Jo Raquel Tejada
September 5, 1940
|Height||1.68 m (5 ft 6 in)|
(m. 1959; div. 1964)
(m. 1967; div. 1972)
(m. 1980; div. 1990)
(m. 1999; div. 2004)
|Children||2, including Tahnee Welch|
Raquel Welch (born Jo Raquel Tejada; September 5, 1940) is an American actress, singer, and model.
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 the British studio Hammer Film Productions, for whom she made One Million Years B.C. (1966). Although she had only three lines of dialogue in the film, images of her in the doe-skin bikini became best-selling posters that turned her into an international sex symbol. She later starred in Bedazzled (1967), Bandolero! (1968), 100 Rifles (1969), Myra Breckinridge (1970) and Hannie Caulder (1971). She made several television variety specials.
Through her portrayal of strong female characters, which helped in her breaking the mold of the traditional sex symbol, Welch developed a unique film persona that made her an icon of the 1960s and 1970s. Her rise to stardom in the mid 1960s was partly credited with ending Hollywood's vigorous promotion of the blonde bombshell. She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical or Comedy in 1974 for her performance in The Three Musketeers. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in Television Film for her performance in the film Right to Die (1987). 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.
Welch was born as Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois. She is the first child of Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo (1911–1976) and Josephine Sarah Hall (1909–2000). Her father, Armando Tejada, was an aeronautical engineer from La Paz, Bolivia, son of Agustin Tejada and Raquel Urquizo. In 2010 while being interviewed on the talk show Tavis Smiley, Welch stated, "My father came from a country called Bolivia. He was of Spanish descent." Her cousin, Bolivian politician Lidia Gueiler Tejada (1921–2011), became the first female President of Bolivia and the second female head of state in the Americas. Welch was named after her paternal grandmother. Her mother, Josephine Hall, was the daughter of architect Emery Stanford Hall and his wife Clara Louise Adams; she was of English ancestry. Welch has a younger brother, James "Jim" Tejada, and had a younger sister, Gayle Tejada (1943-2020).
The family moved from Illinois to San Diego, California, when Welch was two years old. Welch attended the Pacific Beach Presbyterian Church every Sunday with her mother. As a young girl, Welch had the desire to be a performer and entertainer. She began studying ballet at age seven but, after ten years of study, she left the art at seventeen when her instructor told her she did not have the right body type for professional ballet companies. At age 14, she won beauty titles as Miss Photogenic and Miss Contour. While attending La Jolla High School she won the title of Miss La Jolla and the title of Miss San Diego – the Fairest of the Fair – at the San Diego County Fair. This long line of beauty contests eventually led to the state title of Maid of California. Her parents divorced when she finished her school years.
Welch graduated with honors from high school in 1958. Seeking an acting career, Welch entered San Diego State College on a theater arts scholarship, and the following year she married her high school sweetheart, James Welch. She won several parts in local theater productions. 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. Because her family life and television duties were so demanding she decided to give up her drama classes. After her separation from James Welch, she moved with her two children to Dallas, where she made a "precarious living" as a model for Neiman Marcus and as a cocktail waitress.
1964–1966: Early works and breakthrough
Welch initially intended to move to New York City from Dallas, but moved back to Los Angeles in 1963 and started applying for roles with the movie studios. During this period of time, she met one-time child actor and Hollywood agent Patrick Curtis who became her personal and business manager. They developed a plan to turn Welch into a sex symbol. To avoid typecasting as a Latina, he convinced her to use her husband's last name.
She was cast in small roles in two films, A House Is Not a Home (1964) and the musical Roustabout (1964), an Elvis Presley film. She also landed small roles on the television series Bewitched, McHale's Navy and The Virginian and appeared on the weekly variety series The Hollywood Palace as a billboard girl and presenter. She was one of many actresses who auditioned for the role of Mary Ann Summers on the television series Gilligan's Island.
Welch's first featured role was in the beach film A Swingin' Summer (1965). That same year, she won the Deb Star while her photo in a Life magazine layout called "The End of the Great Girl Drought!" created buzz around town. She 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. She agreed to seven-year nonexclusive contract, five pictures over the next five years and two floaters. Studio executives talked about changing her name to "Debbie". They thought "Raquel" would be hard to pronounce. She refused their request. She wanted her real name, so she stuck with "Raquel Welch".
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.
Fox Studio loaned Welch to Hammer Studios in Britain where she starred in One Million Years B.C. (1966), a remake of the Hal Roach film One Million B.C. (1940). 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". The New York Times hailed her in its review of the film (which was released in the U.K. in 1966 and in the U.S. in 1967), "a marvelous breathing monument to womankind". 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". A publicity still of her in the bikini became a best-selling poster and turned her into an instant pin-up girl. The film raised Welch's stature as a leading sex symbol of the era. In 2011, Time listed Welch's B.C. bikini in the "Top Ten Bikinis in Pop Culture".
In 1966, Welch starred with Marcello Mastroianni in the Italian film Shoot Loud, Louder... I Don't Understand for Joe E. Levine. The same year, she appeared in the film Sex Quartet (1966) as Elena in the segment "Fata Elena". She was the only American in the cast of the anthology film The Oldest Profession (1967); her segment was directed by Michael Pfleghar. In Italy, she also appeared in a heist movie for MGM, The Biggest Bundle of Them All (1968). It co-starred Edward G. Robinson who said of Welch, "I must say she has quite a body. She has been the product of a good publicity campaign. I hope she lives up to it because a body will only take you so far."
1967–1979: International stardom
Her first starring vehicle, the British Modesty Blaise-style spy movie Fathom (1967), was filmed in Spain for 20th Century Fox. Second unit director Peter Medak said Welch "was at that time quite inexperienced, exactly like one of those American drum majorettes. But she tried very hard and went to see the rushes each day, gradually improving. 'Who's this dumb broad?' people used to say. But I said: 'You wait. I'll bet she makes it.' I liked her very much because she was such a genuine person. And she had a beautiful body which always helps." Welch said her role was "a blown up Barbie doll". Reviewing her performance, the Los Angeles Times film critic said that "each new Raquel Welch picture brings further proof that when Maria Montez died they didn't break the mold. Like Maria, Raquel can't act from here to there, but both ladies seem to have been born to be photographed ... this sappiest of spy pictures."
At this stage, Welch owed Fox four films, at one a year. She and Curtis also established their own production company, Curtwel. Fox wanted Welch to play Jennifer in their adaptation of Valley of the Dolls but she refused, wanting to play the role of Neely O'Hara. The studio was not interested, casting Patty Duke; Sharon Tate played Jennifer North.
In England, she appeared as Lust incarnate in the Peter Cook–Dudley Moore comedy, Bedazzled (1967), a Swinging '60s retelling of the Faust legend. It was popular, as was the Western, Bandolero! (1968), which was shot in Del Rio, Texas, at the Alamo Village. It co-starred her against James Stewart and Dean Martin. "I think she's going to stack up all right," Stewart said of Welch. "No one is going to shout, 'Wow it's Anne Bancroft all over again'," said Welch of her performance, "but at least I'm not Miss Sexpot running around half naked all the time."
In 1968, Welch appeared with Frank Sinatra in the detective film Lady in Cement, a sequel to the film Tony Rome (1967). She played the socialite Kit Forrest, the romantic interest of Tony Rome. Welch said later wittily that she catches the film from time to time and now realizes Kit Forrest was an alcoholic: "I'm watching this movie and I'm thinking, 'What the hell has she got on?' At one point, I had this epiphany: 'Oh, she's an alcoholic!' I didn't know that. How could I miss that?" She reportedly was so smitten with Sinatra she forgot to act: "I think I was just so enamoured with Frank Sinatra, you know. He's hypnotic."
Welch starred as a freedom fighter leader in 100 Rifles, a 1969 western directed by Tom Gries and filmed in Almería, Spain. It also starred Jim Brown, Burt Reynolds and Fernando Lamas. The movie provoked publicity and controversy at the time because it included a love scene between Welch and Brown that breached the Hollywood taboo against the onscreen portrayal of interracial intimacy. The film is remembered for the spectacular "Shower Scene" in which Welch distracts the soldiers on the train by taking a shower at a water tower along the tracks. The director, Gries, tried hard to convince Welch to do the scene naked, but she refused. It was one of the many instances Welch resisted going nude on-screen and pushed back for years against producers who wanted her to act or pose nude. In 1969, Welch also starred in the thriller Flareup and had a supporting role in the dark comedy The Magic Christian.
Welch's most controversial role came in Myra Breckinridge (1970). She took the role as the film's transsexual heroine in an attempt to be taken seriously as an actress. The production was characterized by animosity between Welch and Mae West, who walked out of the film for three days. The film was based on Gore Vidal's controversial bestseller about a man who becomes a woman through surgery. The film's producer Robert Fryer stated: "If a man were going to become a woman, he would want to become the most beautiful woman in the world. He would become Raquel Welch".
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. She accepted the Best Supporting Actress Oscar on behalf of fellow actress Goldie Hawn when she could not be there to accept it.
On April 26, 1970, CBS released her television special Raquel!. On the day of the premiere, the show received a 51% share on the National ARB Ratings and an overnight New York Nielsen rating of 58% share. Also that year Welch acted in The Beloved, in which she starred and produced and filmed in Cyprus.
In 1972, Welch acted in Kansas City Bomber and had a cameo in Bluebeard. In Kansas City Bomber Welch played a hardened roller-derby star and single mother who tries to balance her desire for a happy personal life and her dreams of stardom. Life dubbed Welch the "hottest thing on wheels" for her role. The production of the film shut down for six weeks after Welch broke her wrist doing some of her own stunts. In the interim, she flew to Budapest and filmed a cameo in Bluebeard opposite Richard Burton. Although Kansas City Bomber was not considered a critical success, it vividly depicted gender relations in the early 1970s. In a 2012 interview, Welch reflected on the roller derby world depicted in the film: "You have all those women out there, but the men in the front office are really running it. Which I thought was a really nice metaphor for the way a lot of women felt about their lives at that time."
In 1974, Welch acted in The Four Musketeers.
In 1975, Welch acted in The Wild Party.That year in an 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."
In 1976, Welch acted in Mother, Jugs & Speed.
In 1978, Welch appeared in an episode of The Muppet Show.
1980–present day: subsequent to current projects
In 1982, Welch acted in the Western television film The Legend of Walks Far Woman. Around this time, Along with Elizabeth Taylor and Sophia Loren, Welch was among the candidates considered for the role of Alexis Carrington on the ABC prime time drama Dynasty which began in 1981, before the producers settled on Joan Collins.
She was due to star in a 1982 adaptation of John Steinbeck's Cannery Row, but was abruptly fired by the producers a few weeks into production. The studio claimed she was not living up to her contract, by refusing early-morning rehearsals, and was replaced with Debra Winger. Welch sued MGM for breach of contract. Studio executives claimed in testimony the reason Welch was following through with the trial was because she was an actress over 40 and generally actresses in that age range can't get roles anymore. Welch's evidence at trial proved there was a conspiracy to falsely blame her for the film's budget problems and delays. The jury sided with Welch and she won a $10.8 million verdict against MGM in 1986.
Despite the win, Welch wished the whole episode never had happened. "I just wanted to clear my reputation and get back to my work, my work in movies", she said. But she was blackballed by the industry and the incident affected her film career on the big screen from that moment on.
In 1987 she played in the television drama Right to Die, in which she turned in a stirring performance as a woman stricken with Lou Gehrig's disease. That year, she flirted with a pop singing career, releasing the dance single "This Girl's Back In Town", which peaked at No. 29 on Billboard's dance club chart.
In 1994, she had a cameo appearance in Naked Gun 33+1⁄3: The Final Insult
As a guest, she played Sabrina's flamboyant Aunt Vesta on the American comedy series Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1996).
In 1997, Welch also starred on Broadway in Victor/Victoria, following Julie Andrews and Liza Minnelli in the title role. That year, she also acted in an 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 Elaine was mocking her.
In 2001, she had supporting roles in the comedy films Legally Blonde opposite Reese Witherspoon and Tortilla Soup. In 2002, she starred in the PBS series American Family, a story about a Mexican American family in East Los Angeles. Her next film was Forget About It (2006). She also appeared in Welcome to The Captain, which premiered on CBS television on February 4, 2008. In 2015 she played a role in The Ultimate Legacy.
Most recently Welch appeared in a sitcom titled Date My Dad (2017) where she reunited with Robert Wagner on screen, four decades after starring together in The Biggest Bundle of Them All. She also acted in How to Be a Latin Lover (2017).
Achievements and awards
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. In 2012, the Film Society of Lincoln Center presented a special retrospective of the films of Welch at the Walter Reade Theater.
Beauty and business career
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. 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.
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".
Welch married her high school sweetheart, James Welch, on May 8, 1959, but they separated in 1962 and divorced in 1964. She married producer Patrick Curtis in 1967 and divorced him in 1972. In 1980, she began a 10-year marriage to producer André Weinfeld, whom she divorced in 1990. Welch wed Richard Palmer, owner of Mulberry Street Pizzeria, in 1999 but then separated from him in 2003 and later divorced. Welch says she will not remarry.
Through her first marriage, 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. In 1990, Damon married Rebecca, daughter of Fred Trueman but the marriage lasted only two years.
Welch posed for Playboy in 1979, but she never did a fully nude shoot. 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." Welch has refused to take all her clothes off on screen or pose naked throughout her career spanning five decades, saying this was the way she was brought up. While her image in the 1960s was that of a torrid sex temptress, Welch's private life was quite different. She once famously said, "What I do on the screen is not to be equated with what I do in my private life. Privately, I am understated and dislike any hoopla". She also admitted, "I was not brought up to be a sex symbol, nor is it in my nature to be one. The fact that I became one is probably the loveliest, most glamorous and fortunate misunderstanding".
In 2014, during an appearance on The O'Reilly Factor, Welch described herself as being on the conservative side, attributing it to her mother's midwestern values. During the Vietnam War, Welch showed support for the troops at United Service Organizations (USO) shows.
In popular culture
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 1950s as typified by Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and others. Welch became a star in the mid-1960s and was exotic, brunette, and smolderingly sexual. Her countless publicity photos helped to popularize her image, dress style, and 1960s and 1970s fashion trends. Welch and other actresses also made big hair popular.
Welch is one of the few actresses, and one of the earliest, who had a lead role in a Western movie. Hannie Caulder (1971) was a clear influence on later revenge films. Quentin Tarantino said the film was one of his inspirations for Kill Bill (2003). It took many years, arguably until the 1990s, until female leads appeared in mainstream U.S. cinema who are strong – without adding fictional or overemphasizing masculine traits (or portraying them as femme fatales).
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 the famous pinup image of Welch in One Million Years B.C. Prior to Dufresne's escape being realized, the warden refers to Welch as Miss Fussy Britches.
|1964||A House Is Not a Home||Call Girl|
|1965||A Swingin' Summer||Jeri|
|1965||Do Not Disturb||Woman in Lobby||Uncredited|
|1966||Fantastic Voyage||Cora Peterson||First film under contract to 20th Century Fox|
|1966||Shoot Loud, Louder... I Don't Understand||Tania Montini||Made in Italy for Joseph E. Levine|
|1966||Sex Quartet||Elena||Segment: "Fata Elena"|
Also known as The Queens
|1966||One Million Years B.C.||Loana|
|1967||The Oldest Profession||Nini||Segment: "The Gay Nineties"|
|1967||Bedazzled||Lust / Lilian Lust|
|1968||The Biggest Bundle of Them All||Juliana|
|1968||Lady in Cement||Kit Forrester|
|1969||The Magic Christian||Priestess of the Whip|
|1970||Myra Breckinridge||Myra Breckinridge|
|1970||The Beloved||Elena||Also known as Sin|
|1971||Hannie Caulder||Hannie Caulder|
|1972||Fuzz||Det. Eileen McHenry|
|1972||Kansas City Bomber||K.C. Carr|
|1973||The Last of Sheila||Alice Wood|
|1973||The Three Musketeers||Constance Bonacieux||Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Motion Picture Comedy or Musical|
|1974||The Four Musketeers||Constance Bonacieux|
|1975||The Wild Party||Queenie|
|1976||Mother, Jugs & Speed||Jennifer a.k.a. "Jugs"|
|1977||The Prince and the Pauper||Lady Edith||Also known as Crossed Swords|
|1977||Animal||Jane Gardner||Also known as Stuntwoman|
|1994||Naked Gun 33⅓: The Final Insult||Herself||Uncredited|
|1998||Chairman of the Board||Grace Kosik||Nominated: Golden Raspberry Award for Worst Supporting Actress|
|1998||What I Did for Love||Jacqueline|
|2001||Legally Blonde||Mrs. Windham-Vandermark|
|2006||Forget About It||Christine DeLee|
|2017||How to Be a Latin Lover||Celeste Birch|
|1964–1965||The Hollywood Palace||Billboard Girl||Season 1 Regular|
|1964||The Virginian||Saloon Girl||Episode: "Ryker"|
|1964||McHale's Navy||Lt. Wilson||Episode: "McHale, the Desk Commando"|
|1964||Bewitched||Stewardess||Episode: "Witch or Wife" (S01EP09)|
|1964||The Rogues||Miss France||Episode: "Hugger-Mugger, by the Sea"|
|1965||Wendy and Me||Lila Harrison||Episode: "Wendy Sails in the Sunset"|
|1965||The Baileys of Balboa||Beverly||Episode: "Sam's Nephew"|
|1971||Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In||Guest Performer||Episode: "#5.1"|
|1974||Really, Raquel||Herself||Television Special|
|1976||Saturday Night Live||Host||Episode: "Raquel Welch/Phoebe Snow/John Sebastian"|
Also known as NBC's Saturday Night
|1978||The Muppet Show||Herself||Episode: "Raquel Welch"|
|1979||Mork & Mindy||Captain Nirvana||Episode: "Mork vs. the Necrotons"|
|1980||From Raquel with Love||Herself||Television Special|
|1982||The Legend of Walks Far Woman||Walks Far Woman||TV Movie|
Bronze Wrangler for Fictional Television Drama
|1987||Right to Die||Emily Bauer||TV Movie|
Nominated: Golden Globe Award for Best Actress – Miniseries or Television Film
|1988||Scandal in a Small Town||Leda Beth Vincent||TV Movie|
|1989||Trouble in Paradise||Rachel||TV Movie|
|1993||Tainted Blood||Elizabeth Hayes||TV Movie|
|1993||Torch Song||Paula Eastman||TV Movie|
|1993||Evening Shade||Cynthia Gibson||Episode: "Small Town Girl"|
|1993||Hollyrock-a-Bye Baby||Shelly Millstone (voice)||Animated TV Special|
|1995||Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman||Diana Stride||Episode: "Top Copy"|
|1995||Happily Ever After: Fairy Tales for Every Child||La Madrasta (voice)||Episode: "Cinderella"|
|1996||Central Park West||Dianna Brock||Season 2 Regular|
Also known as CPW
|1996||Sabrina the Teenage Witch||Aunt Vesta||Episode: "Third Aunt from the Sun"|
|1997||Seinfeld||Herself||Episode: "The Summer of George"|
|1997–2000||Spin City||Abby Lassiter||Episodes: "Porn in the U.S.A.", "A River Runs Through Me", "Balloons over Broadway"|
|2002||American Family||Aunt Dora||Season 1 Semi-Regular|
|2002||Jim Brown: All-American||Herself||Documentary|
|2004||8 Simple Rules||Jackie||Episode: "Vanity Unfair"|
|2008||Welcome to The Captain||Charlene Van Ark||Series Regular|
|2012||CSI: Miami||Vina Navarro||Episode: "Rest in Pieces"|
|2013||House of Versace||Aunt Lucia||TV Movie|
|2015||The Ultimate Legacy||Miss Sally May Anderson||TV Movie|
|2017||Date My Dad||Rosa||TV series|
|1973–1974||Raquel and the World of Sid and Marty Krofft||Herself||Las Vegas Hilton|
Adapted into the television special Really Raquel
|1981–1983||Woman of the Year||Tess Harding||Palace Theatre|
|1995||The Millionairess||Epifania Ognisanti di Parerga||Alexandra Theatre|
|1997||Victor/Victoria||Victoria Grant/Victor Grazinski||Marquis Theatre|
|1965||"I'm Ready To Groove"||A Swingin' Summer: Music from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack|
|Year||Title||Peak chart positions|
|1987||"This Girl's Back In Town"||29|
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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.
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