Maxine Powell, the mentor behind the smooth success and individual charm of Motown Records’ stars for almost five decades, died Monday, the Detroit Free Press reported. She was 98.

Powell, who started as a personal development coach with Motown in 1964, was known for teaching Motown artists how to walk, talk and even think with class. She played an influential role in nurturing its future stars including Diana Ross and Marvin Gaye by giving them lessons in media relations and proper manners.

Mary Wilson, an original member of Motown’s Supremes, quoted Powell as saying, “One day, you may be performing before kings and queens.”

“And we actually did,” Wilson said in a 2002 interview with CNN. “But it was because they taught us how to sit, you know, to talk, and all of these kinds of things.”

In a statement Monday, Motown founder Berry Gordy said Powell was tough, but “poised, professional, and very thankful” as she worked with artists.

Gordy’s statement quoted Powell as telling the young artists: “I love you all, but don’t confuse me with your mother — she’s stuck with you, I’m not!”

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