Cover Image: Behind the Red Door

Behind the Red Door

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Member Reviews

Absolutely loved this book! Beautifully written. Enjoyed the book and the wonderful characters. Such a great book. I highly recommend!
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I loved this book!! It's incredibly well-researched and full of interesting details. Everything presented on Arden's life, her determination and brilliance was really inspiring and moving.  
I received an ARC of this book which I would like to thank NetGalley, Gatekeeper Press and Louise Clare Johnson in exchange for an honest review.
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In the style of Julia and Julie, Louise Claire Johnson has written the very interesting and entertaining Behind the Red Door: How Elizabeth Arden's Legacy Inspired my Coming-of-Age Story in the Beauty Industry.  It is the story of Florence Nightingale Graham who changed her name and herself into the beauty empire Elizabeth Arden and a hundred years later, Louise Claire Johnson who dreams of becoming the CEO of the Elizabeth Arden Company.  The book is a combination of a biography of Elizabeth Arden and a memoir of Louise Claire Johnson and both are fascinating.  It is a well written, well researched book that is very relevant today.  It is a must read for anyone interested in the cosmetics industry but I think everyone will enjoy this well told story.  I highly recommend it.  Thank you to NetGalley, the author, and the publisher for providing me with a digital copy of this book prior to publication in exchange for my review.  This review is being posted immediately to my GoodReads account and will be posted on Amazon and Barnes and Noble upon the book's publication.
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Louise Claire Johnson, Behind the Red Door, Gatekeeper Press, 2021.

Thank you, NetGalley and Gatekeeper Press for this uncorrected proof in exchange for an honest review. 

Louise Claire Johnson’s preface establishes the authenticity of the material used to develop two engaging stories: Elizabeth Arden/Florence Nightingale Graham/Mrs Elizabeth Graham’s, and that of the writer, Lou, as she becomes known to the reader.  The book moves smoothly between the history of Elizabeth Arden, the cosmetic company by that name, and Lou, the seeker of identity.  Initially she achieves that through Elizabeth Arden, the company as it has become in 2006. The story of Florence Nightingale Graham, soon to become identified with her company as Elizabeth Arden, begins with her leaving Toronto and boarding the train to New York in 1908. This device works smoothly, both because of Louise Claire Johnson’s facility with words and the connections made between the past and present. None of these connections are contrived, whether they are personal, geographical, issues and social change (of lack of change), or relationships. 

Elizabeth Arden’s story is an energising read about a woman dedicated to becoming a wealthy and competent entrepreneur, at the same time overturning men’s exclusive control of business, money, status, and power. She accomplishes this through a commodity that has its own detractors amongst women, cosmetics. Initial arguments against cosmetics revolved around morality – should women enhance the appearance with which they were born?  Married to this was the negative image they conveyed as the province theatrical woman, or worse. More recently, the women’s movement has argued both on the behalf of a woman’s right to use cosmetics as part of her own identification competing with the notion that cosmetics are used to enhance a woman’s appearance to the male gaze. Elizabeth Arden astutely made inner beauty, based on exercise, morning stretching, adequate sleep and eating well part of her regime. Initially she was able to only develop skin care products as make up was unacceptable. Her cleanse, cleanse, cleanse – obviously with an Elizabeth Arden cream – was an important part of her sales regime. 

With the emphasis on sales, we come to Lou’s connected Elizabeth Arden story. It is based  on her business studies and internships, sales related positions, and her first full time position, Marketing Coordinator. Her eventual rise to marketing across the three Arden entities – skincare, colour, and fragrance in the Geneva headquarters brings together the entities that have been part of Elizabeth Arden’s rise through the business world.  Lou is as driven as Elizabeth with her mantra: Plan Ahead + Work Hard = Achieve Goals. Unlike Elizabeth, Lou is conflicted throughout her sections of the book; but like her icon, she also creates different personas. Lou’s story is endearingly honest, highly work motivated but linked so closely with her family and friends, candour about herself, her ability, and her misgivings. She imparts her reflections on herself and her work through her blogs and ‘letters’ to her sage, Elizabeth Arden. 

In my introduction I noted the lack of contrivance in linking features of Elizabeth Arden’s experiences with those of the writer. Perhaps this is a simple observation. However, reading a book that achieves this is a real pleasure. So many writers do not have the capacity to use this device effectively. Louise Claire Johnson is a talented writer who has woven the stories of two incredible women, the politics of business and feminism, the draw of family, love and awakening to her real ambitions for her life into a book that is a pure joy to read.
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Date reviewed/posted: May 5, 2021
Publication date: May 4, 2021

When life for the entire galaxy and planet has turned on its end, you are continuing to #maskup and #lockdown to be in #COVID19 #socialisolation as the #thirdwave ( #fourthwave #fifthwave?) is upon us, superspeed readers like me can read 300+ pages/hour, so yes, I have read the book … and many more today.

I requested and received a temporary digital Advance Reader Copy of this book from #NetGalley, the publisher and the author in exchange for an honest review.  

From the publisher, as I do not repeat the contents or story of books in reviews, I let them do it as they do it better than I do 😸.

Nearly a century before #girlboss culture, Glossier ads, and glammed-up influencers were even glimmers on the horizon, there was Elizabeth Arden - the alter ego of Florence Nightingale Graham, a small-town Canadian girl who pioneered the global beauty industry (valued at $532B today!) and became the world’s wealthiest self-made woman.

By the end of the 1930s, it was said “there are only three American names known in every single corner of the globe: Singer Sewing, Coca-Cola, and Elizabeth Arden.” And yet, so few today know her story -- which, with the passage of time and the company changing hands in recent years, is under greater threat than ever of being lost to the footnotes of history. 

Now, journalist Louise Claire Johnson embarks on a mission to change that with Behind the Red Door: How Elizabeth Arden’s Legacy Inspired My Coming-of-Age Story in the Beauty Industry, set for release in hardcover and ebook with Gatekeeper Press on May 4, 2021. 

In just under three-hundred compulsively readable pages, Behind the Red Door takes readers on an exhilarating journey alongside two young women from the Toronto suburbs who arrive in Manhattan with big ambitions and bigger work ethics: Elizabeth (“Liz”) Arden and Louise (“Lou”) Johnson, who began an internship at Arden’s NYC headquarters in 2008 and worked her way up to senior global marketing manager before leaving to pursue a degree at Harvard in 2014.

A unique blend of biography and memoir, Behind the Red Door is structured chronologically in alternating “Liz” and “Lou” vignettes, following both women as they turn themselves into the success stories they once dreamed of becoming… and discover their true joys, hopes, fears, and inner strength along the way.

In Liz’s timeline -- peppered with fascinating facts about the cosmetic industry’s history, scenes of New York City at peak old-world glamour, and bold-faced names including Queen Elizabeth II and Marilyn Monroe (both fans and friends) -- the book charts new territory in revealing the extraordinary, stranger-than-fiction story of the first woman to grace the cover of TIME Magazine, reclaiming Elizabeth’s place as a feminist icon who redefined beauty and paved the way for generations of entrepreneurs, activists and independent women to come. 

In 2008, exactly one hundred years after “Liz” moved to Manhattan with dreams of becoming a self-made woman, the author makes the very same journey to begin her dream internship at Elizabeth Arden HQ. The age of social media is just beginning to dawn, the hustle-and-grind lifestyle is de rigueur, and at eighteen years old, “Lou” knows next to nothing about the beauty industry, but finds spiritual kinship with the woman who built it. In a few short years, her lifestyle looks a lot like the Millennial dream, with junior executive positions in Manhattan, Geneva, London… but as she ultimately uncovers in her diary entries addressed to Liz, it doesn’t quite feel like her dream after all.

Equal parts empowering educational biography and potent and relatable memoir, Behind the Red Door is an indispensable playbook for any woman looking to reconnect with her most authentic self and create a successful, fulfilled, beautiful life on her own terms.

I am pretty sure that there is nothing else I can say beyond the very lengthy description other than a great book has been written. I love EA's 8 Hour Cream ... it keeps this Canadian's dry skin happy ... and this autobiography was thoroughly enjoyable and wonderfully written and I will recommend it to friends, family, patrons and book clubs as well as it shows that dreams do not always work out how we wanted them to.

Take this book to the beach (or your back yard, porch or balcony) and enjoy it  - just wear a tonne of ELIZABETH ARDEN SPF1billion as you will lose track of time as you read this. - If we are in the 5th or 6th wave/mutation of COVID19 by then, stay inside: no tan is worth dying for.  

As always, I try to find a reason to not rate with stars as I simply adore emojis (outside of their incessant use by "🙏-ed Social Influencer Millennials/#BachelorNation survivors/Tik-Tok and YouTube  Millionaires/snowflakes / literally-like-overusers etc. " on Instagram and Twitter... Get a real job, people!) so let's give it 💄💄💄💄💄
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Thank you gatekeeperpress and @netgalley for an ARC of this novel about #ElizabethArden. I was drawn to this novel because I equate Red Door perfume with my mom. This was her favorite fragrance. So much so that she hid it from my childhood bestie and me....and herself!!! 

This novel was a delightful read that explored the life of Elizabeth Arden and the author. The parallels in their lives is uncanny, beginning with both being from Canada.The revelry of the author's adoration of Elizabeth Arden is immediately evident and continues throughout the novel. Arden’s success is astonishing. From bookkeeper to  beauty mogul, we could all take a page from her determination.
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MAKE ROOM FOR “LIZ” AND “LOU”. A book that is reminiscent of “Julia and “Julie” in that this is the story of two women:  “Liz”, Florence Nightingale Graham, aka, Elizabeth Arden and “Lou”, the author, who, 100 years later, would join Elizabeth Arden Co. as an intern and then become a full-time employee.  Both would leave Toronto to come to Manhattan,  Particularly interesting is the way the chapters are constructed:  “Liz” starts the chapter with information regarding not only what she is doing to develop her company but also includes an exacting historical detail about the time period worldwide while “Lou” details both her personal and work experience.  I found particularly delightful the author’s description of the time she worked and lived in Switzerland.  I could feel the cold air as she would tour the Alps or the picturesque towns as well as feeling the bleakness she was able to describe after living for too long without the support of family and friends.   Fans of so many genres can find this book appealing:  biographies, history, memoirs or travel—so much information.  I received an Advance Reader Copy of this book from NetGalley, Gatekeeper Press and the author in exchange for my honest review.
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Thank you to NetGalley for providing an eARC in exchange for an honest review.
4.5/5
I will admit, for the first 1/3-1/5 of this book, I found the dual layout of Elizabeth Arden's life and then Louise Johnson's life a tad gimmicky. We all like to compare ourselves to people in the past, but it almost came across as Johnson directly modelling her life on Arden's, and it came across as awkward at several points. However, once Johnson's adult life really starts and she takes her own path, each truly stands on their own.
I am fairly familiar with the development of the cosmetics/beauty industry, so that wasn't new to me- though if you aren't, it is an excellent primer! However, I wasn't particularly familiar with Arden aside from being a Canadian and having a counter at the Bay. She was a fascinating woman, and her life sadly held more tragedy than one might expect. I would recommend this to anyone interested in the beauty industry at all, or in Elizabeth Arden!
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An illuminating and accessible read that focuses on two women's determined ambition within the beauty industry. Elizabeth Arden, the daughter of a Canadian farmer, forged a name for herself -- and a reputation-- for holding women to higher standards of the achievable beauty she felt they were entitled to with the help of her hugely successful cosmetics. A near century later, Louise Claire Johnson leaves the GTA for New York to work for the Arden brand and slowly climbs the ranks 


The research is magnificent as is the obvious natural passion displayed in Johnson's verve and energy as if she cannot wait to turn the page on another scintillating and largely unknown facet of Arden's life. In the present, she offers us the gift of vulnerability: showing us the intrepid dreams of a young woman in an enviable job at times swallowed by cut throat business, debilitating homesickness ( beautifully rendered in the author's portions set in Geneva) and ultimately found by leaving the world forever in pursuit of a Harvard degree. 


Anyone who has ever wanted a deep, informed and lovingly detailed refrain on a Cosmetics mogul and her fascinating life as a a global entrepreneur will love this book. And the contemporary portions are a winsome balance --- a non snarky Devil Wears Prada, if you will, that lets us take an informed and intelligent look through a peek in Arden's famous door.
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This wonderfully written memoir/biography of Elizabeth Arden and her rise from humble beginnings to head of her iconic beauty brand is fascinating. At a time when very few women were running their own business, Elizabeth Arden, through hard work and determination, created her own brand of beauty products and built a global empire. Her story is beautifully told by the author, Louise Claire Johnson, in parallel with her own present day story of her internship at Elizabeth Arden. Details of her own ambitions and rise through the ranks of this iconic Company are cleverly woven into the narrative and diarised in her ‘little red book’, where she expresses her own self-doubt to the one woman who is her inspiration, Elizabeth Arden. I applaud the author for her brilliant debut novel and she is definitely one to watch. I do hope that someone will transfer this story to the screen as it would make a fabulous film. Highly recommended.
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Wonderful book about an amazing woman. Definitely one to add to your to be read list of you like a book about a kick ass woman.
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Oh man, I am a huge Elizabeth Arden fan so reading this book felt like  I knew her and we conversed LOL.. A huge thanks to NetGalley, and Gatekeeper Press for providing me with an advanced copy for review purposes. This book is brilliantly written and well researched and quite engrossing. If you enjoy historical fiction you will enjoy this book and I recommend it
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As a former New Yorker I remember hearing about Elizabeth Arden& the are’s Door Salon.ITT seemed only for New York high society woman.Fun to get this intimate look behind the door what it was truly like and learning about the real Elizabeth Arden.#netgalley#gatekeeperpress
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This was a very well done coming-of-adulthood story as well as a great biography of Elizabeth Arden.
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Very inspiring read. Love how she talked about how women couldn't get a credit card till 1974 without their husband's permission. Florence's character was so courageous as well. Elizabeth's journey is also amazing to see. Great read.
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This is a really interesting sort of mixed memoir between the author and the history of Elizabeth Arden. The writer, Louise Claire Johnson tells the story of the founder of the icon brand and her own as an intern in New York for the company. I found this book quite fascinating as I knew nothing about the start of the brand at all. When the first salon opened its doors in 1910 women were unable to lease property or obtain credit. Johnson's own story of starting her career in the beauty industry decades later was also really interesting. This is quite a unique book and I'd definitely recommend it to anyone interested in beauty industry history.
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Interesting and informative read Behind the Red Door was an enjoyable glimpse into a world I didn’t know much about, aside from spoiling myself.
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I loved this book!! It's incredibly well-researched and full of interesting details. The way the author weaves her own experiences into those of Elizabeth Arden is clever and very effective. It almost reads like dual-period historical fiction, but it's all true. Once I started reading this, I was instantly transported to Manhattan and even Geneva. The descriptions are vivid and the prose is exceptional. I have already recommended this book to several people.

Thanks to NetGalley, Gatekeeper Press, and Louise Claire Johnson for providing me with an advanced copy for review purposes.
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I received an advance copy of, Behind the Red Door, by Louis Claire Johnson.  This was an interesting book, it is very informative, on the history of make up.  The author weaves her story with the story of, Elizabeth Arden.
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