Woman responsible for Motown’s style dies at 98

Maxine Powell ran finishing school for artists like Marvin Gaye, Martha Reeves

Published On: Oct 14 2013 03:46:54 PM EDT   Updated On: Oct 14 2013 03:53:55 PM EDT
DETROIT -

The woman responsible for leading Motown’s famed finishing school passed away.

Maxine Powell was the catalyst behind the Motown school where artists where taught about style, class and refinement as part of Motown’s Artist Development Department.

She died peacefully surrounded by Motown family and close friends at Providence Hospital in Southfield, Monday.

Powell was 98-years-old.

She is best known for her teaching role within the Motown record company. She guided many young aspiring superstars—most of which came from Detroit’s neighborhoods.

Powell was born in Texas and was raised in Chicago, Illinois, where she began her career as an actress at the age of 14.

She then came to Detroit and opened The Maxine Powell Finishing School—where Ms. Powell trained African-American models, of which Berry Gordy’s sister Gwen was one of them.

In her role, she focused on preparing young Motown artists and polishing them for their lives in the spotlight. Some of her training for them included teaching Marvin Gaye to sing with his eyes open, teaching young artists to balance books on their heads leading to improved posture and teaching artists how to properly exit limousines, to name a few.

Many Motown greats including Mary Wilson (original member of the Supremes), Martha Reeves and others credit Powell as the woman who taught them how to confidentially enter a room and represent themselves in a polished manner when engaging with fans.

Stars like Smokey Robinson, Cal Street of the Velvelettes, Duke Fakir of Four Tops honored her in August 2013 for her contributions to their careers and making Motown artists recognized for their polished performance and presentation.