Bodacious. Was that even a word before Raquel Welch arrived on the scene? It may seem like she’s been around forecer, but that’s because her big break came in the movie One Million Years B.C. You know, the one where she posed in an animal-skin bikini that ended up on every teenage boys’ bedroom wall. (Not to mention on a jail cell wall in The Shawshank Redemption.)
The fact that I became a sex symbol is probably the loveliest, most glamorous, and fortunate misunderstanding.
Her beauty and figure have been celebrated far and wide. But where she once was a sex symbol, we now consider Welch, who just turned 81, an Age Boldly icon.
Welch was never known for her great thespian skills, but she certainly lit up the screen in Bay City Bomber, The Three Musketeers, and Fantastic Voyage. The film, Myra Breckenridge, in which she starred in the title role, has been called one of the worst films ever made, but is notable for its early embrace of gender fluidity and a lesbian love scene between Welch and Farrah Fawcett. Two iconic poster girls in love? How come we don’t hear more about that?
She broke another taboo with her love scene in 100 Rifles. Her romantic interest was Jim Brown, a black actor, and at the time, interracial relationships were still controversial.
Raquel Welch Off Screen
Her off-screen life was not as steamy, but still there were four marriages and love affairs with Sean Connery and Joe Namath. When she brought Namath to the 1972 Oscars, they caused a sensation. If they’d married, they could have been the Tom and Giselle of that generation.
But such public displays with other celebrities were rare. Her longest marriage (10 years) was to producer Andre Weinfeld, who was not known for his good looks. In fact, they were sometimes referred to as “Beauty and the Beast.”
Welch once told a biographer, “What I do on the screen is not to be equated with what I do in my private life. Privately, I am understated and dislike any hoopla.” She also admitted, “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”
Besides her two children, her legacy is setting the standard for a strong, take-no-shit woman who also happens to be beautiful. Plus, she was one of the first women to have the lead role in a Western. Hannie Caulder influenced the revenge fantasy films that came later, such as Kill Bill from Quentin Tarantino. We think that’s a good thing.
As a business woman, she’s had great success with a line of wigs, which helps explain the incredible hair in recent photos. A practitioner of Hatha Yoga, Welch spread the gospel of healthy living and good nutrition, and at 81, the results are obvious. She makes us want to give up chocolate chip cookies forever. Well, almost.