Remembering Raquel Welch

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Raquel Welch was a without a doubt an icon of femininity in Old Hollywood. She once said in an interview in the 1990's, "I think of myself as a woman who one of the things that I have to play with is my sexuality. And I like it. I have never made too many bones about it, although sometimes it has been uncomfortable, but most o f the time it has served me very well. You know it is very, very hard, difficult, and pain staking, and  time consuming job to be feminine and maintain it."

Raquel Welch was beautiful, there is no denying that. She seemed to live out her life using the cards she was dealt with and enjoyed becoming a sex symbol. But if you ever get the chance to watch Raquel's movies especially from the late 1960's-1970's you get to see an actress that was more than her incredible looks but an actress who was complex and funny. One of those films is Kansas City Bomber (1972) which really showcased both Raquel's talent and her endless beauty.

Jo Raquel Tejeda was born September 5, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois to a Bolivian father who was a aeronautical engineer and a homemaker mother who had English ancestry. She was eldest of three and grew up mainly in California after her family moved from Chicago. I haven't had the privilege to read any books about Raquel yet (her autobiography Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage looks good) but what I can tell from her interviews through the years was that she seemed to grow up aloof about her Latina heritage. Like many uncover Latinos of her time, Raquel wasn't open about it publicly until later on in life. 

Raquel didn't begin her career on screen until the 1960's. Before she became the sex symbol icon that we all know and love, she was actually a wife and mother of two. She married her high school sweetheart, James Welch in 1959 and they had two children, Damon (born 1959) and Tahnee (born 1961). The couple separated in 1962 and divorced in 1964 but Raquel retained Welch's surname throughout her career. It was in 1964 when she decided to pursue acting and landed very small roles in A House is not a Home (1964), Roustabout (1964), and on television in McHale's Navy and Bewitched. The role that changed her career and life was that of Loana in One Million Years B.C. (1966). Her publicity still and subsequent posters of her from the film in which she is wearing a fur bikini as a prehistoric girl catapulted her into the sex symbol stratosphere. 

There was no turning back for her. Although she refused to do nudity in films and often said, "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." Raquel Welch's best work can be seen in Forbidden Planet (1966), Bedazzled (1967), Kansas City Bomber (1972), The Last of Sheila (1973), and The Three Musketeers (1973)-where she won a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Musical or Comedy. Raquel stated in an interview once that one of her most special films was Tortilla Soup (2001) because she was finally able to play the part of a Latina. 

Jo Raquel Tejada (Raquel Welch) passed away on February 15, 2023, at her home in Los Angeles, following a brief illness. She was 82 years old. She leaves behind her son, Damon and her daughter, Tahnee, and a slew of films that will remind us of her incredible beauty and talent.

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