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Drag Performer 'Sexcilia' Built Name In Beach


January 23, 2004
Copyright ©2004 THE MIAMI HERALD. All rights reserved.

MAXWELL BLANDFORD, South Beach club promoter

A cross between one of Charlie's Angels and a James Bond girl, with a little Latina oomph, Sexcilia became known as a headliner in drag shows at Warsaw, the Delano and the salsa club Starfish.

Reynaldo Pagan Rivera, the 33-year-old who transformed himself into Sexcilia, died Jan. 14 from complications of acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

But the show will go on: Through song, dance, laughter and tears, Rivera's friends will celebrate his life from 9 p.m. to midnight Sunday at Jade Lounge, 1766 Bay Rd., in Miami Beach.

Those friends say Sexcilia was unmistakeable in South Beach's famous drag-queen scene.

''She took drag into completely different dimensions,'' said longtime South Beach club promoter Maxwell Blandford. ``A lot of drags now want to look like real girls, want to sing typical dance songs. But there was nothing typical of Sexcilia.''

Though Sexcilia's signature disco-era fashions, exaggerated heels, curled eyelashes and black wigs often turned heads, it was his one-of-a-kind performances that were most unforgettable. Sexcilia transformed himself into whomever he was impersonating: Eartha Kitt, Nancy Sinatra or Celia Cruz.

''When he was on stage all eyes were on him,'' said Elaine Lancaster, one of the world's most famous drag queens. ``He was all about making people laugh and liberating them from themselves.''

Among those who enjoyed his performances: Madonna, the late Gianni Versace and even Cher, who was often impersonated by Sexcilia.

One of Sexcilia's favorite -- and funniest -- characters was Pocahontas, riding onstage in a makeshift canoe. The only catch: ''She called herself `Pocahooker','' recalled Miami Beach drag queen and friend Adora.

However, life away from the strobe lights, VIP entrances and velvet rope wasn't so glamorous for Pagan.

Pagan, as he was known when not performing, grew up in Puerto Rico and came to Miami in the early 1990s with a college degree in fashion design, friends say.

After he told his family he was gay, Pagan set out to create a new life -- and a new persona -- for himself in Miami Beach.

In the early 1990s, when drag queens and club kids emerged as the ruling force of SoBe's blossoming nightlife, Sexcilia was born.

''He was sort of like a hot Latin mama. Sort of cheap. But with a flair,'' said Lancaster.

Sexcilia took a liking to vintage clothing, big wigs and caked-on makeup. His petite, girlish figure, friends say, made his act quite believable.

''He was very tiny and had a beautiful size six body,'' said Merle Weiss, who once dressed Sexcilia with clothes from her Lincoln Road boutique. ``He had great tastes in clothes and never looked silly or overdone.''

Dressing in drag often proved profitable for Sexcilia, who made at least $200 each time he appeared at a club, party or special event, Lancaster said. When there wasn't money involved, Pagan wouldn't become Sexcilia.

''He had a huge talent,'' Adora said. ``He was one of the few who lasted so long.''

About seven years ago, Pagan learned he had AIDS, Adora said.

Sexcilia continued appearing at various clubs, including crobar each Sunday, to make money.

Two months ago, he developed breathing difficulties, and his health rapidly deteriorated.

Donations from Sunday's memorial will be used to pay for a funeral and to help local AIDS organizations.

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