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

Britney Winters is a Stanford graduate with an MBA from Harvard. And now, the Third Ward native is making a name for herself as hairpiece designer to the stars.

HOUSTON — Simone Biles. Naomi Campbell. Taraji P. Henson. And now, Mary J. Blige.

These celebrity powerhouses have all rocked wigs and extensions designed by Houston entrepreneur Britney Winters. Her Upgrade Boutique specializes in high-quality, custom hairpieces.

Blige sported long, golden locks from Upgrade during the Super Bowl halftime show Sunday night.

"She looked so good like from head to toe. She always brings it, but it was kind of like one of those moments, it was very surreal. I just couldn't believe it was happening" Winters told KHOU 11. "For her to be wearing our product in front of 100 million people on such a huge night, I was just like, 'Oh my God,' I'm just so thankful."

It was a full-circle moment for Winters, who grew up listening to Blige’s "Share My World" album on repeat with her aunt.

“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."

Credit: AP
Mary J. Blige performs during halftime of the NFL Super Bowl 56 football game between the Los Angeles Rams and the Cincinnati Bengals Sunday, Feb. 13, 2022, in Inglewood, Calif. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

The Houston native overcame a tough childhood in the Third Ward, and with grit and determination, earned a full-ride scholarship to Stanford.

“I knew I was different than everyone else. I was capable, and there were other Black students, but they were from a different background,” Winters told the Houston Chronicle. “I was smart, but I was a little ghetto.”

After graduating with a degree in engineering, Winters moved to New York where she was rooming with fellow Stanford alum actress Issa Rae.

She was soon forced to return to Houston to take over custody of her 8-year-old sister. But she wasn’t ready to give up on her dreams.

Winters worked in the corporate world for a while, but her heart wasn’t in it. So Winters and her sister, Farren, packed up and moved to Boston where she earned an MBA from Harvard.

Despite juggling school and caring for Farren, Winters was also driving 200 miles to New York just to get her “hot mess” hair done.

“And after years of pouring hours into presses, braids, perms, sew-ins, and detangling, this process became break-every-damn-comb-and-scream frustrating. For many Black women like myself, that experience was the norm,” she wrote in an article on inc.com.

That’s when she used her business savvy and hatched a plan to open her own luxury hair business. She told Forbes a friend loaned her enough money for a pop-up to test the market.

As a young Black woman, it wasn't easy, but connections from Harvard eventually helped her find investors who provided seed money for an online business.

"I think of all the people with great ideas who don't have access to networks (like Harvard's alumni)," Winters told Forbes. "I feel immense pressure to do well and succeed so that I can open the door for the next Black female founder."

As word of mouth spread, Winters’ online business flourished. She used those profits and money from investors to open Upgrade Boutique not far from her Third Ward neighborhood.

The little sister she helped raise is a college graduate and part of the business.

And now, the stars and their stylists are calling. Taraji P. Henson wore one of her hairpieces to the Emmys, according to Essence magazine.

Credit: Danny Moloshok/Invision/AP
Taraji P. Henson arrives at the 73rd Emmy Awards at the JW Marriott on Sunday, Sept. 19, 2021 at L.A. LIVE in Los Angeles. (Photo by Danny Moloshok/Invision for the Television Academy/AP Images)

Simone Biles looked fabulous in an Upgrade wig on an Essence magazine cover.

And Naomi Campbell wore Upgrade to the BET Awards.

Winters is not done yet. She plans to open her hair boutiques in other cities, including Los Angeles and New York.

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