[Warning: Potentially Triggering Details]
Jennette McCurdy is opening up about her difficult childhood experiences like never before.
As you may know, the actress was one of the biggest stars on Nickelodeon for the longest time – appearing on hit shows like iCarly and Sam & Cat over the years. And while her life may have seemed like a dream, behind the scenes, it was more of a nightmare. As she put it in an interview published with The Washington Post on Friday:
“There was this half of my life that was so cheesy and so polished and so glossy and so fake. And then there was this other part of my life that was so painful and real and raw and hurting, and that part was going completely unseen.”
Related: Jennette Recalls Moment She ‘Broke’ While Working With Ariana Grande On Sam & Cat
A huge part of her pain stems from her controlling mother, Debra McCurdy. The former child star said she constantly lived in fear of not only disappointing her mom but suffering at the hands of her wrath if she stepped out of line. According to Jennette, her mom constantly made decisions about everything in her life for years, including what she liked and wanted. But what’s worse is Debra insisted on giving her showers and routine breast and vaginal examinations until she was 16 years old. What the f**k? Jennette recalled:
“She worked really hard to keep our relationship very private. 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.”
When she was 11 years old, Jennette claimed her mom pushed her to restrict her food intake and become anorexic in order to delay puberty just so she could book more roles as a child. The young star’s dramatic weight loss caused some concern for those around her at the time, including her pediatrician and dance instructor. However, the 30-year-old said no one pressed the matter enough to step in and face Debra:
“What would happen if anybody tried to step in was my mom would completely turn off toward them. She’d go cold. 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.”
Her issues with anorexia, bulimia, and binging only worsened when she got the her role of Sam, whose whole personality in the series was built around food, such as eating fried chicken or an oversized turkey leg, and even swinging around a “butter sock” as a weapon. While she tried to move away from this gimmick with her character later on, she struggled to explain to the Nickelodeon producers why she wanted to do so in the first place:
“It’s tragically hilarious. It made me so anxious because my character was constantly eating. I tried speaking with the producers on a couple of occasions, asking if we could dial back on that stuff. I had some sort of reasoning like, ‘I think there’s so much more to Sam as a character, and I think she goes much deeper than this.’ But I was not capable of facing the eating disorder for myself so, of course, I wasn’t capable of saying, ‘Hey, I’m actually really struggling with this. So, can we not?’”
Since food was such a big part of Sam, fans also would often approach Jennette in public and make references to the foods her character would eat on screen:
“It started to feel like my life was mocking me in every way. They didn’t know what I was struggling with, but it felt like people were just poking directly in every f**king insecurity and every trauma that I had. It was just twisting the knife.”
It also did not help that her mother would exacerbate her issues by sending emails calling Jennette “a little slut” and an “ugly monster” when paparazzi pictures of the singer and her boyfriend in Hawaii popped up. According to her new book, I’m Glad My Mom Died, Debra even allegedly attempted to ruin her career, writing terrible letters on fan club pages in the hopes of turning her fans against her.
Eventually, the expectations of her career and personal life resulted in pent-up “frustration and rage” inside, causing her to act out and resort to sex and alcohol to cope. Despite being surrounded by her cast members, she told The Washington Post that it felt like she had no one to talk to about her struggles:
“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. 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.”
And when her mom passed away from cancer in 2013, Jennette realized how her “self-destructive ways were as life-threatening as they were” and started to attend therapy:
“That got me to the point where I was able to accept my mom was abusive. 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. 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, the podcast host feels she’s in a much better place:
“I’m in a good place, which is such a weird thing to say. I feel more fulfilled than I ever have, and I wish it wasn’t new, but it is very new for me.”
Nothing but appreciation for Jennette’s courage in opening up about her painful story. Reactions, Perezcious readers? Let us know in the comments. You can read the entire interview with The Washington Post HERE.
[Image via FayesVision/WENN, WENN]