Motown Alumni Pay Tribute to Former Etiquette Coach Maxine Powell

"Chief of Charm" honored for transforming Motown's "diamonds in the rough."

Posted: 08/27/2013 10:50 AM EDT
Maxine Powell, Smokey Robinson

Motown alumni returned to their label home in honor of etiquette coach Maxine Powell Monday (Aug. 26) night. Smokey Robinson, Martha Reeves and the Four Tops’ Duke Fakir, were among those at Detroit's Motown Historical Museum to tribute Powell, formerly in charge of artist development.

"It didn't matter who you became during the course of your career — how many hits you had, how well your name was known around the world," Robinson said at the ceremony. "Two days a week when you were back in Detroit you had to go to artists' development. It was mandatory."

Powell, who refuses to reveal her age, is credited with polishing the Motown "diamonds in the rough" and prepping them to "perform for kings and queens," Robinson added.

Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr. recorded a video message for his longtime colleague, noting select "Maxine-Powell-isms," like "do not protrude the buttocks," a lesson she taught female performers. "You had style," he said. "You gave them class."

Gordy added that were it not for her help, "the Motown legacy would not be what it is today."  

Powell expressed gratitude for the honor. "I love all of the Motown artists," she said. "This has been a blessing. I thank God for allowing me to be here." 

Born in Texas, Powell worked as a professional model in Chicago before relocating to the Motor City and eventually opening her own modeling and finishing school. Post-Motown, she taught at Detroit's Wayne County Community College until 1985.      

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(Photo: AP Photo/Motown Museum, Andre Smith)

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