The Biggest Bombshells From Jennette McCurdy's Memoir I'm Glad My Mom Died

Nickelodeon star Jennette McCurdy left no feeling unexpressed in her heartbreaking new memoir, I'm Glad My Mom Died.

By Natalie Finn Aug 09, 2022 7:51 PMTags
Watch: Jennette McCurdy Says She Was "Exploited" on iCarly

(Content warning: This story discusses sexual and psychological abuse.)

Jennette McCurdy put it all out there.

In her hotly anticipated memoirI'm Glad My Mom Died, the Nickelodeon star pulled no punches when it came to discussing the perils of young fame, developing anorexia as a child, why she ultimately quit acting and the abuse she suffered at the hands of her mother, who died in 2013.

However, it took a lot of therapy before the 30-year-old was ready to reflect on her life for public consumption. "I spent six years of time, effort, and energy on the things that I explore in this book, but in a completely unpresentable way," she told TIME. "That work got me to the place where I was able to start exploring it creatively. So ultimately, what wound up on the page, that's all stuff that I really believe in and stand by. So I feel confident. I feel ready."

Stars Who Quit Hollywood

Delving into her past was a long, fraught journey, but the former star of iCarly and Sam & Cat sounds very optimistic about where she ended up.

Here are the most eye-opening revelations McCurdy shared in I'm Glad My Mom Died:


Jennette Begins Acting, Reluctantly

Mom Debra McCurdy got Jennette and her brother Marcus an audition with child talent agent Barbara Cameron (Kirk and Candace's mom) but Barbara only wanted to sign Marcus, telling Debra that her daughter "lacks charisma," Jennette wrote. As devout Mormons, Debra told Jennette to pray for Barbara to accept her, and in the meantime she convinced the agency to take on her daughter too. She subsequently hated the acting class she had to go to as one of the conditions of Barbara signing her.

When she booked a job as a background actor at the age of 6, her mom informed her that—as her representative—"Mommy's not gonna take any of your money except for my salary, plus essentials." She neglected to say what "essentials" were. "This day was stressful and not fun, and if given the choice," Jennette wrote, "I would choose to never do anything like it again."  

Jennette was working, but they were small roles that didn't satisfy her mother. After developing a bit of a crush on Frankie Muniz when she had a guest spot on Malcolm & the Middle in 2003, Jennette wondered in her prayers if her "impure thoughts" about the actor had made her undeserving and were preventing her from getting bigger parts.

Childhood Trauma

Debra told an 8-year-old Jennette that taking bathroom breaks was unprofessional, but one day she could not hold it any longer and asked permission to go use the toilet. As she was going, she tearfully apologized to her mother, who still insisted on wiping her behind for her because she didn't trust the child to do it properly.

Jennette wrote that she spent five years dreading showers, that at 12 her mom was still showering her. Debra would also give her a "breast and 'front butt' exam," Jennette described, noting that her mom explained she was checking her chest and private parts for cancerous lumps. "I usually just try and think of Disneyland when Mom's doing the exams," she wrote, noting that she felt a "huge wave of relief" when they were over.

Wanting to Quit Acting Early On

After tearing up naturally during an acting class once, word got around that Jennette could cry on cue—which, needless to say, was "not fun" for her, she wrote. "It was one of the more miserable experiences of my life, sitting in a cold casting office imagining tragic events that harm my beloved family." She memorably cried her eyes out at her audition for 2003's Hollywood Homicide, starring Harrison Ford and Josh Hartnett—which she did get.

After an unsuccessful audition for the CBS procedural Without a Trace, which premiered in 2002, Jennette told Debra she didn't want to act anymore. Debra countered that it was her favorite thing in the world. When she insisted it was not, Debra got hysterical, sobbing, "You can't quit! This was our chance! This was ouuuuur chaaaaance!"

Under Mom's Influence

Debra kept insisting Jennette wear a "fuzzy pink shirt with a rhinestone heart in the center of it, black faux-leather skorts, and black gogo boots" to auditions, even though, she wrote, she told her mom the outfit made her feel "like a street-walker."

She wore those clothes to a Grey's Anatomy audition, but they wanted a plainer look—so the casting director had her assistant lend Jennette his flannel shirt. She got a call-back but ultimately didn't get the part. When Debra demanded to know why, her daughter's agent (no longer Barbara by then) told her that the casting director said Jennette was "too pretty" for that particular role. And, she wrote, "I've never seen Mom be happy I didn't get a role, ever"—until then.

An Eating Disorder Develops Early

When Jennette excitedly told her mother she'd written a screenplay, Debra discouraged her, warning her that many writers were frumpy and she didn't want her butt to get fat.

Jennette freaked out when she started developing breasts, scared because she was only 2 when her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and she wondered if she was feeling cancerous growths. Debra assured her it was natural development, but that she could stop them from getting bigger by restricting her calorie consumption. When she showed up at the doctor's office weighing 61 pounds when she was around 12, her mother assured the concerned doctor that she would get Jennette to eat more—which, Jennette wrote, was a lie.

Growing Pains

When she got her first period, Jennette's wrote that her response was to resume her anorexic behaviors, not ready for her body to do adult things.

On the Generation Love Tour in support of her 2011 single of the same name, she ate enough to feel full for the first time in years, which left her confused—she felt good, but also ashamed and scared of what her mother (whose cancer had returned, making her unable to go with Jennette on tour) would say. Sure enough, she recalled, when she got home Debra told her she was "getting chunky."

Alleged Exploitation as a Teen Actor

When Jennette was on iCarly, which premiered in 2007, she felt that she was being sexualized on the show. The Nickelodeon series' wardrobe designer told Jennette that "The Creator"—how Jennette refers to this man throughout the book—specifically wanted her to wear bikinis even though she felt more comfortable in a one-piece bathing suit, she recalled. She felt extremely uncomfortable with her body, self-conscious that she was still so small but also, she wrote, "terrified of being looked at as a sexual being."

"The Creator" pressured her to drink alcohol when she was 18, she alleged, telling her that it was fine, that the kids on Victorious got drunk together all the time and "'the iCarly kids need a little edge,'" Jennette wrote.

Bad Memories

On another occasion, she and "The Creator" were talking about Jennette moving on from iCarly to star on her own show (which didn't end up happening the way she said she was promised), and Jennette remembered that he started massaging her shoulders. "I want to say something, to tell him to stop," she wrote, "but I'm so scared of offending him."

She never identifies "The Creator" by name.

Talking to the New York Times about her book, Jennette said, "My whole childhood and adolescence were very exploited. There were cases where people had the best intentions and maybe didn't know what they were doing. And also cases where they did—they knew exactly what they were doing."

E! News has reached out to Nickelodeon as well as iCarly and Sam & Cat creator Dan Schneider's agent and lawyer for comment but have not yet received a response. Schneider and the network cut ties in 2018. The New York Times reported several years later that a ViacomCBS investigation turned up allegations of verbal abuse, but found no evidence of sexual misconduct, before they parted ways. Schneider denied leaving Nickelodeon on bad terms and told Times in 2021, "I couldn't, and I wouldn't have the long-term friendships and continued loyalty from so many reputable people if I'd mistreated my actors of any age, especially minors."

An Uncomfortable First

Jennette's first kiss was reluctantly on camera with co-star Nathan Kress. He seemed to just go with it (and treated her very kindly), she wrote, but she couldn't wait for it to be over. She recalled feeling her body resisting from head to toe and "The Creator," who was directing the episode, demanding "more head movement" from her.

Old Habits

When her mother was seemingly on her death bed in the summer of 2013 after a two-decade battle with breast cancer, Jennette, then 21, recalled how her three brothers were sharing good news—for instance, Dustin was engaged—in hopes of boosting Debra's spirits and waking her up. Seizing on something "I was sure Mom cared about more than anything," Jennette wrote, she leaned over and whispered that she was down to 89 pounds, positive that news of her skinniness would revive Debra. Her mother did end up being moved out of the ICU after a doctor predicted she had 48 hours to live, and eventually died at home while receiving hospice care.

Sam & Cattiness

Jennette admitted that she was increasingly pissed off about Sam & Cat co-star Ariana Grande's skyrocketing fame as a pop star outside of their show while she was left to work around Ariana's schedule. "I resent being a good sport," Jennette wrote. "If I wasn't such a good sport to begin with, I wouldn't be in this predicament in the first place. I wouldn't be on this shitty show saying these shitty lines on this shitty set with this shitty hairstyle."

End of an Era

By the time Sam & Cat, which only lasted one season, was shooting its final few episodes in 2014, Jennette wrote, "The Creator" wasn't allowed to be on set with the actors anymore and was relegated to a little room off-stage to watch what they were shooting remotely, network punishment for "accusations of his emotional abuse. I feel like it's been a long time coming, and should have happened a lot sooner."

As the show was winding down, Nickelodeon offered her $300,000 to—as she recalled how it was explained to her—"'never talk publicly about your experience at Nickelodeon.'" She turned it down. (Nickelodeon has not responded to requests for comment.)

Jennette also called B.S. on rumors that the show ended because she was upset Ariana was getting paid more than she was. But "whatever," she wrote. "They've got to blame someone, so they've chosen me, and there's nothing I can do about it."

Battling Bulimia

After her mother's death, Jennette wrote that she was glad she was too upset to eat. "At least I feel thin and valuable and good about my body," she wrote, "my smallness." But when she went out to dinner with friends not long after, she ate everything she ordered and downed a bottle of sake. Realizing later that she could just throw it all up, she recalled feeling "victorious," thinking it was "the start of something good."

Drinking heavily to aid her bulimia became a habit. As filming on Sam & Cat wound down in 2014, she just started to assume she'd have a bulimia-induced heart attack. "It's hard to admit it," she wrote, "but a part of me actually wishes I would. Then I wouldn't have to be here anymore."

She realized she was bingeing and purging five to 10 times a day and taking eight or nine shots of alcohol each night. Identifying red carpet anxiety as one of her triggers, her eating disorder therapist started accompanying Jennette to events—which for awhile followed a pattern: Binge food backstage and cry in the car on the way home.   

Eventually she fired that therapist over text, still uncomfortable delving into her childhood trauma. The bulimia continued and Jennette's teeth started to rot. Spitting out a molar in the bathroom on a flight to Sydney, Australia, to do press for Netflix—followed by the Uber driver playing Ariana's "Focus on Me" in the car upon her arrival—was a wake-up call. Her next therapist assured her that relapses were normal en route to long-term recovery.

Shocking News About Her Dad

Debra told her daughter when she was a kid that she probably should've married one of the other men she'd dated instead of Jennette's father, Mark. "I was destined for a good life," Jennette remembered her saying. "For fame and fortune." Debra ended up funneling her hopes and dreams of acting stardom onto Jennette's shoulders.

After her mom died and Mark was about to remarry, he told Jennette and two of her brothers that he wasn't their biological father. When she finally got up the nerve to ask who the man was, Mark said he didn't know, only that Debra had an affair.

But Jennette was eventually able to track him down online, a trombone player who'd played on a number of movie soundtracks. She went with a couple of friends, including former iCarly co-star Miranda Cosgrove, to meet him for the first time at a jazz concert he was playing in. He told her he did know about having children with Debra, that they had actually battled for custody early on (her mom won), but that he wasn't sure if she or her brothers would want to hear from him, so he just waited for them to reach out.

No Going Back

Throughout the book, Jennette detailed her close friendship with Miranda, who was ultimately one of the few trusted people she opened up to about her eating disorder. Jennette said that Miranda was super-supportive, but it was also stressful knowing that the actress was closely watching her food intake. Keeping it all a secret was easier.

Miranda approached Jennette to do an iCarly reboot, assuring her they'd be paid equally, but Jennette turned it down, telling the series' star that her "mental health and happiness" fell into the category of things more important than money.

In response to Jennette's account of her upsetting experiences while making iCarly, Miranda told The New York Times recently, "When you're young, you're so in your own head. You can't imagine that people around you are having much harder struggles."

—With reporting by Beth Sobol

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I'm Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy

Learn more about McCurdy's life and read her memoir.