Raquel Welch – A&E Biography42:40

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Published on September 20, 2016

Raquel Welch

VIDEO of Raquel Welch – A&E Biography


Raquel Welch
Welch at a Hudson Union Society event
Welch in April 2010
Born Jo Raquel Tejada
September 5, 1940 (age 76)
Chicago, Illinois, United States
Nationality American
Occupation Actress, singer
Years active 1959–present
Spouse(s) James Welch
(m. 1959; div. 1964)
Patrick Curtis
(m. 1967; div. 1972)
André Weinfeld
(m. 1980; div. 1990)
Richard Palmer
(m. 1999; separated 2008)
Children 2, including Tahnee Welch

Raquel Welch (born Jo Raquel Tejada; September 5, 1940) is an American actress and singer.

She first won attention for her role in Fantastic Voyage (1966), after which she won a contract with 20th Century Fox. They lent her contract to a British studio, for whom she made One Million Years B.C. (1966). She had only three lines in the film, yet images of her in the doe-skin bikini which she wore became best-selling posters that turned her into a celebrity sex symbol. She later starred in notable films including Bedazzled (1967), Bandolero!(1968), 100 Rifles (1969), and Myra Breckinridge (1970). She made several television variety specials. In late 2008, she became a spokeswoman for Foster Grant‘s reading glasses campaign, created by Ferrara and Company.[1]

Welch’s unique persona on film made her into an icon of the 1960s and 1970s. She carved out a place in movie history portraying strong female characters and breaking the mold of the submissive sex symbol.[2][3] In 1995, Welch was chosen by Empire magazine as one of the “100 Sexiest Stars in Film History”. Playboy ranked Welch No. 3 on their “100 Sexiest Stars of the Twentieth Century” list. In 2011, Men’s Health ranked her No. 2 in its “Hottest Women of All Time” list.[4]

Early life, personal life[edit]

Welch was born as Jo-Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois. Her father, Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo (1911–1976), was an aeronautical engineer from La Paz, Bolivia to Agustin Tejada and Raquel Urquizo who Welch had been named after.[5][6][7] Her mother, Josephine Sarah (née Hall; 1909–2000), was the daughter of architect Emery Stanford Hall and his wife Clara Louise Adams, and was of English origin originally of Salford, Lancashire, that dated back to the Mayflower.[7][8][9][10][11][12] She has a younger brother James “Jim” Stanford and younger sister Gayle Carole.

As a young girl, Raquel wanted to perform. She studied ballet from age seven to seventeen but gave it up after her instructor told her that she didn’t have the right figure.[13] Her parents divorced after moving to California.[14] At age 14, she won a beauty title as Miss Photogenic, Miss Contour.[15] While attending La Jolla High School she won the title of Miss Fairest of the Fair at the San Diego County Fair.[16]

Welch graduated from high school in 1958[17] and a year later, after becoming pregnant,[14] married her high school sweetheart, James Welch on May 8, 1959.[14] They had two children, Damon (born November 6, 1959) and Latanne Welch (born December 26, 1961), but they separated in 1962 and divorced in 1964.[15] She married producer Patrick Curtis in 1966 and divorced him in 1972. In 1980, she began a 10-year marriage to André Weinfeld, whom she divorced in 1990. Welch wed Richard Palmer in 1999 but then separated from him in 2008. Welch has stated that she does not intend to marry again.[18]

Professional career[edit]

Seeking an acting career, Welch won a scholarship in drama,[14] took classes at San Diego State College and won several parts in local theater productions.[15] In 1959, she played the title role in The Ramona Pageant, a yearly outdoor play at Hemet, California, which is based on the novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson and Bob Biloe.

She got a job as a weather forecaster at KFMB, a local San Diego television station. Due to her demanding work schedule, she quit school. After her separation from James Welch, she moved with her two children to Dallas, Texas, where she made a “precarious living” as amodel for Neiman Marcus and as a cocktail waitress.[15]

Patrick Curtis[edit]

She initially intended to move to New York City from there, but moved back to Los Angeles in 1963[15] and started applying for roles with the movie studios. During this period of time, she met former child star and Hollywood agent Patrick Curtis who became her personal and business manager.[14] They developed a plan to turn Welch into a sex symbol.[15] To avoid typecasting as a Latina, he convinced her to use her husband’s last name.[15]

She was cast in small parts in two films and landed small roles in the television series Bewitched, McHale’s Navy and The Virginian. She also got work on the weekly variety series The Hollywood Palace as a billboard girl and presenter. She was one of many women who auditioned for the role of Mary Ann Summers on the television series Gilligan’s Island.

Welch’s first featured role was in beach film A Swingin’ Summer (1965). That same year, she won the Deb Star and was noticed by the wife of producer Saul David, who recommended her to 20th Century Fox, where with the help of Curtis she landed a contract.[15] She agreed to seven-year nonexclusive contract, five pictures over the next five years and two floater.[14]

20th Century Fox[edit]

She was cast in a leading role in the sci-fi film Fantastic Voyage (1966), in which she portrayed a member of a medical team that is miniaturized and injected into the body of an injured diplomat with the mission to save his life. The film was a hit and made her a star.[15] She was the last star to be created under the studio system.[citation needed]

One Million Years B.C.[edit]

Welch in the deer-skin bikini from the film 1000 B.C.

This promotional still of Welch in the deer-skin bikini became a best-selling poster and turned her into an instant pin-up girl.

Fox Studio loaned Welch to Hammer Studios in Britain where she starred in One Million Years B.C. (1966) – a remake of the 1940 Hal Roach film, One Million B.C. Her only costume was a two-piece deer skin bikini. She was described as “wearing mankind’s first bikini” and the fur bikini was described as a “definitive look of the 1960s”.[19][20] One author said, “although she had only three lines in the film, her luscious figure in a fur bikini made her a star and the dream girl of millions of young moviegoers”.[15] A publicity still of her in the bikini became a best-selling poster and turned her into an instant pin-up girl.[21] The film raised Welch’s stature as a leading sex symbol of the era.[22] In 2011, Time listed Welch’s B.C. bikini in the “Top Ten Bikinis in Pop Culture”.[23]

She went to Italy to appear in a heist movie for MGM, The Biggest Bundle of Them All then made (at a fee of $65,000) Shoot Loud… Louder… I Don’t Understand for Joe E. Levine. She returned to Fox for her next movie, her first starring vehicle, the spy movie Fathom. She owed Fox four films, at one a year. She and Curtis also established their own production company, Curtwel.[24]

Fox wanted Welch to play Jennifer in The Valley of the Dolls but she refused, wanting to play the role of Neely. The studio was not interested.[25]

Later roles[edit]

After her appearance as lust incarnate in the hit Bedazzled, she returned to the United States and appeared in the Western film Bandolero!, with James Stewart and Dean Martin, which was followed by the private-eye drama Lady in Cement with Frank Sinatra. Her looks and fame led Playboy to dub her the “Most Desired Woman” of the 1970s. Welch presented at the Academy Award ceremony several times during the 1970s due to her popularity.[26][27][28] She accepted the Best Supporting Actress Oscar on behalf of fellow actress Goldie Hawn when she could not be there to accept it.[29]

Welch in blue scarf and high-collared gray jacket, with polka-dot feathered cap.

Welch at the premiere of Bette Midler’s movie, The Rose, 1979

Welch’s most controversial role came in Myra Breckinridge. She took the part as the film’s transsexual heroine in an attempt to be taken seriously as an actress, but the movie was a failure. Welch starred in the movie, 100 Rifles, a 1969 western directed by Tom Gries. The film also starred Jim Brown, Burt Reynolds, and Fernando Lamas.

Television special[edit]

In 1970, Welch teamed up with Tom Jones and producer/choreographer David Winters of Winters-Rosen Productions[30] for the television special Raquel!, considered by some viewers to be a classic pairing together of 1970s popular culture icons in their prime. The multimillion-dollar television song-and-dance extravaganza was filmed around the world, from Paris to Mexico. The show featured lavish production numbers of classic songs from the era, extravagant costumes, and guests including John Wayne and Bob Hope in the Wild West. She also appeared in a season three episode of The Muppet Show (1978).

In addition to her television special, Raquel!, her television appearances include the movies The Legend of Walks Far Woman and Right to Die in which she turned in a stirring performance as a woman stricken with Lou Gehrig’s disease, and in the PBS series American Family, about a Mexican American family in East Los Angeles. She has appeared in the night-time soap opera Central Park West and madeinfomercials and exercise videos.

Additional film roles[edit]

Welch in a dark scoop top, wide belt, and tuxedo-styled jacket, hair styled up

Welch at the 39th Emmy Awards Governor’s Ball in September 1987

She followed with a series of films that included The Three Musketeers (1973) and The Wild Party (1975).

In a 1975 interview Welch said she thought she had been “good” in Kansas City Bomber, Myra Breckenridge and The Last of Sheila “but being good in a bad movie doesn’t do anything for your career.”[31]

Along with Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren, Welch was among the candidates considered for the part of Alexis Carrington on the ABC prime time drama Dynasty which began in 1981, before the producers settled on Joan Collins. The actress was due to star in an 1982 adaptation of John Steinbeck‘s Cannery Row, but was fired by the producers a few days into production. The producers said that at 40 years old she was too old to play the character. She was replaced withDebra Winger. Welch sued and collected a $10.8 million settlement.[32]

Singing career[edit]

In 1987, she flirted with a pop singing career, thus releasing the dance single “This Girl’s Back In Town”. She has performed in a one-woman nightclub musical act in Las Vegas and has starred on Broadway in Woman of the Year, receiving praise for following Lauren Bacall in the title role. She also starred in Victor/Victoria, having less success following Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli in the title roles.

Guest television appearances[edit]

In 1979, for the series Mork & Mindy, Welch was featured as an alien bounty hunter pursuing Robin Williams in “Mork v. the Necrotons”. In a 1997 episode of the comedy series Seinfeld, entitled “The Summer of George“, Welch played a highly temperamental version of herself, assaulting series characters Kramer and Elaine, the former because he fired her from an acting job and the latter because Welch mistakenly thought that Elaine was mocking her. She also appeared as a guest on the American comedy series Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, as Sabrina’s flamboyant Aunt Vesta.

In 2001, she had a supporting role in the hit comedy film Legally Blonde opposite Reese Witherspoon. She also appeared in Welcome to The Captain, which premiered on CBS television on February 4, 2008.

Achievements and awards[edit]

In 1974, Welch won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical or Comedy for The Three Musketeers. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for her performance in the television drama Right to Die(1987). In 1994, Welch received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard. In 2001, she was awarded the Imagen Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award for her positive promotion of Americans of Latin heritage throughout her career.[33][34]

Beauty and business career[edit]

The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program book and videos were first released in 1984. The book, written by Welch with photographs by André Weinfeld, includes a hatha yoga fitness program, her views on healthy living and nutrition, as well as beauty and personal style. The Multi-Platinum collection of Fitness and Yoga videos were produced and directed by André Weinfeld.[35][36][37][38] As a businesswoman, Welch succeeded with her signature line of wigs. She also began a jewelry and skincare line, although neither of those ventures compared to the success of her wig collection HAIRuWEAR.[39]

In January 2007, Welch was selected as the newest face of MAC Cosmetics Beauty Icon series. Her line features several limited-edition makeup shades in glossy black and tiger-print packaging. The tiger print motif of the collection celebrates Welch’s feline and sensuous image: “strong and wild, yet sultry and exotic”.[40][41]

Personal life[edit]

Welch has been married four times:

  • James Welch (1959–64), publicist and agent; divorced
  • Patrick Curtis (1967–72), director and producer; divorced
  • André Weinfeld (1980–90), producer, director and journalist; divorced
  • Richard Palmer (1999–), separated

Welch is the mother of Damon Welch (born November 6, 1959) and actress Tahnee Welch (born Latanne Rene Welch, December 26, 1961). Tahnee followed her mother’s December 1979 example and appeared on the cover of Playboy in the November 1995 issue and in a nude pictorial inside it.[42]

In popular culture[edit]

Raquel Welch helped transform America’s feminine ideal into its current state. Her beautiful looks and eroticism made her the definitive 1960s and 1970s sex icon, rather than the blonde bombshell of the late-50’s as typified by Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and others.[43][44][45] Welch became a star in the mid-60’s and was exotic, brunette, and smolderingly sexual.[46][47] Her countless publicity photos helped to popularize her image, dress style, and 60’s and 70’s fashion trends. Welch and other actresses also made big hairpopular.

Raquel Welch is one of the first and few actresses who portrayed a female leading role in a Western movie. Hannie Caulder (1971) was a clear influence on later revenge films.[48]Quentin Tarantino said that the film was one of his inspirations for Kill Bill (2003).[49] It took many years, arguably until the 1990s, until female leads appeared in mainstream US cinema who are strong – without adding fictional or overemphasizing masculine traits (or portraying them as femme fatales).[50]

Additionally, Welch was a significant figure in the 1994 film The Shawshank Redemption. The poster that Andy Dufresne had on his prison cell wall at the time of his escape was of Welch whilst wearing her outfit from One Million Years B.C. Prior to Dufresne’s escape being realized, the warden refers to Welch as Miss Fuzzy Britches.[51]


Television work[edit]


  • Raquel Welch: Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage, Publisher: Weinstein Books (March 29, 2010), ISBN 978-1-60286-097-1


  1. Jump up^ “Raquel Welch Stars in Foster Grant TV Commercial”.businesswire.com. 9 February 2009.
  2. Jump up^ Öncü, Ece. (2012, February 9). Spend the Weekend with Raquel Welch and Film Society – Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  3. Jump up^ Heavey, John. (2012, February 23).Video: Two Conversations with Raquel Welch – Film Society of Lincoln Center. Retrieved August, 2015.
  4. Jump up^ Spitznagel, Eric. (2012, March 8). Interview with Raquel Welch: MensHealth.com. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  5. Jump up^ Armando Tejada in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro immigration cards 1900. With parents names – (Agustin Tejada and Raquel Urquizo).
  6. Jump up^ Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage By Raquel Welch – ” I WAS BORN in 1940 in the Windy City, Chicago. Not ideal for a new- born baby girl with thin Mediterranean blood, courtesy of my Spanish father.” (Page: 4)
  7. ^ Jump up to:a b “Tavis Smiley. Shows. Raquel Welch. April 19, 2010”. PBS. April 19, 2010. Retrieved December 30, 2010.
  8. Jump up^ Beyond the Cleavage By Raquel Welch – “My mother was Anglo. Her ancestry dated back to John Quincy Adams and the Mayflower”.(Page: 4)
  9. Jump up^ Rogers, Daniel T. “Raquel Welch family tree”.rootsweb.ancestry.com. Ancestry.com. Retrieved December 30,2010.
  10. Jump up^ Ventura, R. (October 17, 2007). “Raquel Welch: «Si me ven como una ´sex symbol´ es que ésa es mi identidad profesional”. www.levante-emv.com. (Spanish)
  11. Jump up^ “Read Chapter 1 of Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage”. Oprah.com. March 29, 2010. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  12. Jump up^ “Raquel Welch Biography (1940-)”. FilmReference.com.
  13. Jump up^ Avery, Susan (July 10, 2010). “Raquel Welch, Reluctant Sex Symbol, Talks About Making Amends With Her Kids”. ParentDish.com.
  14. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f “Raquel Welch”. Glamour Girls of the Silver Screen. Retrieved August 15, 2013.
  15. ^ Jump up to:a b c d e f g h i j Otfinoski, Steven (2007). Latinos in the arts.Infobase Publishing. p. 243. ISBN 978-0-8160-6394-9.
  16. Jump up^ Welch, Diane (March 19, 2006). “The way we were – ‘Fairest of the Fair’ part of Del Mar’s history”. San Diego Union Tribune.
  17. Jump up^ “Yearbook – 1958 La Jolla High School La Jolla, CA”.Classmates.com. Retrieved 15 July 2014.
  18. Jump up^ “Welch Won’t Marry Again”. September 7, 2011. RetrievedAugust 15, 2013.
  19. Jump up^ Filmfacts 1967. University of Southern California. Division of Cinema. 1967. Retrieved May 24, 2011.
  20. Jump up^ Mansour, David (2005). From Abba to Zoom: a pop culture encyclopedia of the late 20th century. Andrews McMeel Publishing. p. 345. ISBN 978-0-7407-5118-9.
  21. Jump up^ Westcott, Kathryn (5 June 2006). “The Bikini: Not a brief affair”. BBC News. Retrieved 17 September 2008.
  22. Jump up^ Bale, Miriam (10 February 2012). “The GQ&A: Raquel Welch”.GQ. Retrieved 21 August 2013.
  23. Jump up^ Gayomali, Chris (July 5, 2011). “Raquel Welch’s Fur Bikini inOne Million Years B.C. – Top 10 Bikinis in Pop Culture”. Time. Retrieved 28 August 2012.
  24. Jump up^ Raquel Welch: Living Up to Her Legend Weller, George. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 11 Sep 1966: N10.
  25. Jump up^ WONDER WOMAN!! Hallowell, John. Los Angeles Times (1923-Current File) [Los Angeles, Calif] 14 July 1968: o26.
  26. Jump up^ “Brando spurns Oscar; Liza, ‘Godfather’ win”. Chicago Tribune. March 28, 1973. p. 1.(registration required)
  27. Jump up^ “People In The News”. Eugene Register-Guard. March 26, 1978. p. 10A.
  28. Jump up^ IMDB Raquel Welch
  29. Jump up^ AP (April 8, 1970). “Favorite, longshot take home Oscars”. The Palm Beach Post.
  30. Jump up^ Brown, Les (1971) [1971]. “Raquel!”. Television: The Business Behind the Box. Harcourt Brace Jovanovich. pp. 187, 188.ISBN 978-0-15-688440-2.
  31. Jump up^ Raquel Welch: A Sex Symbol And Happily: A Sex Symbol And Happily By Jeannette Smyth. The Washington Post (1974-Current file) [Washington, D.C] 08 May 1975: B1.
  32. Jump up^ AP (June 25, 1986). “Raquel Welch Wins $10.8 Million Judgment”. APnewsarchive.com.
  33. Jump up^ “16th Annual Imagen Awards – Winners”. imagen.org. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  34. Jump up^ “Actress Raquel Welch”. pbs.org. Retrieved 10 April 2015.
  35. Jump up^ “Raquel: Total Beauty and Fitness” (1984) on IMDB
  36. Jump up^ “A Week With Raquel” (1986) on IMDB
  37. Jump up^ “Lose 10 Lbs. in 3 Weeks” (1988) on IMDB
  38. Jump up^ “Raquel: Body & Mind” (1989) on IMDB
  39. Jump up^ “Hairuwear”. Hairuwear. Retrieved December 12, 2010.
  40. Jump up^ MAC. (2007). Cosmetics Fetes Screen Siren Raquel Welch as the Newest MAC Beauty Icon. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  41. Jump up^ Pittilla, Mary Jane (February 2, 2007). “Raquel Welch becomes MAC beauty icon”. Retrieved March 19, 2008.
  42. Jump up^ D’Orazio, Sante (November 1995). “Cover page”. Playboy. 42(11). U.S. pp. 74–81.
  43. Jump up^ Pulp International. (2010). Share the Welch. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  44. Jump up^ Ruenes, Christopher and Countryman, Stefan. (2012). Raquel Welch Retrospective. Columbia Daily Spectator. Retrieved July 11, 2016.
  45. Jump up^ D’Addario, Daniel. (2012). Retrospective Body of Work: Screen Siren Raquel Welch Gets Her Lincoln Center Retrospective Raquel Welch Restrospective. Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  46. Jump up^ Mansour, David. From Abba to Zoom: A Pop Culture Encyclopedia of the Late 20th Century. Andrews McMeel Publishing. June 1, 2005, p. 522.
  47. Jump up^ Better in the Dark. Hottie Hall of Fame: Raquel Welch. Retrieved July 12, 2016.
  48. Jump up^ Film Society Lincoln Center. (2015). Hannie Caulder. Retrieved August 5, 2015.
  49. Jump up^ Peary, Gerald. Quentin Tarantino: Interviews, Revised and Updated. University Press of Mississippi. October 17, 2013, p. 119.
  50. Jump up^ American Film. Hannie Caulder 1971. (2013) Retrieved March 6, 2015.
  51. Jump up^ Film School Rejects. (2014). 12 Movies to Watch After You See ‘The Shawshank Redemption’. Retrieved July 12, 2016.

External links[edit]

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