A Woman to Know: Maxine Powell

Beauty is self-discipline. — Maxine

(photo by Tony Ding)


Diana Ross, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson — these stars owe much their stage presence to Maxine.

In the 1950s and 60s, Maxine ran her own charm school, the Maxine Powell Finishing and Modeling School, out of a giant house in Detroit. When she graduated from the famous Madame C.J. Walker Beauty School, Maxine was already renowned for her manners and class. Soon enough, Motown execs brought her in to the studio to train young talent how to woo the crowds (and the press). As Mary Wilson remembered, Maxine didn't just teach the stars "shoulders back" or "pinkies out." "These were tools for us as human beings," she said.

After her Motown heyday, Maxine struck up a successful career as a talent agent, working tirelessly to place black models in national ad campaigns, and, most importantly, and to reinvigorate the Detroit theater scene.

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** Thank you to Misty Stinnett for recommending Maxine as a woman to know! Send me your own recommendations. Reply to this newsletter with your lady and she could be featured in an upcoming edition. You can browse the archive here. **