On Wednesday, former iCarly actor Jennette McCurdy appeared on the season premiere episode of Red Table Talk for an in-depth interview with hosts Jada Pinkett Smith, her daughter Willow Smith, and mother Adrienne Banfield-Norris.
McCurdy opened up about her trauma in her Red Table Talk interview, revealing more disturbing and heartbreaking details about her relationship with her mother and childhood trauma. Here's everything we learned:
Note: This post mentions abuse, body-shaming, and disordered eating.
1. In her memoir, McCurdy described getting a scathing email from her mother disowning her and calling her numerous disparaging things. During Red Table Talk, she read the email in full and revealed new details about the whole situation.
"'I am so disappointed in you,'" McCurdy read from the email. "'You used to be my perfect little angel, but now you are nothing more than a little [all caps] slut, a floozy, all used up. And to think you wasted it on that hideous ogre of a man. I saw the pictures on a website called TMZ. I saw you rubbing his disgusting hairy stomach. I knew you were lying about Colton [a friend McCurdy had told her mother she was with]. Add that to a list of things you are: liar, conniving, evil. You look pudgier too. It's clear you're eating your guilt. Thinking of you with his ding-dong inside of you makes me sick. Sick! I raised you better than this. What happened to my good little girl?'"
McCurdy explained that her mother was furious after seeing TMZ pictures of Jennette vacationing in Hawaii with her then-boyfriend, Joe. "The relationship had been a secret from [my mom]," McCurdy said. "I understand why she was disapproving — there was a significant age difference. But I don't respect how she handled it."
At the time, McCurdy was 18 and Joe was 32. "I think it was no coincidence that he and I sort of began a relationship very shortly after my mom's recurrence of cancer," she said. "I knew my mom was dying [and] I needed a replacement. But something I am grateful for in that relationship is that I was hearing for the first time how unhealthy my mom was. When I would get an email like that, you know, my instinct was to say, 'I'm this terrible person. How could I have done anything like this?' I would believe what she said about me. ... Joe was helpful in getting me to see that there was another side to that and that this was really unhealthy."
You can listen to McCurdy read the full email below:
2. McCurdy said that learning to acknowledge and accept that her mom was abusive has been a long, complicated process. "My gut knew it wasn't right," she explained. "But I couldn't accept that it wasn't right, because I [was] a kid. And I needed my mom. ... I needed her to be the thing that I wanted her to be in order to survive."
"I saw this therapist, who was the first person who told me my mother was abusive — I quit that therapist immediately," McCurdy said. "I couldn't handle that information. [Like], 'Oh, no, no, no, no, I can't go anywhere near that.' And then when I eventually went back to therapy, maybe a year later...after even hearing the word 'abuse' and then just piecing things together, it felt like I was finally making contact with reality and not living in the necessary delusion of my childhood."
"Everything I said was prefaced with a disclaimer of, 'Well, this happened, but my mom meant nothing by this,'" she said. "I couldn't just say the truth to my therapist. There was a disclaimer and protection and guards around every single thing that I said. And at one point, [my therapist] said to me, 'You don't need to defend her every single time you bring her up.' And that opened the floodgates." McCurdy said that this was also the revelation that led her to realize she needed to quit acting.
3. McCurdy explained that, as a result of her trauma with her mother, she fell into a pattern of unhealthy, codependent relationships.
"Because I was enmeshed and codependent [and] very anxiously attached with my mother, I found the kind of relationships that reflected that dynamic," she said. "And so I fell into unhealthy relationships where I was supporting the other person and I really felt like, 'That's what I bring to the table.'"
4. McCurdy revealed that, for a long time, she couldn't hug people because she associated hugs with her mother's emotional manipulation.
"I couldn't hug people for so long," she said. "I now love hugs and welcome hugs. But it felt inherently inappropriate to me. It felt like [people] want something from me that I can't get."
5. McCurdy discussed her friendship with iCarly costar Miranda Cosgrove and explained how their relationship helped heal the harmful notions her mom had instilled in her about other women.
"I'm very grateful for that friendship; it did provide me a lot of comfort in those really challenging years," McCurdy said. "My relationship with Miranda was hugely healing to my concept of women. My mom was always saying, 'Men will never really know you, and they'll hurt you. But women will know you deeply. And then they'll hurt you. You tell me which is worse.'"
6. McCurdy revealed that her mother used to chase her father around the house with a steak knife, and that he had "begged" her mother to get professional help.
"My mom would be chasing my dad around the house with a literal steak knife," McCurdy said. "And he'd say to her, 'You have to get help. You have to get a handle on this. You can't be doing this.' She wouldn't. She didn't want to change or couldn't face that she needed to change."
McCurdy said that a therapist later suggested her mother may have had "some combination of bipolar disorder and borderline personality disorder and narcissistic personality disorder. ... Maybe all three." However, her mom was never formally diagnosed with any mental illness.
"The steak knife thing, that was a frequent situation," McCurdy continued. "There were many, many versions of the steak knife and other tools. She would grab sort of whatever was on hand. And our neighbor did threaten quite often to call social services; he would always pound on the door in the middle of the screaming fights. And then [later], my mom would hand him a box of See's Candies and bribe him out of calling social services."
7. McCurdy said that her maternal grandmother, who lived with them at the time, would only add to the stress during these situations with her mom. She said there was a "very intense dynamic" between her mother and grandmother.
McCurdy added that her grandmother, who now lives in a facility for older adults in Kentucky, strongly disapproves of the title of Jennette's memoir (I'm Glad My Mom Died). "My brother shared with me that she was not happy with the title, but I expected that," she said. "I'm not surprised at all."
8. McCurdy said she's very close with her three older brothers — Marcus, Dustin, and Scott — and that she's immensely grateful for their support.
"I'm so close with all three of my brothers," McCurdy said. "And they have been such a source of love and support and consistency in my life where there really wasn't much anywhere else. ... We have such a beautiful bond. And there's such an understanding there. I think because of the things that we went through together and the things that we saw together."
After their mother's death, McCurdy learned that her mom had a seven-year affair with a man named Andrew, who was actually the biological father of her, Dustin, and Scott. "My brothers sort of have memories and flashes of the affair and the tumultuous nature of my mom navigating that," she explained. "They have a couple pieces of the puzzle that I was too young to have, and that I couldn't get through some of the adults around me."
9. Right now at the age of 30, McCurdy said that she doesn't think she wants children of her own. However, she said she also hasn't completely ruled out the idea.
"I would never want to have a child for my own identity," McCurdy said. "That's a very concrete one for me. I'm at a place where ... I don't feel like I want kids. I have two nieces that I adore, and a third on the way. I'm really happy to be an aunt. And right now, I don't feel that I want them. But I'm also open to, maybe a couple years from now. Or whenever something hits me and I just feel like, 'Now I do want that.'"
10. McCurdy said that her feelings toward her late mother are still very complicated and not black-and-white.
"Just because I was abused, it doesn't mean that I don't love her," McCurdy said about her mom. "That has been so difficult to grapple with. I feel like it's so hard to not have this guilt complex, because it is...this person gave me life. They gave me the ultimate gift. How is there room for such complex feelings toward them? ... I wish it could just be purely love. I wish it could just be purely the thing that I thought it was when I was little. But then through the exploring and excavating of everything, I just realized that there was so much more underneath it."
11. And finally, when asked whether she's ever been able to forgive her mother, McCurdy responded, "I worked toward forgiveness for a really long time. And my therapist said to me one day, 'What if you don't have to work toward forgiveness?' And I wept. I knew that that was what I needed to hear. Because I had been trying to find a way to still honor my mom."
You can stream the full episode of Red Table Talk on FaceBook Watch.
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If you are concerned that a child is experiencing or may be in danger of abuse, you can call or text the National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-422-2253 (4.A.CHILD); service can be provided in over 140 languages.