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Content warning: This post contains descriptions of emotional, mental and physical abuse.
Jennette McCurdy is only 30 years old, but the former actor has, like many child stars before her, already surmounted a plethora of trauma. Now, she's unpacking it all in an engrossing and heart-wrenching new memoir, opening up about the abuse she suffered at the hands of her own late mother and in an industry she never aspired to have a career in.
Jennette — who most recognize as the zany Sam Puckett from Nickelodeon's hit show of the aughts "iCarly" (and its later spinoff with Ariana Grande, "Sam & Cat") — lays the sins of her mother bare in "I'm Glad My Mom Died," which was released by Simon & Schuster on Aug. 9. While tackling the plights of young fame ("The second the child star tries to outgrow and break free from their image, they become bait for the media, highly publicized as rebellious, troubled, and tortured," McCurdy writes), the author also reexamines her upbringing, the relationships she cultivated in Hollywood, and her lengthy struggle with food. Dark moments are injected with McCurdy's signature humor and memories revisited with perspective that only comes with time.
Ahead, POPSUGAR breaks down the most significant revelations from "I'm Glad My Mom Died."
She Suffered Years of Emotional, Physical, and Mental Abuse From Her Mother
Jennette grew up in a financially unstable, Mormon family in California, and was only 2 when her mother Debra McCurdy was diagnosed with stage-four breast cancer at age 35. That diagnosis colored much of Jennette's early years and sparked her ongoing desire to make her mother, who she labels as narcissistic, happy. It was, in part, why she went along with helping Debra achieve her own goal: the be a Hollywood star. Debra shirked Jennette's shyness and reticence to act, which was called out to her by talent agents, and instead fixated on her daughter's rise to fame. Jennette was forced to attend auditions while grappling with a dangerous fever and even after flat-out telling her mother she didn't share her dreams. Until Jennette was 17, Debra insisted on showering with her — sometimes making her share the tub with her teenage brother — and conducted invasive breast and butt "exams" on her daughter. At points, she also insisted on wiping for Jennette when the then-young girl went to the bathroom.
When Jennette turned 18, her mother's cancer returned, with Debra eventually dying from the disease in 2013 — but not before launching countless, vitriolic tirades at her daughter during her final years. In the time that followed, with help from therapy, Jennette began to realize that her mother was abusive. The countless incidents of emotional, physical, and mental abuse "will forever impact me," Jennette writes.
She Found Out Her Dad Wasn't Her Biological Father in Her 20s
The year after Debra's death, Jennette's father, Mark McCurdy, revealed that he is not the biological father of Jennette and two of her siblings. Instead, Jennette and those brothers are the product of an affair. She eventually met her biological father, who told her he was aware of his children and that, when they were young, a custody battle prevented any sort of relationship.
Not knowing why Debra kept this life-altering secret from Jennette, she writes, is obviously difficult: "The lack of answers, of any semblance of closure, is infuriating."
Image Source: Getty / DAVID CROTTY / Patrick McMullan
She Had a Genuine Friendship With "iCarly" Costar Miranda Cosgrove
The titular Carly of Jennette's Nickelodeon series was portrayed by Miranda Cosgrove, who has recently revisited the role for a Paramount+ reboot, which Jennette declined to participate in. Both teens when the series started in 2007, Jennette and Cosgrove bonded quickly on set. Their relationship really flourished over AIM, an "easy" and "pure" friendship, Jennette writes. Likening the pair to sisters, Jennette tells her readers that even after "iCarly" wrapped, Cosgrove supported her as she dealt with her eating disorder and accompanied her to meet her biological father. These days, she says that she and Cosgrove have drifted apart, but the latter did comment on the memoir in an interview with the New York Times. Said Cosgrove, "When you're young, you're so in your own head. You can't imagine that people around you are having much harder struggles." The star added of learning of Jennette's experiences, "You don't expect things like that from the person in the room who's making everyone laugh."
She Admits to Being Jealous of Costar Ariana Grande
During "Sam & Cat"'s one season run on Nickelodeon, Jennette dealt with career disappointment as her costar, Grande, saw her own star rising in the music industry. Jennette writes that Grande often caused the rescheduling of rehearsals or shoots as she took on more opportunities outside of the series, while Jennette would "angrily hold down the fort." Reflecting, Jennette says that she was "jealous" of Grande, which grew into a dislike of her scene partner.
She Was Allegedly Offered "Hush Money" by Nickelodeon
As has made headlines for much of the week leading up to "I'm Glad My Mom Died"'s publication, McCurdy claims that upon the cancellation of her "iCarly" follow-up, "Sam & Cat," in 2014, she was offered $300K by Nickelodeon — with the caveat that she agree to an NDA that would prevent her from speaking about her experiences at the network (which, she claims, included inappropriate touching, being made to wear a bikini onscreen, and being offered alcohol underage). McCurdy says she turned down the offer, which Nickelodeon has declined to publicly comment on. Nickelodeon did not immediately respond to POPSUGAR's request for comment. "I'm Glad My Mom Died" is available to purchase on Aug. 9.