-woman show has shown her there could be ways acting could be constructive for her in the future.

“It felt significant in mending some of the complicated and really weighted relationships that I had with acting,” he said. “I felt like I’m finally saying my words and saying the things I want to say. I’m myself.”

While McCurdy may still find it uncomfortable to reflect on her past, it also makes her hopeful to focus on the present and see the friends and colleagues who are a part of her life because only she chose them to be in it.

“Now I have people around me who are so supportive and loving,” she said. “It makes me cry with joy. I feel so safe. I feel so confident and so open.”

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