For nearly 50 years, Maxine Powell served as a mentor to Motown’s greatest hit music stars: The Jackson 5, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, Diana Ross & the Supremes, the Four Tops and Marvin Gaye. Young artists would come to Motown and were sent to Powell at the Artists Development Department, also called the “Motown Finishing School.” There, she would teach them to learn how to sit, how to walk and how to talk to media.
The personal development coach from Texas had closed her own finishing school in Detroit to work with Motown in 1964. She told the Associated Press that the one artist that didn’t need her help was Stevie Wonder. In another interview, Mary Wilson of the Supremes recounted that Powell told the starlets, “Dance not with your buttocks, but with your knees — “you’re not out on the streets here.”
The teacher of “class, style and refinement” was recently honored at the Motown Museum in Detroit this past August. It was just in time – the Motown icon passed away Monday at age 98 at Providence Hospital in Southfield, MI.