Raquel Welch, Hollywood icon, sex symbol, and trailblazer for modern-day action heroines, has died at the age of 82.
The star, known for her sultry roles and sex symbol status, passed away on Wednesday morning after a brief illness.
Welch’s career spanned over five decades, during which she appeared in more than 30 movies and 50 television shows. Her breakout role came in 1966’s One Million Years B.C., where she famously donned a skimpy two-piece deerskin bikini and became a leading pin-up girl of the era.
Despite her public image, however, she long expressed discomfort with the representation of her body, once saying she “was not brought up to be a sex symbol, nor is it in my nature to be one.”
Born Jo-Raquel Tejada in 1940, Welch grew up in California, where she won teen beauty pageants and later became a local weather forecaster. During a brief stint in Dallas, Texas, the divorced mother-of-two modelled for the Neiman Marcus clothing store and worked as a cocktail waitress. Her big break came in 1964 soon after she moved back to California when she scored cameos in A House Is Not A Home, and Roustabout, a musical starring Elvis Presley.
Welch’s talent and hard work led to her being awarded a Golden Globe for her role in 1974’s The Three Musketeers.
She also played the love interest of Frank Sinatra‘s character in 1968’s Lady in Cement, the titular transgender heroine in 1970’s Myra Breckenridge, and gave a Golden Globe-nominated performance in the 1987 TV drama Right to Die.
In her memoir, Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage, she opened up about her childhood, her early career woes as a single mother in Hollywood, and why she would never lie about her age.
Throughout her career, Welch was more than just an actress. Later in life, she released her signature line of wigs, a jewellery and skincare collection, and a Mac Cosmetics makeup line. Her contribution to the entertainment industry was immense, and her impact was felt by many.
Actress Reese Witherspoon paid tribute to Welch on Twitter, writing that she “loved” working with her on Legally Blonde.
“She was elegant, professional and glamorous beyond belief,” said Witherspoon. “Simply stunning.”
Viola Davis also posted a clip of her singing “I’m a Woman” with Cher in 1975, writing: “You were ageless to me…iconic.”
The Muppets, with whom Welch had a memorable appearance, tweeted, “We’ll never forget our remarkable friend Raquel Welch, one of our favourite guests on The Muppet Show.”
By the 3rd season of The Muppet Show, Miss Piggy was in full bloom. Her design had settled (w/ some minor refinements to come) & @TheFrankOzJam had a firm handle on the character & her nuances, as you’ll see in this performance of “I’m A Woman” w/ guest Raquel Welch… pic.twitter.com/s29TUNJU1y
— Ken Plume (@KenPlume) January 6, 2023
Actor Paul Feig added that he enjoyed working with her on the TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch, calling her “kind, funny and a true superstar whom I was pretty much in love with for most of my childhood.”
Welch was an iconic figure who left her mark on the entertainment industry. Rest in peace, Raquel.
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