Jo Raquel Tejada aka Raquel Welch was born on September 5, 1940 to Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo and Josephine Sarah Hall. Her father was of Bolivian descent while her mother’s family originated from England, dating back to the Mayflower.
From an early age Raquel Welch knew that she wanted to be a performer. She attended ballet classes from the age of seven until she was seventeen, when her teacher advised her that her body shape was not suitable for a career in ballet.
During high school a stunning Raquel was the winner of the Miss Fairest of the Fair at County Fair held in San Diego as well as Miss Photogenic and Miss Contour. She graduated from high school in 1958 and married her high school sweetheart, James Welch, in 1959. She had her first child, son Damon followed by her second child, daughter Tahnee in 1961. By 1962 the couple had separated and divorced by 1964.
She decided on a career in acting and began taking classes at San Diego State College where she studied drama. She would later appear in several productions in the local theater. In 1959, she was chosen for the lead role in The Ramona Pageant.
Next she was a weather forecaster for KFMB, a local TV station in San Diego. Because her schedule at the station was so demanding she decided to give up her drama classes. After she split from her first husband, she moved with her children to Dallas, Texas where she was a cocktail waitress and model. She returned to Los Angeles where she began to pursue a career in acting. It was at this time that Raquel Welch met Patrick Curtis who became her manager, both in business and personally. She married him in 1966, but the couple divorced in 1972.
She was offered small parts in television series such as McHale’s Navy, The Virginian and Bewitched. She was also offered work on The Hollywood Palace as a presenter and billboard girl on the variety weekly show.
Her first film role was in “A Swingin’ Summer” a beach film released in 1965. During that year she was also lucky enough to be seen by Saul David’s wife, who was a producer and recommended her, with the assistance of Patrick Curtis, to 20th Century Fox who offered her a contract.
In 1966, Raquel Welch appeared as the lead in “Fantastic Voyage” a sci-fi film. She would be the last actress that made it to stardom under the old studio system. 20th Century loaned Raquel out to Hammer Studios in England where she landed the lead role in “One Million Years B.C.” where her costume consisted of a fur bikini made of deer skin. The film was a huge success for Welch and she became a leading sex symbol as well as a pin-up girl.
She has continued to appear in many films over the years with some well-known leading men. Films such as “Bedazzled” with Dudley Moore and Peter Cook, “Bandolero” with Dean Martin and James Stewart and “Lady in Cement” with Frank Sinatra. She married again in 1980 to Andre Weinfield, a journalist and director but they divorced in 1990. She married Richard Palmer but when they separated in 2008 she said she has no intention of marrying again.
Raquel Welch is considered one of the first female sex symbols of the 20th century. However, she was able to transition from the genre of movies that had made her a sex symbol into more serious roles over time. She won a Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture Actress in 1974 for her performance in “The Three Musketeers”. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress 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.