Remembering the Orlando 49: Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez

Remembering the Orlando 49: Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez

Every week between now and the one-year anniversary of the Pulse Nightclub shootings, Orlando Weekly will profile a person killed on June 12, 2016. This week: Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez

With a flick of his wrist to apply black winged eyeliner or the careful precision he used to slick on glittery lip gloss, Juan Pablo Rivera Velázquez could give people the makeover of a lifetime.

The 37-year-old makeup artist and hairstylist nurtured a fan base at Alta Peluquería D'Magazine Salon, a business he ran with his 16-year partner, Luis Daniel Conde, in Kissimmee. Together they helped women in their community feel beautiful, says Wanda Ferrer, a friend and client of the couple.

Both from Puerto Rico, the couple loved to dress up and go dancing on the weekends, Ferrer says. That's why they were at Pulse on the morning of June 12, along with two friends. When the shooting began, Rivera Velázquez, Conde and their friends died in the massacre that left 45 others dead as well.

"My soul is saddened and this wound in my heart will never heal from the loss of my two great friends," wrote the couple's mutual friend Millie Ann Silva Castillo on Facebook. "I will always remember these two beautiful people as always smiling and with good humor, always positive, with good and kind hearts ... they have left a good and beautiful memory in this world and in my heart, and I'm sure in the hearts of everyone who was blessed to know them. Their unfair departure has hurt me so much that I don't have the words to express my deep sorrow. I love you guys and I always will."

Six months after his death, Rivera Velázquez's sister, Jessica Silva, re-opened her brother's beauty salon in south Orlando and relaunched her brother's makeup line, "Color Face Creation," dubbing it "CFC by Juan P." Silva also named the new salon "D'Magazine by Juan P." in honor of Rivera Velázquez. In an interview, Silva says it's been tough to throw herself into a world she knew little about before her brother's death, but she's quickly learning.

"I couldn't just leave everything he worked for and suffered for," she says. "His dream has become my dream, and until the last day of my life, I will continue to do everything he wanted."

Velázquez's mother, Angelita Velázquez, used to work at the old salon with her son and partner. At the new business, she uses his former styling chair. Above her certification, she has placed a framed photo of the couple.

"I can't forget my Juan," she says. "As a parent, you always think you'll die first, not them. He was a professional and an extraordinary human being with a heart of gold. They were both wonderful people. I need them so much, but little by little, we're getting by."


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