In the book, Jennette described Debra, who passed away from breast cancer in 2013, as incredibly obsessive, and claimed that she not only heavily pushed her to pursue child acting, but also introduced her to calorie counting from the age of 11 and performed “breast and vaginal exams” on her in the shower until she was 18.
Firstly reflecting on the child stardom that she was forced to pursue, Jennette admitted that she is “not proud” to have been a part of Nickelodeon sitcoms iCarly and Sam & Cat from the ages of 15 to 22, and feels a lot of “shame” around her past.
Noting that she certainly sees her fame as a privilege “in some ways,” Jennette explained that she found being thrust into the spotlight at such a young and vulnerable age “incredibly damaging” because of the way she wound up comparing her real-life self to her onscreen character, Sam Puckett.
Jennette said that after starring in iCarly for a while, she found that she only felt valuable as her character Sam because of the way fans loved her sarcastic, confident persona. Explaining that this led to a “fractured identity,” Jennette later teared up as she detailed the various reasons that she hasn’t watched either of the shows back — one of which being the overwhelming pressure she faced from her mom to pursue an acting career in the first place.
“I really idolized her, I adored her, I worshiped her,” she said of her mom. “The relationship now, looking back on it, actually was pretty creepy in terms of just our dynamic and the obsessiveness that I had toward her and pleasing her and making her happy.”
Jennette went on to note that once she got famous, there was a noticeable “switch” in her mom that led to a “rift” in their relationship. Claiming that Debra was incredibly “jealous” of her fame, Jennette said: “She had always seemed like she thought of us as one person. My success was her success... When I got famous, it was like she recognized for the first time we weren’t the same person.”
Later detailing her mom’s influence on her eating habits, Jennette said that Debra had a fear of her “growing up” and wanted her to be cast in younger roles. Because of this, Jennette found it “horrifying” when she realized she was starting to grow breasts at age 11, which she said led to her mom introducing her to “calorie restriction.”
“It had always been really clear to me that my mom did not want me to grow up. Not just for acting, but it also felt like her worth was tied up in me being young. With me being young, she had something to do, she felt good,” she told host Louis.
Jennette said that when she asked her mom if there was any way she could “stop the boobs from coming in,” Debra told her about calorie restriction before ultimately obsessing over her weight. “She weighed me daily, and she measured my thighs with a measuring tape,” she said. “We would read calorie books together and constantly were just in this, kind of as partners in crime, and it felt amazing... I’m aware now of how warped it is.”
Jennette later recalled the way her mom also monitored her body by giving her “breast and vaginal exams” in the shower until she was 18 — something that she described as incredibly “violating.”
“She showered me until I was 17, 18,” she recounted. “She would be in the shower with me shampooing and conditioning my hair, washing my body. She would give me breast and vaginal exams in the shower and said that she was checking for lumps.”
“She would be clothed, but it was uncomfortable for me. I knew it felt violating for me, and I knew I didn't want it. But the one time I had attempted to even say, ‘Hey, do you think I could shower myself?’ She flew into hysterics, and it just became clear to me [that] I can't ever try to shower myself again.’”
As for why her mom was so intent on showering her, Jennette speculated that it had to do with her obsessive nature and fear of her “growing up.”
Explaining that she secretly vacationed in Hawaii with her first boyfriend without telling her mom, who was not comfortable with her hanging out with male friends or romantic partners, Jennette said that she was inundated with “multiple emails” and “dozens of calls” from her mom once paparazzi pictures of the couple were released. One of these emails read, “You have caused my cancer to come back. You have to live with this fact: you gave me cancer.”
Reflecting on this now, Jennette admitted that at the time, a part of her “really did believe” that she’d given her mom cancer by causing her stress, noting that she felt a lot of guilt about it.
And Jennette also explained that while she suspects her mom was dealing with mental illnesses like narcissistic personality disorder and borderline personality disorder, Debra insisted that she was fine and refused to seek any form of help.
In fact, Jennette said that her mom would chase her dad, Mark McCurdy, “around the house with a knife” if and when he begged her to go to therapy.