Jo Raquel Tejada was born on September 5, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois to Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo, an aeronautical engineer, and Josephine Sarah.
At seven years old, one of Tejada’s first roles was in A Christmas for Olga, a holiday play put on by the Mission Beach Women’s Club juniors.
She always wanted to be an actress, so her mother enrolled her in San Diego Junior Theatre. At twelve years old, she performed in the touring production of The Princess Who Disappeared 1952.
While a freshman at La Jolla High School, she appeared in San Diego Junior Theatre’s Curtain Going Up! 1954.
She was crowned “Fairest of the Fair,” the San Diego County Fair beauty pageant, in 1958. That same year, she appeared in Bullfight, a Drury Lane Theatre production in La Jolla.
Miss Tejada graduated from high school in 1958 and a year later married her high school sweetheart, James Welch. She had two children with Welch, and is today known by her married name, Raquel Welch.
Seeking an acting career, she attended classes at San Diego State College, and was briefly a weather forecaster at KFMB TV in San Diego.
Small bits on television grew to motion picture parts. Her breakout role was in Fantastic Voyage (1966), which was a hit and made her a star. Welch’s role in One Million Years BC (1966) made her a superstar.
Other memorable roles include Bandolero! with James Stewart and Dean Martin, Myra Breckinridge, The Three Musketeers,(1975 Golden Globe winner) The Four Musketeers and The Wild Party.
Raquel Welch helped transform America’s feminine ideal into its current state. Her beautiful looks and eroticism made her the definitive 1960s and 1970s sex icon, rather than the blonde bombshell of the late 1950s as typified by Marilyn Monroe, Jayne Mansfield, and others. Welch became a star in the mid-1960s and was exotic, brunette, and smolderingly sexual. Her countless publicity photos helped to popularize her image,dress style, and 1960s and 1970s fashion trends.] Welch and other actresses also made big hair popular.
Raquel Welch is mentioned in the 1971 song, “One’s on the Way” by country music legend Loretta Lynn.
Raquel Welch is one of the few actresses, and one of the earliest, who had a lead role in a Western movie. Hannie Caulder 1971 was a clear influence on later revenge films.Quentin Tarantino said the film was one of his inspirations for Kill Bill (2003). It took many years, arguably until the 1990s, until female leads appeared in mainstream U.S. cinema who are strong – without adding fictional or overemphasizing masculine traits (or portraying them as femme fatales).
Additionally, Welch was a significant figure in the film The Shawshank Redemption 1994. The poster that Andy Dufresne had on his prison cell wall at the time of his escape was the famous pinup image of Welch in One Million Years B.C. Prior to Dufresne’s escape being realized, the warden refers to Welch as Miss Fuzzy Britches.