iCarly’s Jennette McCurdy Views Her Relationship With Her Mom as “Conditioning”

Jennette McCurdy opened up about the "abuse" that she received from her mother Debra McCurdy throughout her childhood and how she came to terms with it through therapy. Find out more below.

By Emlyn Travis Aug 05, 2022 7:05 PMTags
Watch: Jennette McCurdy Says She Was "Exploited" on iCarly

Jennette McCurdy is reexamining her relationship with her late mom Debra McCurdy.  

The Nickelodeon star, who appeared on hit programs iCarly and Sam & Cat, opened up about her experience being raised in the spotlight by what she described as her controlling mother.  

"She worked really hard to keep our relationship very private," Jennette told The Washington Post. "I now see it as conditioning, but at the time I thought, ‘Oh, Mommy and me have a relationship that's so special.' Like when you have a best friend and you have all these secrets and that feels like a form of intimacy. That's exactly what my mom did with me—only it wasn't friendship. It was abuse."  

In addition to making executive decisions for her daughter, Debra, who died of breast cancer in 2013, also gave Jennette showers and body screening examinations until she was 16 years old, as she recalled to the outlet. 

iCarly's Jennette McCurdy Details Complicated Relationship with Her Mother in New Book

When she was 11, according to Jennette, Debra encouraged her to limit her food in order to stave off puberty so that she could land more child actor roles. Her anorexia caused concern from her pediatrician and dance instructor at the time, but they didn't press the issue, Jennette said.

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"What would happen if anybody tried to step in was my mom would completely turn off toward them. She'd go cold," the I'm Glad My Mom Died author shared. "If my dance instructor had continued to press, I'm sure my mom would have just pulled me out of dance. If somebody from church had said something, we wouldn't show up at that ward anymore. Like, she could not be challenged."

As she tried to navigate all the expectations both surrounding her personal life and career, Jennette said she began to act out due to the "frustration and rage" she felt inside.  

She also felt unable to discuss her struggle with fame with anyone, including her castmates.  

"I had no one to talk about that with because my mom was very clear: This is something to be grateful for. This is what we've been working for our whole lives," Jennette told the outlet. "She had all the standard stage mom phrases ready to make sure that if I even expressed the slightest bit of discomfort, it was bam, no, that's not allowed."  

Following her mom's passing in 2013, Jennette said she noticed her "self-destructive ways were as life-threatening as they were" and began therapy.  

"That got me to the point where I was able to accept my mom was abusive," she said. "I was still very much the person I was while my mom was alive. It was a very slow-moving process, excruciating in a lot of ways." 

Jennette added, "Coming to terms with the reality of what my life had been was not simple. It was not painless. It was through consistent work and exploration that it became freeing and healing."  

Now, ahead of the release of her memoir, Jennette is in a much healthier frame of mind. "I'm in a good place, which is such a weird thing to say," she shared. "I feel more fulfilled than I ever have, and I wish it wasn't new, but it is very new for me."

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237.