Jennette McCurdy brings humor and honesty to Syracuse crowd

McCurdy brings humor, honesty to SU crowd

The former "iCarly" star discusses writing her memoir "I'm Glad My Mom Died," mental health and personal interests.
Published: November 14, 2022
Jennette McCurdy
Jennette McCurdy took part Saturday in a live Q&A at Goldstein Auditorium.

Even if you didn’t grow up watching Jennette McCurdy on TV, her new memoir stands out on a bookshelf. The front cover features the iCarly actress clutching a bubblegum pink urn with confetti spilling over, pink letters spelling out the title I’m Glad My Mom Died. The contrast of the pretty pastels and brazen title perfectly encapsulates McCurdy’s honest, nuanced and humorous writing while navigating heavy topics like abuse and eating disorders.

McCurdy came to Syracuse University this weekend as part of the University Union’s Performing Arts series. She was met with a sold out crowd waiting to hear further insight into her life as a child actor. Prior to writing her #1 New York Times bestselling memoir, McCurdy was best known for playing Sam Puckett on Nickelodeon’s iCarly (2007-2012.) While McCurdy was performing antics like “random dancing” and slapping people with a “butter sock” (it’s exactly what it sounds like) on screen, in real life she was suffering abuse from her volatile and controlling mother who died of breast cancer in 2013.

In a conversation with student moderator Naimah Rahman, McCurdy spoke candidly about mental health, writing, and her secret love of watching Disneyland Vlogs. Within the first minute of being on stage, McCurdy confessed she had to take a few tums due to some room service pasta. She said it was good but didn’t agree with her stomach. It was a good indication that this conversation was going to be delightfully candid. McCurdy speaks in a similar way to how she writes–refreshingly thoughtful, and intelligent but never pretentious.

Throughout the night, McCurdy spoke often about her journey of healing through years of therapy. She said that being in a codependent relationship with her mother made setting boundaries feel like a betrayal. While her mom’s death gave McCurdy freedom, she now had to find herself because everything in her life had been curated by her mother.

“I no longer have to live for the person I was living for. Who do I live for now? Myself?” McCurdy said.

The first time McCurdy tried therapy, she quit. When she would share anecdotes about her mom’s irrational behavior, there was always a caveat. McCurdy became defensive when her therapist would knock her mom off the pedestal McCurdy placed her on.

“I couldn’t handle the fact that my mom was abusive,” McCurdy said.

After McCurdy’s mother taught her about calorie restriction at 11 years old, she developed an eating disorder as a coping mechanism for her dysfunctional upbringing. In I’m Glad My Mom Died, she writes that she once lost a tooth due to her bulimia. She said that she couldn’t envision a life without her eating disorder until she learned to see the value of it as a tool for coping and replace it with a healthier alternative.

Now, McCurdy sees the power in setting boundaries and saying “no.” She has adopted the phrase: “If it’s not a hell yes, it’s a no.”

When she set out to write her memoir, McCurdy said she wanted it to be relatable. Despite her unique situation, she relied on the emotions of her story to connect with readers. She said she needed to find her perspective before she wrote her story. In order to avoid waxing poetic, she decided to keep the writing authentic to the age she was at the time – resulting in a style of in-the-moment vignettes spanning from childhood to adulthood.

In her memoir, McCurdy writes how she expressed an early interest in writing but was discouraged by her mother who wanted her to continue acting. While McCurdy said sometimes writing can feel lonely, it can provide comfort.

“In some ways I like that self-intimacy, because I didn’t have it growing up,” McCurdy said.

Her motivation for writing comes from an emotionally-driven place. She said she didn’t want her story to be too long, too sad, or too flippant. She said she didn’t care about grammar or punctuation, and instead wanted it to be emotionally effective, funny and entertaining.

“I didn’t want to trauma dump. I wanted to leave readers with a sense of inspiration, healing and hope,” McCurdy said.

When McCurdy isn’t writing, she likes to consume podcasts, audio books, TED Talks and a very specific genre of YouTube videos.

“This is very left field, but Disneyland vlogs,” said McCurdy when asked about ways she copes besides writing.

McCurdy also revealed that she doesn’t know what Spotify Wrapped is and listens to her music on YouTube. Her current favorite is the unreleased song “Wife” by Sabrina Carpenter.

After a round of questions from the audience, McCurdy thanked the moderator and crowd for their thoughtfulness.

“I’ve done quite a few colleges and this is one of the best conversations I’ve had,” McCurdy said.

As McCurdy left the stage, people began lining up to purchase a copy of I’m Glad My Mom Died.