Let me answer your first question: Who? In a functional, sane world, I would not be formulating thoughts and sentences about a couple of Nickelodeon stars and the Instagram fling that may or may not have torn their world apart. A month ago, I barely knew who Jennette McCurdy was. Six months ago, I had only a vague awareness of her now-canceled Nickelodeon show Sam & Cat, and only inasmuch as it involved her quickly rising costar Ariana Grande. But now that Ariana has become a world-conquering force to be reckoned with, her problems are our problems, and her former best friends are our former best friends.
I prefer to evaluate beef without taking into account my level of concern with the parties involved and purely on its own merits and strength of form, and based on those criteria, the Ariana Grande–Jennette McCurdy beef is a well-aged, marbly cut of Wagyu. We’re so used to adult celebrity feuds being filtered through a million flacks and agents, but Grande and McCurdy come from a different generation, one that believes the best way to handle a personal disagreement is to drop some TwitLonger fire on the 5 million tweens who follow them. This is a terrible form of conflict resolution but a surprisingly decent form of entertainment, even for mature adults like myself who didn’t even realize iCarly wasn’t on anymore, much less that it had a spinoff.
Plus, this beef involves leaked sexy pics, two family deaths, an NBA player, and popular comedy podcaster Pete Holmes. It’s nothing if not eclectic. Let’s get into it.
Though it’s a separate feud altogether, the brief, Instagram-fueled relationship between McCurdy and Detroit Piston Andre Drummond could be seen as the catalyst for everything that has befallen McCurdy, Grande, and their entertainment-friendship empire. It started just about a year ago, after McCurdy’s fans (henceforth referred to as McCurdians) alerted her to the fact that Drummond had been posting about her on Instagram under the “Woman Crush Wednesday” hashtag (#WCW, duh). According to McCurdy, they dated for only a week, and she was never that into him. Then her mother died after a 17-year battle with breast cancer, and she broke it off so that she could spend time with her family.
McCurdy spoke candidly about the relationship on You Made It Weird, comedian Pete Holmes’s Nerdist Network podcast. If that seems like a strange place for a Nickelodeon star to dish about her fling with an NBA player, well … apparently McCurdy is a big fan of Holmes (and frequent guest Chelsea Peretti). If that also seems strange, maybe you don’t understand: Jennette McCurdy is, above all else, a comedienne. Up until a few months ago she starred on an enormously popular sitcom, and she has talked about her aspirations to be a staff writer and stand-up. She’s also a huge Star Wars fan — she frequently cites it as the movie that made her want to act as a kid. No reason I’m sharing these details other than to paint a full and accurate picture of Jennette McCurdy, the human being, before we move on to …
Round 1: The Nearly Naked Pics
On March 3, mere days after McCurdy’s tell-all with Holmes, photos of McCurdy in racy lingerie hit the web (NSFW-ish, no nudity). Fingers immediately pointed toward Drummond as the source, a not-illogical first guess fueled by McCurdy’s tweeted response.
Andre, for his part, denied all.
(“Bruh, you play for the Pistons. They haven’t been focused on basketball since 2003.” —ONTD commenter. I don’t even know if this is accurate or fair shade, I just love when ONTD gets into sports.)
Ariana and her camp remained silent on the issue. But behind the scenes, there was already trouble brewing.
Round 2: The Kids Choice Awards
I don’t know what these kids networks do when their stars publicly misbehave, but as someone who has read more than two articles about Monarch Mind Control, I assume it involves solitary confinement and eye clamps. I’m (kind of) kidding, but one could reasonably assume that McCurdy’s conspicuous absence from the 2014 Kids Choice Awards on March 29 was part of the shaming ritual. She should have had every reason to be there: Sam & Cat was nominated for Favorite TV Show (which it won), and both she and Ariana were nominated for Favorite TV Actress (Ariana won). But the next day, via her trusty TwitLonger account, she shed some vague light on the issue. “I was put in an uncomfortable, compromising, unfair situation (many of you have guessed what it is) and I had to look out for me,” she wrote. “I chose to not go because sticking up for what is right and what is fair is what my mom taught me is ALWAYS the most important thing.” She also claimed that this had nothing to do with the photo scandal.
A couple of days later, TMZ filled in the blanks: McCurdy was in the midst of negotiating her deal for a second season of Sam & Cat and was less than pleased about how much more Grande was making than she was, so she boycotted the event (which is also produced and aired by Nick).
McCurdy still thanked both Arianators and McCurdians for their support in her statement; the war between the two factions was still cold. One could easily assume that the negotiations would come to an end and the hit show would get its second season. One could be so, so mistaken.
Round 3: ‘Trouble Friend’
On June 2, as rumors surrounding the fate of Sam & Cat continued to swirl, McCurdy dropped the first in an ongoing series of hot truth bombs on her TwitLonger. The post was titled “Letting Go of Someone” and was ostensibly about tips for how to say good-bye to a negative influence in your life, but was really just some barely veiled shade against Ariana. By the end she drops all pretense of “advice” and resorts to addressing this “trouble friend” directly (bolded for emphasis on amazing, uncompromising prose).
We aren’t better friends because being friends with you takes the “better” out of me. In fact, I might possibly be the worst version of myself when I’m around you.
As for what happened to our friendship, it faded once through happenstance and it is happening this time through my stance. I’m standing up for myself. I’m not playing your games, letting you manipulate me, and succumbing to your twisted perception of reality.
Where did I go? As far away from you as I can get. You won’t be hearing from me anymore because sweetheart, being a friend to you was doing so much more for you than it was doing for me. You sucked the life right out of me, and I want my life back. …
So for these sincere reasons, I am officially dropping you as a friend. If I see you, I won’t turn the other way and run (even though I want to). Instead, I’ll just smile and end the conversation as quickly as possible, because no offense, but I don’t want any of you rubbing off on me. Actually, that’s pretty offensive. Oh well.
Grande didn’t publicly respond to McCurdy’s post, unless this counts.
Round 4: Sam & Cat Canceled
After the KCAs, and McCurdy’s growing collection of social media screeds, rumors of Sam & Cat’s cancellation grew louder, and were finally confirmed on July 17. The Hollywood Reporter, a professional industry publication, chalked up the show’s cancellation to “drama.” You know things are bad when the trades can’t find a more boring way to explain something, but the show had been pulling numbers of up to 4 million, the kind of stuff most network sitcoms would kill for. There wasn’t going to be any other way to explain this.
Here’s where we need to rewind and take some unsubstantiated gossip into account. In February, Crazy Days and Nights revealed a blind item from last fall about behind-the-scenes trouble on the show, claiming that producers were trying to get Ariana to dissociate herself with Jennette, who “has been getting drunk and hitting strip clubs and getting lap dances from other women.” Ariana’s brand, according to this story, was on the rise and could not be tarnished by her costar and friend, who had not yet made the jump to non-tween stardom. The blind continued to claim that Ariana’s people were threatening to walk away from the show unless Jennette was replaced by someone more clean-cut. Take all of that with a grain of salt, but it certainly fits the narrative so far.
Grande posted an emotional farewell to the show on (guess) TwitLonger, which was very sweet on the surface, but whose thank-yous conspicuously left out any mention of McCurdy.
Temporary Cease-Fire: R.I.P., Grandpa Grande
Round 5: Gloriana
This past week, McCurdy released her follow-up to Sam & Cat: a web series entitled What’s Next for Sarah? It follows a former tween idol (played by McCurdy) whose hit show gets canceled, and who must then navigate the tricky and treacherous waters of Hollywood. McCurdy wrote and produced the series, which is — actually! — not the worst. Arianators would probably disagree, especially by the time they made it to Episode 3, at the 2:55 mark.
Meet “Gloriana,” a shrill, vegan pop star who wears a high ponytail and a floral vintage-style dress and won’t shut up about her new music video. This is the first big swing from Team McCurdy that couldn’t plausibly be denied as being directed at Ariana. The charges against Gloriana, and Ariana by proxy, seem to be that she is (1) dumb, (2) self-centered, and (3) successful. These are mostly personality issues, not so much direct accusations of harmful or offensive actions.
Perez Hilton, always an expert in finding ways to spend his time, has been shading Grande on Twitter for the better part of a year, and wasted no time in finding his own way to congratulate McCurdy on the web series (tweets now deleted, but posted on Cambio).
“It was super funny!!! Can I be in an upcoming episode? I can be #Gloriana’s obnoxious gay brother! Ha”
Jennette responded, “@PerezHilton oh my god yes!! Or gloriana’s boyfriend who gets cheated on 8 times?” Ouch.
Perez fired back: “@jennettemccurdy OMFG!!!!! Too good!!!!! I’m not even joking! Let’s make this happen! P.S. I heard that Gloriana gets around!”
Round 6: #ByeForever
There are long-winded TwitLongers. There are subtweets with Perez (never subtweet with Perez). There are questionable Instagram missives. But where does one go after one has responded angrily to a fake tweet? How does one possibly continue one’s story?
This is Jennette McCurdy, responding to a fake Photoshop image by sending a real tweet to Ariana Grande. Gaze upon this and despair.
Five Rounds Out of Five: Ariana Grande
Winner: Jennette McCurdy
I have a general rule, which I’ve had ever since following January Jones on Instagram and coming to the gut conclusion that she’s probably a pretty cool person, that one should always assume that people who look the worst in the media are actually the nicest, and people who come off as the cutest and funniest are probably the most insufferable. I can’t help but think that’s the case here. Don’t ask me why, but I genuinely feel for Jennette and her plight. I like that her post-Nick aspiration is not to be a mainstream pop star, but to write for a sitcom. She’s a weird celebrity in that she’s pretty well spoken and sharp, but very frequently delves into highly inflammatory social media behavior. (She’s also, we have to remember, only 21.) But that also makes her a really good celebrity! (Arianators who have somehow found their way to this post, please take into account that I am the Jon Snow of the Nickelodeon Universe. I literally knew nothing until about 24 hours ago.)
I think Ariana and Jennette grew apart the way friends naturally do, and having millions of fans fighting their battles for them on the Internet only magnified an already not-fun process. I don’t think that Jennette is “jealous,” there is no evidence anywhere that she wants Ariana’s life, other than her cringey Instagram a cappella videos.
But there are also so many other rumors to take into account that I don’t even feel completely comfortable reprinting here, but which I believe 90 percent of. I think there is a LOT going on beneath the surface, much of which probably took place over the past eight years that Ariana and Jennette worked together. If there’s any lesson to be learned from this beef, it’s a lesson you’ve hopefully already abided by: Don’t be a child star. Just don’t. No good comes of it.