Jennette McCurdy, or as you may know her - Sam from iCarly, has a previously hidden, somewhat dark past.
She's opened up over the past year about her experience with childhood acting, financial struggles, and an overall sense of dissatisfaction with her past life.
Her career started when her mom forced her into acting at 6 years old.
While there were probably many factors that played into that decision, the choice was largely financial.
Her family had little money as she was growing up and while she believes this motivation played a role in her success, she's become resentful of the experience.
“I resent my career in a lot of ways. I feel so unfulfilled by the roles that I played and felt like it was the most just cheesy, embarrassing [experience],” she said.
Much like how some athletes view going pro as the only way to provide for their family, her mom thought the same thing about acting and Jennette became the family's breadwinner by age 11.
However, at this same time, her eating disorder began.
"As a child actress working in Hollywood, I quickly learned that remaining physically small for my age meant I had a better chance of booking more roles. Unfortunately, I had a trusty and dedicated companion ready to help me with my burgeoning anorexia: my mom!"
Her mom struggled with eating disorders when she was younger as well so while Jennette didn't hold this aspect against her, she also didn't realize that her mom was aiding and pushing the disorder further until it became apart of her identity.
When she landed her role as Sam in iCarly at age 14, things only got worse as she was became more popular.
She felt the pressure of always being "on", much like how creators may feel once their content starts to get traction and they have an audience to consistently create for.
When she was 18, her mom was diagnosed with terminal cancer and by age 21, she was signing a new acting deal while her mom was weeks away from dying.
Her mom passed away in 2013 and since then, she's grown as a person, learned how to begin coping with her past, and in 2020 she wrote and performed a one-woman show called "I'm Glad My Mom Died" about why her mom’s death went from being the worst thing that ever happened to her to the best.
Her mom's determination and forcefulness may be a large factor in her 'successful' acting career, but it didn't come without creating scars in her daughter's mind that may never disappear.
Aside from the emotional and physical aspect of the story, there's an interesting financial takeaway from her young career:
To protect child actors from money-hungry family members, managers, or brands, the California Coogan Act was originally created in 1939.
Its namesake comes from Jackie Coogan, a silent film actor who began his career at 3 years old and worked with the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Frank Lloyd.
He earned $3-4 million before he was an adult ($50+ million in today's dollars) and his assets had been conservatively managed by his father, who had died in a car accident five months prior to him turning 21.
However, in 1935 Coogan discovered that his mother and new stepfather - who was also acting as their financial advisor - blew all of the money and hid behind the statement of "No promises were ever made to give Jackie anything" claiming that he was just acting for fun.
After it was all settled in court, Jackie received a measly $126,000.
But under the Coogan Act, whenever a child actor signs a contract, the employer is required to deposit 15% of earnings into a Trust Account under the minor's name. The earnings are supposed to be legal property of the minor and the funds can't be accessed by anyone until the minor turns 18.
According to the act, "Parents or Legal Guardians are required to establish a “Coogan Account” within seven business days after a minor’s employment contract is signed, and to provide the minor’s employer with a copy of a trustee’s statement (evidencing proof of the account) within ten business days after the start of employment."
So Jennette should've had a fairly significant nest egg built up from her acting career, right?
Well, she received news in her 20s that the paperwork wasn't properly filed and she never saw the money.
To no surprise, her mom was handling all of the financial matters early on.
So while Jennette did eventually take over her own finances in her teens and made her money, this instance has caused anxiety around money in her life.
But even though she may be done acting, we haven't seen the last of Jennette.
. . .
I grew up thinking that childhood actors had it made.
They were famous, making money, and making people happy through entertainment.
However, there's always a side to every story that we don't hear.
Maybe you think that creator you lookup to has it all figured out and their life is made. But chances are, they deal with some of the same struggles as you and they're just doing their best and figuring things out as they go.
We never know what people are going through or struggling with unless they decide to share, and luckily there are people like Jennette brave enough to share their stories so others can learn from their past and find comfort in knowing they may not be alone in their journey or present situation.
Listen to her podcast episode, fish out of water, where she talks about her experience on Nickelodeon and the decision to quit acting
I went to NYC for the first time at the beginning of October and brought along 2 disposable cameras for all my picture-taking.
Finally got them back this week and pleasantly surprised with how they turned out.
Here's two of my faves:
I may keep this section of the newsletter because I personally love looking at disposable pictures - they remind me of spending time with my mom & grandma growing up - so if you have any cool disposables, new or old, that you'd like shared in the newsletter, feel free to send them over :)