Read an extract from Jennette McCurdy’s heart-wrenching memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died

Written by Jennette McCurdy

The former Nickelodeon star’s new memoir, I’m Glad My Mom Died, reveals the years of abuse she silently suffered at the hands of her mother before her death in 2013. Read an exclusive extract below… 

“Your eyelashes are invisible, okay? You think Dakota Fanning doesn’t tint hers?”

Mom is tinting my eyelashes with the over-the-counter brown eyelash tint she picks up from Rite Aid once a month or so, during the same trip where she picks up the L’Oréal blond highlights, the three-dollar tube of clear mascara, and the store-brand version of Crest Whitestrips.

It’s the “maintenance trip” as she calls it – the trip dedicated solely to the enhancement of my “natural beauty.”

Mom calls it “natural beauty,” what I have. She says my eyelashes are long, but so light that it looks like I don’t have any. She says that my hair has golden highlights, but only toward the bottom and that it’s important I have some golden highlights around my face, too, to frame it. She says that my hair is very thick, which is good, but that it has a mind of its own, which is bad, and that it needs to be tamed. She says I have a good smile but my teeth aren’t quite white enough. Each “good” thing Mom says about my “natural beauty” is followed up by its downside, which serves as the justification for its need to be enhanced by a little good old-fashioned store-bought beauty. And since it seems like every single “naturally beautiful” thing about me comes with a downside that needs to be enhanced by store-bought beauty, I’m beginning to wonder

if I’m really naturally beautiful at all, or if Mom’s use of the term “naturally beautiful” goes in the same place where others would just use the term “ugly.”

Jennette with her mum as child

Ow!”

Ow what?” Mom asks, because there are a variety of things that could be owing me right now.

Little paper eye patches are tucked up under my eyes, just on the lash line to the point where they could be poking my eyeballs, which could be ow-worthy. (Mom tucks them nice and tight and keeps them in place with Vaseline because she doesn’t want the brown eyelash tint to drip on my skin and tint it.)

What feels like one thousand sheets of foil are folded into all the layers of my hair. There are so many layers and so much foil that my hair is extending outward nearly horizontally around me. There are two potential ows with this—the foils could be tugging at my roots and causing pain, or the fumes from the bleach could be burning my eyes.

The knockoff Crest Whitestrips are cupping my teeth and even though they’re only supposed to stay on for fifteen minutes, Mom keeps them on for forty-five, for good measure.

Even though I try and spit out the nasty whitening juice periodically, sometimes it leaks from my teeth onto my gums and not only turns them white, but stings badly, which could also be an ow.

“Da dye is n y eye,” I say as best as I can with the strips on my teeth.

“Spit, then say it again,” Mom urges me.

I do as she says.

“The dye is in my eye!”

“Shit. Shit shit shit. Why didn’t you tell me?! This stuff could make you go blind. Lean back!”

I throw my head back. It bangs on the back of the toilet seat. I ow again. Mom starts squirting eye drops into my eye. A cocktail of tears and eye drops trickles down my cheeks. I try to sit up again but my hair catches on the toilet flusher. Mom starts unhooking it. I feel trapped. My appearance has always been of great importance to Mom. Even before I started acting.

Some of my earliest memories are of me wearing giant pastry-puff dresses. The dresses scratched and irritated my skin, and the look of them felt silly and over-the-top to me. Mom would always tell me I looked so pretty, even though every time she told me I looked pretty

I shrieked as loud as I could that I wasn’t pretty, I was “hampsome.” I was too little to be able to say “handsome” properly, but old enough to know that I wanted to be called what my brothers were called, not some stupid, lesser term designated for the girls.

Acting only made Mom’s obsession with my appearance worse, especially after I couldn’t get an audition for the lead role in the film Because of Winn-Dixie.

“Get me Meredith Fine! Get me Meredith Fine!” Mom screamed into the phone at Coast to Coast Talent Group’s scared young receptionist. We switched to Meredith a few months back after Mom said Barbara Cameron is old news and that this new agency, Coast to Coast, represented the cream-of-the-crop young talent. Meredith is head of talent at the agency.

“Yeah, Meredith, it’s Debra McCurdy. How could you not submit Jennette for Because of Winn-Dixie?! How?! She’s perfect for that role. You just don’t care about her enough or prioritize her, that’s what it is,” Mom cried.

“Debra. Deb—”

“I bet you submitted Taylor Dooley!”

“Debra, you need to calm down and stop lobbing these wild accusations at me. I submitted Jennette for the role, but they didn’t want to see her because they’re looking for an ethereal beauty, and Jennette reads more homely.”

Mom looked stunned then hung up the phone and started wailing like somebody died. It was the first time I wished that I was prettier and didn’t care about being hampsome.

Images: Jennette McCurdy

I’m Glad My Mom Died by Jennette McCurdy (£20; Simon & Schuster) is out now

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