In a sold-out Archie Griffin Grand Ballroom, 2000s actress Jennette McCurdy was supposed to captivate the crowd when discussing her new memoir Sunday night — instead the audience walked away from the event feeling “ somewhat awkward” and “uncomfortable” because of comments the moderator made throughout the night.
McCurdy discussed her new memoir, “I’m Glad My Mom Died,” at the Ohio Union Activities Board’s OUABook Talk. Excitement filled the room as students awaited hearing from the former childhood star.
McCurdy became a household name as a child actress on the popular Nickelodeon shows “iCarly” and “Sam and Cat” before leaving acting to pursue a writing career, debuting with a memoir detailing her life in the entertainment industry and her relationship with her abusive mother.
According to the publisher, Simon & Schuster, McCurdy’s first publication, which came out Aug. 9, 2022, spent multiple months on The New York Times Best Seller List and earned McCurdy a seven-figure contract for two more books. McCurdy discussed her writing process and success with Ohio State students in her Q&A session.
“Whatever you do, just know your approach, know your process, know what works for you,” McCurdy said.
OUAB issued a content warning on their Instagram and in person before the event, establishing that the discussion would include multiple sensitive topics — including eating disorders and abuse.
The live discussion was moderated by Ohio State graduate student of social work in community and social justice Sara Hoover. According to OUAB, Hoover is licensed in trauma-focused cognitive behavioral therapy and certified in adult mental health. They also serve as the program coordinator for the Body Project, a body-acceptance program to help students feel better about their bodies, in the Student Wellness Center at Ohio State.
After the event, students took to OUAB’s Instagram page to express their dissatisfaction with Hoover’s performance as moderator, with the primary criticisms of her being awkward and making the audience feel uncomfortable.
“Please don’t let that interviewer do that again,” one comment stated. “It was the most disrespectful interview and I feel so bad for [Jennette].”
OUAB posted an apology on their Instagram page Monday night to those who came to the OUABook Talk and felt uncomfortable. OUAB said they have also given Jennette a sincere apology.
“Currently, we are revising our moderator preparation process in an effort to create the most welcoming event experience as possible,” OUAB stated.
Students have taken to this post to voice their concerns as well.
“I’m sad someone as amazing as Jennette had to experience an interview like that while being vulnerable & brave enough to speak about her past… there’s no excuse for that,” another comment stated.
Despite issues with Hoover, Ohio State students were able to focus on the opportunity to listen to McCurdy speak on her experiences growing up as a famous child actress, being raised by a narcissistic parent and writing her first memoir. The discussion also shed light on her recovery, informing the audience of the hardships that got her to where she is today. McCurdy advised students to not let “slips become slides” when recovering from eating disorders, so mistakes don’t completely derail progress.
Julia Lombardo, a fourth-year in English, said in an email McCurdy provided a “safe and lively space for everyone,” and it was “amazing” to get advice from someone she’s known through a screen for many years.
“ Watching Jennette McCurdy on TV in my early teens gave me someone to laugh with, then getting to learn from her and relate to her on a personal level through her book a decade later feels like a full-circle moment,” Lombardo said.
McCurdy also discussed how her writing has changed her career and shifted the media narrative surrounding her work as an actress.
“To feel like I can actually show up and be present and be myself and connect with people was a really different experience and really kind of changed my view on the press,” McCurdy said.
McCurdy said growing up as a child actress in the public eye was a financial privilege but extremely psychologically damaging. McCurdy detailed her mental and physical recovery from the eating disorders and trauma that plagued her childhood acting days.
“I never wanted to act, my mom wanted to be an actress, she put me in acting when I was a kid,” McCurdy said.
McCurdy answered questions from Ohio State students in the audience following the moderated discussion. OUAB student MCs preselected questions for McCurdy regarding personal memories, professional advice and her journey in writing her recent bestseller.
“I’m so proud of this book, and it’s really been validated, and I’m so grateful that it’s lined up that way,” McCurdy said.
This story was updated at 11:15 p.m. to include statements from OUAB and comments from social media.
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