Nickelodeon Actress Jennette McCurdy Shares Troubling Reality for 2000s Child Stars

In her newly-released memoir ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’, McCurdy talks candidly about the emotional and sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of her own mother and iCarly bosses.

Jennette McCurdy, most likely known to you as Samantha Puckett from Nickelodeon’s iCarly, has just released her new book ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’ – quite the title, we know. The book details her fraught relationship with her mother, her dark experiences as a child star and her battles with body image. Since its release on August 9th, the book has sold out from retailers and received acclaim from The New York Times and Publishers Weekly. Excerpts from the book have also circulated widely online.

As the title suggests, the memoir dives into some pretty heavy topics, largely mother-daughter dynamics and the issues that arise when said dynamics aren’t healthy. 

iCarly first premiered on Nickelodeon in September of 2007, when McCurdy was just 15 years old. Something McCurdy discusses in her memoir is the pressure she felt to support her family as the sole breadwinner following iCarly’s success. For many child stars from working to middle-class backgrounds, their role on said TV show or movie becomes their family’s main source of income, causing complex issues to arise surrounding power and control.

In McCurdy’s case, her mother’s acting goals and ambitions were forced to become her own and a poor relationship to food and weight loss was encouraged from age 11. Furthermore. privacy was not allowed in the home growing up, as she details the emotional and sexual abuse she faced at the hands of her mother, and the prolonged obsession with monitoring her daughter’s body through physical examinations.

Following on from iCarly’s finale in 2012, spin off show Sam & Cat aired on Nickelodeon starring McCurdy and then teen actress Ariana Grande. This coincided with the Grande’s early rise to international pop stardom, which McCurdy pinpoints as causing her to feel jealous and resentful. In the book, she discusses being on set and hearing of Grande playing charades with Tom Hanks the evening before, this being a moment that broke their relationship. “So now, every time she misses work it feels like a personal attack. Every time something exciting happens to her, I feel like she robbed me of having that experience myself. And every time someone calls me a good sport, all I feel is how much I don’t want to be,” she says in the book. 

Many Twitter users applauded her navigation of the topic of jealousy – a natural emotion for anyone, let alone a teenager with self-image issues seeing her co-star’s career taking off so exponentially whilst her’s was not. One Twitter user says, “Proud of jennette mccurdy for her vulnerability in the book, including expressing her jealousy when it comes to ariana grande.” 

Although some Ariana stans had things to say (when don’t they?) at her mention, the online response has largely been supportive of McCurdy and her bravery in telling her truth. Fellow actors and peers showed love to McCurdy after her book’s release, including iCarly co-star Miranda Cosgrove and child acting alum Josh Peck.

iCarly’s producer Dan Schneider has recently also come under fire after the book’s release, as McCurdy reveals the inappropriate behaviour encouraged by Scheider on set including underage drinking, non-consensual touching and emotional manipulation tactics. 

These sad revelations about the reality for child actors echo stories we’ve heard before – Demi Lovato, Macaulay Culkin and most notably Britney Spears are just a few examples of celebrities who’ve battled addiction and fluctuating mental health as a result of unsafe working conditions experienced from childhood. It begs the question of whether ethical childhood fame and stardom is possible, and raises concerns about the working conditions of other Nikelodeon shows produced around the same time. 

The title ‘I’m Glad My Mom Died’, although shocking at first, feels apt for McCurdy’s experiences. After being thrust into a career she did not want, and facing extremely adult situations that she did not ask for, it feels McCurdy has earned the right to her debut book’s title. Parental abuse hasn’t always been openly discussed, particularly amongst celebs. However a cultural shift with Gen Z towards prioritising of one’s own mental health may mean more adults begin to grapple with their childhood traumas in a deeper way. We can only hope that the success of her book will finally help tackle childhood exploitation in Hollywood. 

Liza Bilal
Liza Bilal

Liza became part of the BRICKS family in 2020, appearing as a Digital cover star for her anti-racism activism during the pandemic, and has since become the BRICKS Production Assistant and a Staff Writer, focussing on pop culture and sociopolitical issues.

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