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From Third Ward to Harvard to successful entrepreneur, Houston wig designer is turning heads

Simone Biles. Mary J. Blige. Naomi Campbell. Taraji P. Henson. These celebrity powerhouses have all rocked wigs by Houston native Britney Winters.

HOUSTON — When superstar Mary J. Blige took the stage at the Super Bowl, it was a milestone moment for Houston entrepreneur Britney Winters. 

During the halftime show, Blige sported long, golden locks from Britney's Upgrade Boutique in Houston.

That was just such an amazing opportunity," Britney recently told KHOU 11 News anchor Rekha Muddaraj. "I'm such a huge fan of hers, so to see her up there with something that was a part of the company I created, it was just a dream come true."

It was a full-circle moment for the Third Ward native who grew up listening to Blige with her aunt.

RELATED: Meet the Houston woman behind Mary J. Blige’s long, golden locks at the Super Bowl

I didn’t understand it at the time, but listening to Mary was therapy for her. But as I got older and went through my own trials and heartache, Mary became therapy for me” Winters posted on Instagram. “She’s my auntie in my head and I admire her so much! To be able to provide the wig for such a huge moment in her career is a dream come true for me." 

Her childhood wasn't easy.

"My great grandmother raised me until I was about 12 years old -- until she passed away from breast cancer."

 Britney bounced around for years, living with different relatives. But she excelled in school.        

"Because at times, my home life wasn't so stable, I wanted that distraction." 

A favorite teacher at Booker T. Washington, the magnet high school for engineering professions, encouraged her to apply to Stanford University. She got a full-ride scholarship.

"Not always the goal, but once I found out about it, it became the goal," Britney said. "Once I saw the palm trees, this is where I have to be."

She studied engineering at Stanford and returned to Houston for a job in finance after graduation.

A few years later, Britney was accepted to Harvard Business School. 

While going to school in Boston and caring for her younger sister, she got the idea for her business after trips to New York City to get her "hot mess" hair done.

"I was just spending so much time and money on hair," Britney said. "I was struggling to find a stylist. Me and some of the other black female students, we started taking day trips to New York City to get our hair done. We were riding the bus."

The time -- and money -- spent inspired her to design her own wigs.

Her engineering background, and business experience, led to Upgrade Boutique, the digital solution for those wanting customized, high-quality wigs and extensions.

"We're providing the wig, then we hand it off to the stylist, once you choose the stylist, then they color and customize it to your specifications," she explained.

She opened her flagship store a few months ago, just a few blocks from where she grew up.     

"When the mom guilt creeps in, I remind myself, I'm doing this for my daughter, she is my motivation," Britney said. "I want her to have a head start in life. I don't want her to work as hard as I did."

She also encourages other girls to seek out a STEM -- science, technology, engineering or math -- education.

With her online business, Britney has customers all over the world, including celebrities like Simone Biles. Naomi Campbell and Taraji P. Henson. That's why she's set her sights on Los Angeles for her next boutique.

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