After releasing on Aug. 9, Jennette McCurdy's memoir, “I'm Glad My Mom Died,” became a New York Times Bestseller within two weeks. The memoir details her struggles with familial abuse as a former child actor, sparking conversations about the culture of child stardom.
According to McCurdy’s memoir McCurdy’s mother began pushing her into the limelight at the age of eight. She went on to appear in several television shows over the years until she landed a starring role as Sam Puckett in Nickelodeon’s “iCarly.” All the while, McCurdy’s mental health was declining as her emotionally abusive mother pressured her into a restrictive dieting lifestyle.
It wasn’t until years after her mother passed away in 2013 that she was able to come to terms with her childhood and take control of her life, which included distancing herself from her acting past. In 2021, she declined to reprise her role in the Paramount+ “iCarly” reboot.
"My whole childhood and adolescence were very exploited," McCurdy said in a 2022 The New York Times interview. "It still gives my nervous system a reaction to say it. 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."
Throughout the years, many former child actors have spoken out about Hollywood’s dark side. They claim the suffocating culture has had adverse long-lasting effects on their developing minds.
Often, child stars get so ingrained into the industry to the point where they don’t know where to go next when forced into the “real world.” This can sometimes work in their favor. Consider actors such as Leonardo DiCaprio and Jodie Foster, who have transitioned from child acting to acting in their adulthood relatively unscathed, both going on to win Academy Awards for post-childhood performances.
However, the nature of show business and trying to fit into Hollywood’s beauty standards at such an early age can lead to eating disorders and drug addictions. This is a frequent place where problems such as those McCurdy details arise.
According to Paracelsus Recovery, Children in Hollywood are subject to more sexual, emotional and financial abuse than their adult counterparts. Actors such as Natalie Portman have spoken out about being overly sexualized during their time as a minor on set. Others, like Drew Barrymore, have run into instances where their parents exploited them for work and then stole the money they earned after the fact.
These issues stem from a lack of protection for child actors. There is legislation in place to protect child actors. For example, minors are required to still get an education while also working on set. However, that doesn’t always save people from slipping through the cracks when they have the possibility of being introduced to sex, drugs and alcohol from an early age.
McCurdy wrote “I'm Glad My Mom Died” not only to bring awareness to what really happens behind the scenes but also to fulfill her lifelong dream of being a writer.
McCurdy said in an interview with Nylon, “I think and hope it's (successful) because of the honesty. And also it's a carefully crafted book. I get that it's my life. To me, that aspect of it is just secondary. First and foremost, I set out to write a good book, and I think I've done that. I think that's why it's resonating with people.”
Follow Liliana Hayes on Twitter, @lilidarleen
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