On February 15, 2023, one of Hollywood’s most famous actresses, Raquel Welch, died at the age of 82. The actress, best known for her risque roles in 1960s movies, passed away after a short illness at her home in Los Angeles, surrounded by her loving family.
Raquel has starred in numerous films and television shows, performed live in Las Vegas, wrote a book, hosted her own show, and received a Golden Globe for her role as Constance Bonacieux in the 1974 film The Three Musketeers, where she starred alongside Christopher Lee, Michael York, and Faye Dunaway.
The Hollywood legend was born in 1940 in Chicago to a Bolivian father and an American mother, but soon after, the family moved to California. Raquel studied ballet for ten years but gave up when she was told that her physique was unsuitable for classical dancing. At the age of 14, Welch won several beauty contests and, afterward, received the title of “Maid of California.”
Raquel’s success story wasn’t as generic as you might think, as she did not try to conquer Hollywood immediately after high school. Instead, she married her crush at 19 and worked as a weather girl for a local TV station in San Diego. After becoming a mother, Raquel was forced to drop out of her university studies and eventually get a divorce from James Welch. She left his last name and moved to Dallas, where she became a model for Neiman Marcus Group while moonlighting as a cocktail waitress. Soon after that, Raquel started getting her first roles in Hollywood and immediately became a sex symbol of the 1960s.
Her iconic appearance in “A Million Years B.C.” became a real sensation. Despite the fact that the film depicted prehistoric people fighting dinosaurs and wearing seductive fur bikinis, it was a huge success. The filmmakers rebutted the criticism by stating that their movie was not meant for professors. Either way, after that loud premiere Raquel Welch became a star. Small factoid: it was her poster in the movie “The Shawshank Redemption” that covered the hole in the wall.
Welch’s looks and fame led her to the place where most raunchy actresses and models ended up in the 70s and 80s —Playboy magazine. She was quickly named to be the most desirable woman of the 1970s, although she refused to pose nude for the magazine or any of her movies. Rachel admitted in an interview that she used her body and sex appeal in her work, but always within certain limits, leaving certain things for her personal life and not for the public eye.
In 1995, Raquel Welch was named one of the 100 sexiest stars in film history. That same year, she was ranked third on Playboy magazine’s list of 100 Sexiest Stars of the 20th Century, followed closely by Marilyn Monroe and Jayne Mansfield. Brigitte Bardot was fourth, but nobody ever remembers the fourth spot. Unfortunately, Raquel struggled to land serious roles due to being labeled as a sex symbol.
Raquel married three more times: in 1967 to her producer Patrick Curtis, in 1980 to producer Andre Weinfield, and most recently, to the owner of the Mulberry Street Pizzeria restaurant, Richard Palmer, in 1999. But the couple broke up four years later, and Raquel said that she did not intend to marry again.
Her last movies were “Legally Blonde” and “House of Versace” in 2013. Raquel Welch rarely appeared in public, and she kept working on developing her own successful business — a wig company.