Woman’s Day (Australia)

Why everyone is talking about JENNETTE MCCURDY

On the cusp of Jennette’s Australian tour, Woman’s Day unpacks why the former child star’s memoir has struck such a chord with the world...


Fame is brutal, and fame seems to be exceptiona­lly horrible if it arrives when you’re young and female.

We learnt it from Judy Garland, then we learnt it from Drew Barrymore, and more recently from Britney Spears. In fact, it’s a lesson that gets rediscover­ed so frequently, What, then, is there left for Jennette Mccurdy to tell us?

At the age of 15 she achieved stardom playing the character of Sam in the Nickelodeo­n sitcom icarly, which ran from 2007 to 2012.

On screen, Jennette was tomboyish, surly and very funny but behind the scenes, she was fragile, exploited and deeply unhappy.

At the age of 30 she’s ready to share her pain. This memoir recounts the eating disorders, the alcohol abuse and the family dysfunctio­n that went hand-in-hand with her success.

So far, so misery. If that was all Jennette had to offer, only the pathologic­ally naive and the incurably prurient need apply. Yet there’s so much more here. Although she was a reluctant actress, she’s a superb writer, and

I’m Glad My Mom Died is as unsentimen­tal and blackly comic as its title.

The book begins with a short prologue set at the hospital bed of Jennette’s mother, Debra. She is dying of cancer. “It’s strange how we always give big news to loved ones in a coma,” she writes.

Her three brothers offer stories of engagement­s and relocation…

Then it’s her turn. “Forget weddings, forget moving home.

I’ve got something more important to offer. Something I’m sure Mom cares about more than anything.” She leans in and whispers her sure-fire wake-up call, “Mommy. I am... so skinny right now.”

It doesn’t work. Her mother remains unconsciou­s, which leaves her with a problem. “My life purpose has always been to make Mom happy, to be who she wants me to be. So without Mom, who am I supposed to be now?”

After that, we’re hurled back to the beginning, as she tries to make sense of her mother’s unwholesom­e influence. Jennette’s mother appears here as probably the most monstrous Hollywood mother since Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest.

When she asks her daughter if she wants to be “Mommy’s little actress”, young Jennette

She has turned her pain into a bestseller. knows there’s only one acceptable answer. She says yes.

Her progress in Hollywood is steady, albeit with some disappoint­ments. She misses one gig because she can’t use a pogo stick (her mother makes her take lessons and add it to her CV), when she goes up for the role of “an androgynou­s hermaphrod­ite” on Grey’s Anatomy, she’s knocked back for being too pretty (her mother is thrilled).

The big threat to her chances comes with puberty. Jennette initially mistakes her breast buds for a tumour, like her mother’s, but doesn’t get much reassuranc­e from learning the truth.

Maturity is to be feared when you’re a child actor, “The only thing worse than a cancer diagnosis is a growingup diagnosis.” She dreads becoming womanly. It’s at this point that her mother gleefully introduces her to the concept of “calorie restrictio­n”.

By the time Jennette gets her break on icarly that’s turned into entrenched anorexia and the show brings more problems. A man referred to only as

“The Creator” is a creep on set and tries to get her to drink with him. She resists, but alcohol later becomes a crutch for her as she deals with paparazzi intrusion and her mother’s increasing­ly deranged demands.

I’m Glad My Mom Died never offers an explanatio­n for her mother’s abuses. Jennette seems ready to accept her mother for who she was, but not forgive her, and fair enough.

Yet she also refuses to cast herself in the victim role.

Celebrity has been brutal to Jennette. This memoir will make her deservedly famous all over again. With luck, the experience will be kinder this time.

Jennette will be at the Sydney Opera House on Sunday to discuss the book. Join the livestream at sydneyoper­ahouse.com.au

 ?? ?? Jennette details her mother Debra’s abuse in the book.
Jennette details her mother Debra’s abuse in the book.
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 ?? ?? I’M GLAD MY MOM DIED Out now (Simon & Schuster, $34.99)
I’M GLAD MY MOM DIED Out now (Simon & Schuster, $34.99)
 ?? ?? With Miranda Cosgrove in teen sitcom icarly in 2007.
With Miranda Cosgrove in teen sitcom icarly in 2007.

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