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‘iCarly’ Star Jennette McCurdy Discusses Her Mother’s Traumatic Behavior on ‘Red Table Talk’

Preach. Jennette. Preach.

Red Table Talk with Jennette McCurdy

Jennette McCurdy rose to fame as a child, starring in the hit Nickelodeon show iCarly. As an adult, part of her new book focused on the questionable practices toward the underage actors on the children’s network. Some passages concerning the creator of several major shows struck a chord with other former Nickelodeon stars, and it is concerning that a network made for children has a hidden history of not treating their child employees very well.

As interesting a topic as that is, most of McCurdy’s book is about her relationship with her abusive mother. With the title of her memoir being I’m Glad My Mom Died, you know McCurdy would not pull any punches. She painted an honest portrait of her traumatic childhood and the mother who caused it. This week, she went on Facebook’s Red Table Talk with Jada Pinkett-Smith, Willow Smith, and Adrienne Banfield-Norris to discuss a few of the shocking moments from the book.

The woman behind Jennette

From the outside, most people would view Jennette McCurdy’s life as perfect. She was famous and was very close to her mom. But I’m Glad My Mom Died revealed things in Jennette’s life were far from okay. McCurdy’s mother Debra pushed her into acting, something McCurdy never wanted to do. Debra McCurdy had been diagnosed with cancer when Jennette was 2 years old. Although she went into remission for years, Debra used her cancer as a leverage/guilt tool against her children and strangers. Jennette constantly feared for her mother’s life and clung to her.

Jennette faced a laundry list of harmful behaviors as a child. Her forced acting meant she also had to attend forced acting and dancing classes. Her mother homeschooled her so her schedule could fit whatever Debra’s plans were. Debra also bathed Jennette (along with Jennette’s older brother) way past the time it was appropriate. For most of her childhood, Jennette’s family home is what most would consider a hoarder house, with Jennette and her brothers sleeping on gymnastic mats because their beds were covered in stuff. Whenever Jennette, or family members or doctors, questioned Debra’s treatment of her, Debra would convince them, via guilt, or bully them to back off.

At the young age of eleven, Jennette was concerned about going through puberty. To her, puberty and getting older were something scary that her mother didn’t want, so she asked her mom how to prevent “getting boobies.” That is when Debra introduced her calorie restriction and started Jennette down the path of eating disorders. When Debra’s cancer came back and ultimately ended her life, Jennette tried to wake her mom out of a coma by telling her how skinny she was.

Jennette Has Receipts

During the show, the hosts asked Jennette to read a specific passage from her book. It was an email her mother had sent to her when Debra found out Jennette was in Hawaii with her boyfriend at the time. Jennette admitted there might have been some concern for the relationship as there was a large age gap between them, but that isn’t at all what her mother focused on. She read the email where Debra called her a “slut,” along with saying, “You look pudgier, too. It’s clear you’re eating your guilt.” Debra went on:

Thinking of you with his ding-dong inside of you makes me sick. Sick! I raised you better than this. What happened to my good little girl? Where did she go, and who is this monster that has replaced her? You’re an ugly monster now. I told your brothers about you, and they all said they disown you just like I do. We want nothing to do with you.

The icing on the cake was the end of the email. Debra wrote, “Love, Mom—or should I say Deb since I am no longer your mother? PS—send money for a new fridge; ours broke.” When Jennette read it out loud, the hosts of Red Table Talk let out gasps of shock.

The Sad Reality

Jennette’s story is sad. She went through a lot of trauma she didn’t have to. Many people are saying her mother’s behavior (and her email in particular) was “shocking.” Debra’s mental illnesses may have gone undiagnosed, but I can tell you as a child of a narcissistic mother, this behavior is par for the course. To be honest, I had never heard of Jennette McCurdy before (I was a ’90s Nickelodeon kid), but the title I’m Glad My Mom Died drew me in. My mother passed away in 2020 ,and the title was literally a phrase I have thought of several times. Debra’s exact actions may not be felt universally, but so much of her attitude and methods are from the playbook of abusive parents.

Another guest on the episode, therapist Kelly McDaniel, discussed this phenomenon in her book called Mother Hunger (which I am adding to my own reading list). Many times, people assume their mothers are inherently right and society views mothers as untouchable. So many people excuse their mother’s terrible behaviors or are asked to see beyond it because “It’s your mom.” Now that her mom has passed away, Jennette was asked if she could ever forgive Debra. She wasn’t sure if she could, but she recognized that she still loved her mother. Her statement was powerful, honest, and something survivors should remind themselves of.

(featured image: Facebook Watch)

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D.R. Medlen (she/her) is a freelance pop culture writer at The Mary Sue. After finishing her BA in History, she finally pursued her lifelong dream of being a full-time writer in 2019. She expertly fangirls over Marvel, Star Wars, and historical fantasy novels (the spicier the better). When she's not writing or reading, she lives that hobbit-core life in California with her spouse, offspring, and animal familiars.