Remembering Hollywood legend and sex icon Raquel Welch (1940-2023)
She was immortalized in ‘One Million Years B.C.’ as a Pleistocene-era cave woman
Raquel Welch | PHOTOGRAPH SOURCED FROM GOOGLE
Hollywood star Raquel Welch died peacefully at 82 on 15 February following a brief illness, her manager said.
Best remembered for her images as a Pleistocene-era cave woman clad in a doe-skin bikini in the 1966 British adventure film, One Million Years B.C., Welch’s beautiful looks and eroticism made her a celebrated international sex symbol of the 1960s and ‘70s, a radical departure from the ‘50s blonde bombshell made famous by Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield.
She was born Jo Raquel Tejada in 1940 to a Bolivian-born aeronautical engineer, Armando Carlos Tejada, and Josephine Sarah Hall, an American of English descent. Her parents met as students at the University of Illinois. She was the oldest of three children.
After graduating from La Jolla High School in San Diego, she received a scholarship to study theater at a San Diego college. However, she dropped out at 19 to marry her high-school boyfriend, James Wesley Welch. She eventually worked as the “weather girl” on KFMB, a San Diego television station.
She left her husband after the birth of her two children, Damon, and Tahnee, and moved to Los Angeles to pursue acting.
In 1964, Welch made appearances in films such as A House is Not a Home, and Roustabout, a musical starring Elvis Presley.
Two years later, she almost appeared in a Bond movie. Welch was screen-tested by producer Albert “Cubby” Broccoli who had seen her in a Life magazine photo spread and wanted her for Thunderball. However, it wasn’t meant to be as technicalities involving start dates and contract options snuffed out any possibility and she was cast in Fantastic Voyage. She was immortalized in One Million Years B.C. in her career defining role.
Despite having a career hinged largely on her sex appeal, Welch has repeatedly refused to appear nude onscreen, according to her 2010 memoir and self-help book, Beyond the Cleavage.
“Personally, I always hated feeling so exposed and vulnerable” in love scenes, noting that even when doing a Merchant Ivory film, The Wild Party in 1975, the filmmakers pressured her to do a nude bedroom scene but to no avail.
In 1979, she posed for Playboy but not in the nude. Hugh Hefner later wrote, “Raquel Welch, one of the last of the classic sex symbols, came from the era when you could be considered the sexiest woman in the world without taking your clothes off. She declined to do complete nudity, and I yielded gracefully. The pictures prove her point.”
In 1998, when Playboy
released the 100 sexiest female stars of the 20th century, she came in third right after Monroe and Mansfield.
In the 1980s, Welch ventured in the beauty and fitness industry with The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program book and videos which were first released in 1984. Her book, accompanied with photographs by André Weinfeld, included a hatha yoga fitness program, healthy living and nutrition, as well as beauty and personal style. She also had a signature line of wigs and began a jewelry and skincare line. However, neither ventures could compare to the success of her signature wigs.
Welch was married a total of four times which all ended in divorce. She was survived by her two children.
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