All About Raquel Welch
Jo Raquel Tejada, more commonly known as Raquel Welch, was born in Chicago, Illinois on September 5, 1940. One of the most prominent international sex symbols of the 1960s and 1970s, Raquel’s glamorous career has lasted for decades. From epic movies to fashionable wigs, Raquel’s name is synonymous with glamour and beauty.
Early Life and Entertainment Career
Being a sex symbol was rather like being a convict.
Raquel’s mother, Josephine Sarah, was reportedly related to John Quincy Adams. Her father, Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo, was an aeronautical engineer from Bolivia. Raquel first realized she wanted to be a performer at the age of seven when she started ballet. She continued dancing until she was seventeen years old, quitting due to a nasty comment from her instructor. While attending high school in California, Raquel’s looks gained her plenty of attention. She won several teen beauty pageants, including Miss La Jolla and Miss San Diego. Raquel met her future husband, James Welch, during her teen years.
Upon graduating La Jolla High School, Raquel enrolled in Sand Diego State College, then known as San Diego State University with a scholarship, her sights set on theater arts. She left college to take a job as a weather forecaster at a local television station. In 1959, Raquel obtained her first title role in an outdoor play held in California. The play, based on the novel Ramona by Helen Hunt Jackson and Bob Biloe, was entitled The Ramona Pageant. The same year, Raquel married James Welch, her high school sweetheart, who was acting as her publicist and agent. After marriage, Raquel officially changed her name to Raquel Welch, which she would use throughout her career. James and Raquel had two children together, Damon and Tahnee. Tahnee, with very similar looks as her mother, went on to have a relatively successful career in entertainment.
I was crazy in love with him - I was sure the moment I saw him he would be the father of my children. He was beautiful, he had this surly quality, and that was it! We were foolish, we ran away and got married, had two children too quickly. It was a romantic fantasy, which I am really good at. In regard to her marriage to James Welch.
When Raquel’s marriage broke up in 1965, she and her two children moved to Texas. There, she worked as a model for Neiman Marcus on occasion, although she primarily supported herself, Damon and Tahnee by working as a cocktail hostess. When modeling didn’t pan out, Raquel decided to move back to California, settling down in Los Angeles. While she played two small roles in movies, the real start to her career began with television. She played small roles in the TV shows Bewitched, McHale’s Navy, The Virginian and The Hollywood Palace. Although she only had small roles in one or two episodes, some of which did not even show her face, Welch reportedly loved acting and decided she would rather be on camera than on stage.
In 1965, Raquel had her first major break, landing a singing and acting role in the film A Swingin’ Summer. The film, shot in Lake Arrowhead, California, was based on three college students attempting to get summer jobs as concert promoters. Raquel played a bookworm named Jeri, who turned into a bombshell in the middle of the movie. During the film, she made her first debut in music, singing the song Ready to Groove. Her work on this film earned her a contract with 20th Century Fox; she was one of the final actors or actresses that a studio made a contract with.
Raquel earned stardom with her lead role in the movie Fantastic Voyage, which came out in 1966. This science fiction film was centered on technology that allowed matter to be miniaturized. Raquel played assistant Cora Peterson in the movie, aiding a surgeon in performing lifesaving surgery aboard a miniaturized submarine. Before the film was released, executives at 20th Century Fox urged Raquel to change her name to Debbie, as they felt her real name was too “ethnic”. Raquel, of course, declined, and her future success proved the men in suits wrong.
The film made Welch an international sex symbol, and shortly after it was released 20th Century Fox sent Welch to work for Hammer Studios in Britain. She starred in a remake of One Million Years B.C. The film, set loosely on prehistoric times, provided the world with the iconic image of Welch posing in an animal-skin bikini. The movie poster and screen shots captured the attention of the world, solidifying Raquel’s status as a sex symbol. While the movie, a remake of a 1940s film, did not receive the best reviews, film critics could not deny the hold Welch had over her audience. After appearing in Bedazzled, Welch starred in the Western Bandolero! and the spy movie Lady in Cement with Frank Sinatra himself. In 1967, Welch married film producer and press agent Patrick Curtis. Curtis, who started his career in Hollywood as one of the infants playing Melanie Wilkes child in Gone With the Wind, is largely credited with Raquel’s success in the late 60s and early 70s. The couple later divorced.
Raquel went on to play a transsexual in the movie Myra Breckinridge, where her infamous feud with Mae West began. The movie, based off of a novel by Gore Vidal, also starred Farrah Fawcett and included the film debut of Tom Selleck. The film, controversial for its sexual explicitness, received such poor reviews and acceptance by the general public that it has become a cult classic decades after it premiered. She went on to star in the Tom Gries movie 100 Rifles with Burt Reynolds and Jim Brown. Raquel made movie history with 100 Rifles, acting out one of the first interracial sex scenes shown in a feature film with Jim Brown.
Taking a break from movies in 1970, Raquel took part in a TV song and dance special entitled Raquel! Traveling around the world, Raquel sang classic songs in unbelievable lavish locations, wearing some of the most extravagant costumes ever shown on television at the time. In addition to Raquel, Bob Hope, John Wayne and Tom Jones all appeared on the special. Taking a liking to television, Welch went on to star in The Legend of Walks Far Woman and Right to Die, two made for TV movies. She made guest appearances in soap operas including Central Park West. Welch and Curtis divorced in 1972.
In 1980, Raquel married French film producer Andre Weinfeld. The pair met in Paris in 1977, and proceeded to carry out a three year long distance relationship. Upon proposing to Raquel, Weinfeld relocated to Hollywood to be with her.
After receiving rave reviews on her musical talent following Raquel! Welch released her first pop single in 1987. “This Girl’s Back In Town” and went on to star in a musical act in Las Vegas. In 1990, Raquel went through yet another divorce. Welch went on to make appearances in the late 1990s television comedy Seinfeld and the family show Sabrina the Teenage Witch. In 1999, Welch entered into her fourth marriage, this time to Richard Palmer. Raquel came back to the big screen in 2001’s hit Legally Blonde. In 2002, Raquel starred in the PBS television series American Family, making brief guest appearances in other shows. In 2006, she starred in the movie Forget About It; in 2008, Welch went back to the small screen, playing Charlene Van Ark in the TV series Welcome to the Captain. While the series, centered on Hollywood writer Josh, received a decent reception, it did not make the ratings that CBS expected. A mid-season series, CBS only ordered six episodes of the series, of which it only aired five.
Movie and Television Appearances
All in all, Raquel has appeared in over 60 movies and television shows. While Raquel made a name for herself on the silver screen, she found artistic freedom in made for television movies. Following her success with the Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C., Welch found it difficult to find a producer or studio that took her acting seriously; nearly every role offered to her centered on her sex-symbol status rather than her capabilities in front of the camera. Made for television movies, however, allowed her to stretch her wings as an actress, providing her with level of satisfaction not found in Hollywood.
The following timeline showcases her entertainment career and appearances:
- 1964 A House is Not a Home (Movie)
- 1964 The Virginian (TV)
- 1964 McHale’s Navy (TV)
- 1964 Bewitched (TV)
- 1964 Roustabout (Movie)
- 1964 The Rouges (TV)
- 1965 A Swingin’ Summer (Movie)
- 1965 The Hollywood Palace (TV)
- 1965 The Bailey’s of Balboa (TV)
- 1965 Do Not Disturb (Movie)
- 1966 Fantastic Voyage (Movie)
- 1966 Shout Louder … Louder, I Don’t Understand (Movie)
- 1966 The Queens (Movie)
- 1966 One Million Years B.C. (Movie)
- 1967 The Oldest Profession (Movie)
- 1967 Fathom (Movie)
- 1967 Bedazzled (Movie)
- 1968 The Biggest Bundle of Them All (Movie)
- 1968 Bandolero! (Movie)
- 1968 Lady in the Cement (Movie)
- 1969 100 Rifles (Movie)
- 1969 Bracken’s World (TV)
- 1969 Flareup (Movie)
- 1969 The Magic Christian (Movie)
- 1970 Myra Breckenridge (Movie)
- 1971 Hannie Caulder (Movie)
- 1972 Fuzz (Movie)
- 1972 Kansas City Bomber (Movie)
- 1972 Bluebeard (Movie)
- 1973 The Last of Sheila (Movie)
- 1973 The Beloved (Movie)
- 1973 The Three Musketeers: The Queen’s Diamonds (Movie)
- 1974 The Four Musketeers: Milady’s Revenge (Movie)
- 1975 The Wild Party (Movie)
- 1976 Mothers, Jugs and Speed (Movie)
- 1977 Crossed Swords (Movie)
- 1977 L’animal (Movie)
- 1979 Mork and Mindy (TV)
- 1982 The Legend of Walks Far Woman (TV Movie)
- 1987 The Right to Die (TV Movie)
- 1988 Scandal in a Small Town (TV Movie)
- 1989 Trouble in Paradise (TV Movie)
- 1993 Tainted Blood (TV Movie)
- 1993 Torch Song (TV Movie)
- 1993 Evening Shade (TV)
- 1993 Holly-Rock-a-Bye Baby (TV Movie)
- 1995 Lois and Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (TV)
- 1995 Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child (TV)
- 1996 C.P.W. (TV)
- 1996 Sabrina the Teenage Witch (TV)
- 1998 Chairman of the Board (Movie)
- 1998 Folle de’elle (Movie)
- 1997 Spin City (TV)
- 2001 Tortilla Soup (Movie)
- 2001 Legally Blond (Movie)
- 2002 American Family (TV)
- 2004 8 Simple Rules (TV)
- 2006 Forget About It (Movie)
- 2008 Welcome to the Captain (TV)
In addition to these roles, Raquel has played herself in over 90 movies and television episodes, including 1993’s Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult.
Golden Globes, Playboy and Other Awards
In addition to being named the Most Desired Woman of the 1970s by Playboy magazine, Welch has also won one Golden Globe and been nominated for another. She won this prestigious award in 1974 for her performance in The Three Musketeers. Her performance in the TV movie the Right to Die in 1987 earned her a nomination.
In 1983, Raquel won a Bronze Wrangler at the Western Heritage Awards for her role in The Legend of Walks Far Woman. In 1994, Welch earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, and she has been nominated for two Laurel Awards.
Capitalizing on Beauty
If you have physical attractiveness you don't have to act.
Welch’s body was the envy of many women. She published The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program in 1984, capitalizing on her status. The book focused on Welch’s ideas of how to live and eat healthfully in addition to discussions on beauty and fashion. Her husband at the time, Andre Weinfeld, took the photos for the book. Welch included a detailed fitness routine, centering on Hatha Yoga, which she credits for her enviable figure.
After she published her book, Raquel went on to create a high-end line of wigs, as well as jewelry and skincare lines. Her wigs, sold under the name Raquel Welch Beauty Collection, were, and still are, extremely popular, although her jewelry and skincare lines did do relatively well while on the market.
MAC Cosmetics, when looking for a new face for its Beauty Icon series in 2007, approached Raquel to work with them. Ever a glamour queen, Raquel accepted and worked with MAC Cosmetics to develop a limited edition makeup line featuring tiger print packaging, a spin off her still famous animal skin bikini pose from earlier in her career. The collection included eight lipsticks, four lipglasses and one lip liner. It also included two eye shadow quads featuring grey, beige, brown, plum, yellow and pink pigments. Two powders, two blushes, two highlights, two brushes and two liners completed the MAC collection. And, of course, one set of dramatic false eyelashes, based on Raquel’s famous gaze.
In 2010, Raquel became the new face of Foster Grant sunglasses, appearing in numerous TV and magazine advertisements. She has also appeared in a few ads for the drink mix Crystal Lite. Today, Raquel still sells high end wigs to the public, under the name Raquel Welch. With over 75 different styles, her hair pieces and extensions are used all over the beauty industry. Major actresses in the film and television industry use her most glamorous wigs, made of human hair. Several reviews of the wigs have found that Raquel and those she works with have mastered the art of making realistic, beautifully shaped hair piece. Her accomplishments earned her the 2001 Imagen Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award, which honors recipients for their positive promotion of Americans of Latin heritage.
Aging With Grace and Beauty
Once you get rid of the idea that you must please other people before you please yourself, and you begin to follow your own instincts - only then can you be successful. You become more satisfied, and when you are, other people will tend to be satisfied by what you do.
Even past what many producers would consider an actress’ prime, Raquel continues to turn heads. While having admitted that aging is “terrifying”, she has learned to embrace her years, and encourages other women to do the same. She has spent the majority of her adult life eating healthfully and exercising, and she gives these two factors the most credit for maintaining her looks.
Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage
Change excites me. I am fifty years old. It's when the mind catches up with the body.
In 2010, Weinstein Books published Raquel’s memoirs entitled Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage. In her book, Raquel discusses her sex symbol status, which made it difficult for her to pursue a serious acting career. She also discusses her personal philosophy on life and provides tips on aging well and enhancing one’s own beauty. Written primarily for women, she discusses body image, health and, of course, sex. She also discusses her personal life for the first time in her career. Her volatile father and her first marriage, to the man that she still, today, says was her one true love. Her book also discusses trying to raise two children alone while still pursuing her dreams, something that speaks to women of nearly every generation, and gives her readers tips on staying motivated and full of life well past their fifties.
While Raquel still makes guest appearances on television and in movies, even hosting or presenting at certain awards shows, she is largely focused on her beauty business and adult children.