Raquel Welch, Ultimate '60s Sex Symbol, Then And Now

By | September 8, 2017

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Left: Raquel Welch with Robert Culp in 'Hannie Caulder' (1971). Right: In 'Bluebeard' (1972). Source: IMDB

What's the definition of a 20th-century sex symbol? Raquel Welch works. The actress has been spicing up the screen since the mid-'60s, charming audiences and fans with her fur bikini in One Million Years B.C. Her movies have not all been critically acclaimed, but her presence in them has always been magnetic -- Fathom, Bedazzled, Bandolero!, 100 Rifles, Myra Breckinridge, The Magic Christian, Kansas City Bomber -- these high-profile late-'60s and early '70s movies have faded into obscurity, but at the time they established Welch as the day's pre-eminent screen temptress. 

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.

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Raquel Welch in 'The Biggest Bundle Of Them All' (1968). Source: IMDB

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.