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Culture > Entertainment

Jennette McCurdy Discusses Narcissistic Mothers & The Horrors Of Childhood Stardom In ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at New School chapter.

Content warning: This article examines sensitive topics surrounding sexual assault and eating disorders. Spoilers are included.

From Mormonism to momagers – former Nickelodeon star, Jennette McCurdy does not hold back in her breakthrough memoir “I’m Glad my Mom Died”.

The trauma-comedy autobiography has been number one on the New York Times Best Seller Combined Print & E-Book Nonfiction List for over five weeks. Copies sold out within 24 hours at Barnes & Noble, Target, and Amazon. Following the release of the book, McCurdy has made appearances on ABC News, The View, The Trevor Noah Show, and The Smiths’ Red Table Talk.

McCurdy, 30, has since retired from her 16+ year career in acting. She is known for her role as Sam Puckett, a boisterous tomboy in Nickelodeon’s iCarly. She also acted on Malcolm in the Middle, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Will & Grace, and the iCarly spinoff, Sam and Cat.

McCurdy was raised in Garden Grove, California in a lower-income Mormon household. She has since distanced herself from religion. As the youngest of four siblings, she lived with her grandparents, brothers, Dustin, Scott, and Marcus, mother, Debra, and father, Mark.

The book contains disturbing details of Debra’s abuse and co-dependent relationship with McCurdy. McCurdy told Today that she spent her childhood “walking on a tightrope” to subside her mother’s occasional violent “mood fluctuations”. McCurdy and her siblings slept on mats in the living room due to Debra’s proclivity for hoarding. Debra and Mark had a tempestuous relationship. McCurdy later uncovered that Mark was not her biological father.

McCurdy did not want to delve into acting. She began her career at the ripe age of eight at the request of Debra. She states in the text:

“She [Debra] wanted this. And I wanted her to have it. I wanted her to be happy. But now that I have it, I realize that she’s happy and I’m not. Her happiness came at the cost of mine. I feel robbed and exploited.”

McCurdy developed anorexia during her preteen years after being introduced to the eating disorder by Debra who spent her life living with the illness. She recollects being told to lie to doctors and concerned mothers about the severity of her disorder. Anorexia transformed into bulimia and binge eating. She publicly announced her decade-long struggle with eating disorders in a personal essay published on HuffPost. McCurdy further explored the subject on her YouTube channel. She also directed the award-winning short film, “Strong Independent Women”.

“I’m in the ICU with my dying mother, and the thing that I’m sure will get her to wake up, is the fact that in the days since mom has been hospitalized, my fear and sadness have morphed into the perfect anorexia motivation cocktail,” McCurdy writes. “…finally I have achieved mom’s current goal weight for me: 89 pounds.”

Debra lost her 14-year battle with breast cancer in 2013. Therapy addressed the sexual and emotional abuse at the hands of her mother – Debra performed vaginal and breast exams on McCurdy until she was seventeen. The book describes her experience at Nickelodeon with “The Creator”, a pseudonym for Nickelodeon producer, Dan Schneider – from verbal abuse to coercion. Ultimately, she was offered $300,000 to not disclose her experience with Schneider, which she refused.

“I’m Glad my Mom Died” is a cathartic and raw must-read. It makes us question our perceived reality behind the television screen – while Sam indulged in “fat cakes”, Debra taught Jennette to vilify carbs. A tale of the complexity of mother-daughter relationships and addiction – McCurdy confirms that mother does not always know best.

“I had her [my mother] up on a pedestal, and I know how detrimental that pedestal was to my well-being and life… My mom didn’t deserve her pedestal. She was a narcissist. She refused to admit she had any problems, despite how destructive those problems were to our entire family.”

Tara is a New York-based Journalist studying at The Eugene Lang College of The New School. She has a passion for unique storytelling and mental health advocacy. Aside from writing, she enjoys singing and spending time with animals. See more of Tara's work on taralamorgese.wixsite.com/website!