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Maxine Powell

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Information about Maxine Powell

Profile image of Maxine Powell

Profession

Category:
EntertainmentMakers
Occupation(s):
Etiquette Director
Talent Agent

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Coral
Favorite Food:
Broccoli
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
London, England
Favorite Quote:
Beauty Is Self-Discipline.

Birthplace

Born:
5/30/1915
Birth Location:
Texarkana, Texas

Profession

Category:
EntertainmentMakers
Occupation(s):
Etiquette Director
Talent Agent

Favorites

Favorite Color:
Coral
Favorite Food:
Broccoli
Favorite Time of Year:
Spring
Favorite Vacation Spot:
London, England
Favorite Quote:
Beauty Is Self-Discipline.

Birthplace

Born:
5/30/1915
Birth Location:
Texarkana
See how Maxine Powell is related to other HistoryMakers

Biography

Motown talent agent Maxine Powell was born in Texarkana, Texas, and raised in Chicago, Illinois, by her aunt, Mary James Lloyd, who taught etiquette and refinement. Powell attended Keith and Willard elementary schools. Before Powell graduated from Hyde Park High School in 1933, her aunt passed away. Powell attended Madame C.J. Walker’s School of Beauty Culture and worked as a manicurist to finance her acting studies; for eight years, she studied elocution with James Baron, playwright, producer, and director of the Negro Drama League. Powell also took dance and movement lessons from Chicago legend, Sammy Dyer.

Soon, Powell developed a one-woman show called An Evening with Maxine Powell complete with pantomime and skits and performed with the first African American group to perform at the Chicago Theatre. At the same time, Powell taught etiquette as a personal maid to wealthy clientele and held fashion shows featuring the Fashionettes.

After reading a magazine article about John White’s nine-story, 200 room Gotham Hotel, Powell visited Detroit for eleven days in 1945; soon after she moved to Detroit and was teaching self-improvement and modeling classes. In 1951, Powell established the Maxine Powell Finishing and Modeling School. In 1953, Powell bought and remodeled a huge house on Ferry Street which became the largest banquet facility in Detroit for African Americans. As a member of the Zonta Club, Powell brought black productions and artists to Detroit venues; as head of her own agency, she was the first to place black models with several of Detroit’s automobile companies and in mainstream print ads. In 1964, Motown founder Berry Gordy’s sister, Gwen Gordy Fuqua, a top Powell model, convinced Gordy to establish a Powell finishing school for Motown talent. Powell taught Marvin Gaye posture and how to sing with his eyes open. Diana Ross, The Temptations, and Martha Reeves acknowledge Powell as the one who taught them how to enter a room and work with their fans.

From 1971 to 1985, Powell taught personal development at Wayne County Community College. After 1985, Powell began working as a consultant on an individual basis.

Maxine Powell passed away on October 14, 2013.

See how Maxine Powell is related to other HistoryMakers
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  • Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Maxine Powell's interview
  • Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Maxine Powell lists her favorites
  • Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Maxine Powell describes her mother's family background
  • Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Maxine Powell describes the aunt who raised her, pt. 1
  • Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Maxine Powell talks about her father
  • Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Maxine Powell remembers her aunt's stern discipline
  • Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Maxine Powell describes her earliest childhood memory
  • Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Maxine Powell remembers her childhood in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Maxine Powell describes the sights, sounds and smells of her childhood
  • Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Maxine Powell recalls her childhood concerns about racial discrimination
  • Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Maxine Powell describes how her aspirations developed as a child
  • Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Maxine Powell remembers how her aunt's influence taught her to deal with racism
  • Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Maxine Powell recalls a lesson from her aunt
  • Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Maxine Powell remembers the African American community of her childhood in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Maxine Powell describes responses to discrimination she saw in the African American community of her childhood and today
  • Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Maxine Powell locates the origins of the Maxine Powell System in her early concerns about racial discrimination
  • Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Maxine Powell remembers studying elocution with James Baron
  • Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Maxine Powell remembers a theatrical experience that helped her develop the Maxine Powell System
  • Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Maxine Powell remembers James Baron
  • Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Maxine Powell talks about her experiences as a performer in Chicago, Illinois
  • Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Maxine Powell remembers the neighborhood she moved to after her adoptive parents' deaths
  • Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Maxine Powell recalls working as a personal maid
  • Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Maxine Powell remembers how she responded to disrespect while working as a personal maid
  • Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Maxine Powell talks about the jobs she had prior to becoming a personal maid
  • Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Maxine Powell remembers her friends Lois Parham and Ruth Nemo
  • Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Maxine Powell recalls being adopted by Lois Parham and Ruth Nemo
  • Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Maxine Powell recalls being discouraged from joining the Women's Army Corps
  • Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Maxine Powell recalls being discouraged from being a manicurist
  • Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Maxine Powell describes meeting Leila King at the Gotham Hotel in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Maxine Powell remembers becoming a manicurist at the Gotham Hotel in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Maxine Powell describes her guardians' opinion of her move to Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Maxine Powell talks about class distinctions within the African American community of her youth
  • Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Maxine Powell describes her room at the Gotham Hotel in Detroit, Michigan
  • Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Maxine Powell talks about being entertainment director for Zonta International in Detroit, Michigan