Jennette McCurdy’s explosive, revealing (and already bestselling) memoir peels back the curtain on the Young Hollywood machine.
Most people who know Jennette McCurdy know her from her role on Nickelodeon’s iCarly. There, she starred alongside Miranda Cosgrove as the wisecracking Sam Puckett, a role that she’d go on to play in a spin-off series, Sam & Cat, alongside Ariana Grande. But while McCurdy’s years of child stardom might have seemed like all yuk-yuks and butter socks from the outside, her actual life behind the scenes was anything but.
McCurdy’s youthful struggles are detailed in her new book, I’m Glad My Mom Died, out now via Simon & Schuster. In the memoir, McCurdy details her showbiz mom’s relentless quest to make her daughter a star, whether she wanted it or not. That manifested itself in a number of ways, from the elder McCurdy closely monitoring Jennette’s food intake so that she wouldn’t get enough calories to go through puberty, or monitoring both her and her brother’s showers, well into their teen years. Life on set wasn’t all that rosy, either: McCurdy details numerous skin-crawling experiences with a man she refers to only as “the creator,” who cast her on iCarly and who subjected her to constant emotional abuse, suggested she drink alcohol while underage, and even touched her inappropriately.
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While I’m Glad My Mom Died is a must-read for anyone who grew up watching iCarly, it’s also eye-opening for anyone with a passing interest in Hollywood life. Here are 8 of the saddest Hollywood secrets we learned while reading Jennette McCurdy’s new memoir.
McCurdy never really wanted to act in the first place
Like so many former child actors who have gone public in adulthood, Jennette McCurdy says she never really wanted to be a star. Rather, she simply got into acting because her mom—who previously had aggressive breast cancer that the family was constantly afraid would recur—roped her into the gig. In the book, McCurdy suggests that she often chose the path that she thought would most please her mom, whether that meant doing what she wanted her to in auditions or picking the flavor of ice cream that her mom thought she would like best.
The Creator was or is a total creep, and Nickelodeon knew it
McCurdy never mentions exactly who “The Creator” is in her book, but it’s speculated that it’s iCarly creator Dan Schneider, who created several shows for Nickelodeon but had a quick and rather mysterious downfall at the network that came to a head when they parted ways in 2018. McCurdy writes that The Creator was “mean-spirited, controlling, and terrifying” and could make “grown men and women cry with his insults and degradation.”
That ickiness didn’t seem to matter to McCurdy’s mom when it looked like The Creator might give Jennette her own show. She tells the younger McCurdy to make sure to laugh at all his jokes and to even try to bring up her cancer, just in case that would win them any favor. McCurdy writes, “I feel that I always need to be on guard around him. Catering to him emotionally. I feel similarly around The Creator as I feel around Mom—on edge, desperate to please, terrified of stepping out of line. Put both of them together in the same room and I’m overwhelmed.”
The Creator encouraged McCurdy to drink alcohol, telling her all the kids on his other series did it behind the scenes, and even once gave her an unsolicited shoulder massage, telling her, “you’re so tense.” (Yuck.)
Later in the book, McCurdy says that when Sam & Cat ended unceremoniously—and after she was promised a chance to direct an episode that never actually came to fruition—the network offered her $300,000 as a sort of exit bonus. The catch was that she’d have to agree to never talk about her time at the network and with The Creator. She refused, and that’s why, in part, this book and its content probably exist to the extent that they do.
McCurdy’s mom pushed her to have an eating disorder
When Jennette McCurdy realized she was starting to develop, her mom suggested she try “calorie restriction,” which is a rather rosy way to describe dieting. And not reasonable “just trying to lose a few pounds” dieting, either, but iceberg lettuce for lunch exclusively, “lose 10 percent of your body weight in a week or two” type dieting. McCurdy says her mom constantly monitored what she ate and was, in fact, so invested in it that she once tried to rouse her mom from a coma by telling her she weighed just 89 pounds.
McCurdy’s doctors and dance teachers noticed her quick and overwhelming weight loss and mentioned it to her mom, but she did nothing—which makes sense, considering it was essentially her doing in the first place. McCurdy writes in the book that she has spent years dealing with her disordered eating, which eventually manifested itself in a truly horrific battle with bulimia. She seems to be getting help now and is working toward a healthier life, but it’s heartbreaking to think of how her mother forced her to have such a complicated and unfortunate relationship with food.
Miranda Cosgrove was a professional and deeply kind child star
When McCurdy was first cast on iCarly, she was sent a few gift baskets from Nickelodeon, her manager, and her agent. (One was an Edible Arrangement, and her mom said that they would have to split a single cantaloupe and honeydew skewer, because “pineapple’s really high in sugar.”) The best gift basket came from McCurdy’s future co-star Miranda Cosgrove, who sent one laden with movie theater snacks plus a $100 gift card for the ArcLight, a fancy movie chain in L.A. that has since gone under. McCurdy says the basket was the first time another child actor was actually nice to her, noting that, at the time, “the gift card [was] the highest-dollar-amount gift card” she’d ever seen.
McCurdy’s first kiss happened on camera
Here’s another classic Hollywood refrain: Like so many other child stars, McCurdy says her first kiss was on-camera. She details the incident in one of the book’s chapters, saying, “My mind is saying who cares that this is your first kiss, that your first kiss is on-camera. Get it over with. Do what you’re told. My body is saying, no, I don’t want to do this. I don’t want my first kiss to be like this.”
The situation was made even worse by the fact that The Creator was there, yelling suggestions like “move your head around a bit more” from off-camera. She said they did seven takes before the assistant director told The Creator they had to move on to another scene, with the creator responding, “Fine! That was not ideal but FINE, we’ll move on.”
McCurdy didn’t—and still doesn’t—like being recognized
There’s a part of the book where McCurdy describes her almost constant struggle with being recognized in public by iCarly-loving fans. She says she had to stop going to Disneyland after she drew such a crowd that they “had to stop the Christmas Fantasy Parade midway through.”
“The kind of fame I have now is causing me a level of stress that I did not know was possible,” she writes. “I know everybody wants it, and everybody tells me how lucky I am to have it, but I hate it. I feel constantly on edge whenever I leave the house to go anywhere.”
She says fans would almost always ask her about her butter sock or her fried chicken, which she hated. “I’ve heard this good one thousands of times, and it was a bad one from the get-go, but it only morphs into a worse one with each time I hear it.” She seems fraught by all the interaction, writing, “I’m so unimpressed by people. Even irritated with them. At times even disgusted by them…I didn’t choose this life. Mom did.”
McCurdy says she’ll take photos and stop and talk to people who know her real name, just because that’s nice, but that she abhors being called “Sam” in public because, “that show robbed me of my youth, of a normal adolescence where I could experience life without every little thing I did being critiqued, discussed, or ridiculed.”
McCurdy didn’t seem to love Ariana Grande
When McCurdy was cast on Sam & Cat, it was opposite Ariana Grande, who was coming from Victorious. Their two wacky characters were teaming up for some cockamamie babysitting service, and they were going to live together. It wasn’t the show McCurdy thought it would be, but it was a gig.
That being said, Grande’s pop career was also just blasting simultaneously when the show was launching, meaning she wasn’t always around or available on set. McCurdy says the show’s producers constantly made concessions for her requests, whether it was for time off to record new songs, go to award shows, or do press for her record. McCurdy says she would be required to “hold down the fort” on set, which is understandable in some sense, but also made her resentful. She says she doesn’t understand why she was never afforded the same courtesies, since she booked two features during iCarly that the network made her turn down because the team refused to write her out of the episodes so she could go shoot them.
All of McCurdy’s resentfulness came to a head, though, when Grande decided she couldn’t do that week’s episode at all and the writers instead decided she’d be “stuck in a box,” record her voice lines later, and that McCurdy would have to act opposite a big empty box all week. “Are. You. Kidding. Me,” McCurdy writes in the book. “I have to turn down movies while Ariana’s off whistle-toning at the Billboard Music Awards? F–k. This.”
She says ultimately, she was both pissed at and jealous of Grande, who she says grew up in a better situation than she did, just overall. It didn’t help that Grande just happened to be at the “30 Under 30” stage in her career at that moment either, while McCurdy says she was “at the stage in my career where my team is excited that I’m the new face of Rebecca Bonbon, a tween clothing line featuring a cat with her tongue sticking out. Sold exclusively at Walmart.” She says she shouldn’t have compared her career to Grande’s, but she did—frequently—and it never helped.
McCurdy never wanted to do the iCarly reboot—even though the money was good
McCurdy says Cosgrove tried to convince her to do the iCarly reboot many times, but she always said no, telling her it was the right move for her physical and emotional health. Cosgrove even got Paramount Plus to offer McCurdy the same amount of money she was making as the show’s lead, but McCurdy turned it down. She seems pretty convinced that doing the reboot would have further entrenched her in the role of Sam, saying reboots often remind the public that an actor hasn’t done significant work since that project maybe a decade earlier, something she says is likely to keep an actor’s career stuck, “not flourishing.”
People underestimate the damage a bad mother can cause - and the media doesn't help by perpetuating the lie that ALL mothers are supportive, loving, caring mothers who would always put their child's best interest first over theirs.
I'm betting that Anne Heche got a triggering mother missive that set her off to drink and get high the day she crashed.
People have to start recognizing mother abuse or it will never end. Don't ever say to anyone who tells of abuse "Oh not your mother...."