American actress and international sex symbol Raquel Welch has died at the age of 82 following a brief illness, her business manager has confirmed.
Steve Sauer told CNN that she died in Los Angeles Wednesday morning following a ‘brief illness.’ Her son also confirmed her death to the Washington Post, but would not cite a specific cause.
Welch’s death was first reported by TMZ, citing family members, prompting fans and celebrities alike to post tributes to the iconic actress online.
Welch rose to fame from her back-to-back roles in Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C. in 1966, for which she became a sex symbol, breaking the mold of a ‘blond bombshell.’
From there, Welch appeared in a slew of movies and television shows, and earned a Golden Globe for her role as Constance de Bonacieux in the 1974 remake of The Three Musketeers.
Raquel Welch was cemented as an international sex symbol with her role in One Million Years BC
Raquel Welch, who gained international fame in the 1960s, has died at the age of 82
Welch, pictured in 2017, is survived by her two children, Tahnee and Damon Welch
The one-time sex symbol was born Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois to a Bolivian immigrant father, Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo and Josephine Sarah Hall.
She was the eldest of three siblings, James and Gayle Tejada.
The family moved to San Diego, California when Welch was just 2 years old, where she regularly attended church with her mother.
Welch began studying ballet at the age of 7, but gave up on the pursuit after 10 years when her instructor told her she did not have the right body type for professional ballet companies.
At the age of 14, Welch won beauty titles as Miss Photogenic and Miss Contour. She would then go on to win Miss La Jolla and the title of Miss San Diego – the Fairest of the Fair – at the San Diego County Fair.
Eventually, she was even named Maid of California.
Following high school, Welch attended San Diego State College on a theater arts scholarship, and married her high school sweetheart, James Welch in 1959.
She went on to work as a weather forecaster for a local San Diego television station, and gave up on acting for a while — after only earning roles in local theater companies.
Following her separation from her first husband, Welch made a precarious living as a cocktail waitress and as a model for Neiman Marcus.
She played the transgender titular character Myra Breckinridge in the 1970s film
Welch’s first foray into Hollywood came with guest spots on popular television shows before she landed her breakout roles in Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C.
Welch was named one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in Film History in 1995
In 1963, Welch decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue her lifelong dreams of becoming a movie star.
There, she met one-time child star Patrick Curtis, who became her personal and business manager — and later husband. He had suggested that she continue to use her ex-husband’s name to avoid being typecast as a Latina actress.
Her first foray into Hollywood came with small roles in two films, A House is Not a Home and Elvis Presley’s Roustabout. She also landed spots on popular television shows like Bewitched, The Virginian and McHale’s Navy.
Welch’s first featured role was in the 1965 beach film A Swingin’ Summer. That same year her photo in Life Magazine also gained her some attention, including from the wife of producer Saul David, who recommended her to a contract with 20th Century Fox.
She agreed to a seven-year nonexclusive contract for five pictures over the next five years and two floaters.
The studio cast her in her first big break in Fantastic Voyage, playing a member of a medical team that is shrunk down and injected into an injured diplomat in an effort to save his life.
From there, the studio leant her contract to a Hammer Studios in the UK to produce One Million Years BC.
For that role, and the notoriously skimpy outfit, the New York Times hailed Welch’s performance as ‘a marvelous breathing monument to womankind.’
And another author explained: ‘Although she had only three lines in the film, her luscious figure in a fur bikini made her a star and the dream girl of millions of young moviegoers.’
Welch is pictured posing for a portrait in 1978 in Los Angeles after years of stardom
In 1969, Welch appeared next to Frank Sinatra in the detective film Lady in Cement
In 1994, Welch appeared in Naked Gun with Leslie Nielsen (pictured here on set)
The Latina star is pictured filming her workout video Body and Mind: Total Relaxation and Stress Relief Program
Soon, she became an international star, even appearing in an Italian heist film.
She also took on roles playing the deadly sin Lust opposite Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in the 1967 British comedy Bedazzled and played the titular secret agent in the spy comedy Fathom.
Welch also had roles in the 1969 western 100 Riles, as well as the sequel to Tony Rome, appearing next to Frank Sinatra in the detective film Lady in Cement.
Her most controversial role, though, was as transgender titular character Myra Breckinridge in the 1970 film.
That same year, CBS also released her own, short-lived television show, Raquel!
She also made the rounds on television over the next few years, appearing on Robin Williams’ comedy Mork and Mindy as his nemesis, as well as in television films The Girl’s Back in Town and Right to Die, earning a Golden Globe for the latter.
Welch’s looks and fame led her to be named the Most Desired Woman of the 1970s by Playboy.
But her career was not without its bumps, as she was set to appear in the 1982 adaption of John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row, but was abruptly fired after a few weeks of filming.
Studio executives said at the time she was not living up to her contract, by missing early morning rehearsals.
Welch sued the studio for breach of contract in response.
In testimony, MGM executives dismissed the suit by saying Welch was bitter because she was over 40, an age when actresses tend to start losing roles. But Welch’s evidence proved there was a conspiracy to falsely blame her for the film’s budget problems and delays.
The jury ultimately sided with Welch, and she won a $10.8million verdict against MGM in 1986.
More recently, Welch has made appearances on Lois & Clark, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Seinfeld, Spin City and CSI: Miami.
Welch was married to James Welch from 1959 to 1964, Patrick Curtis from 1967 to 1972, Andre Weinfeld from 1980 to 1990, and Richard Palmer from 1999 to 2004, with whom she has two children Tahnee and Damon Welch.
Welch is pictured here after donating $1million in wigs to the American Cancer Society for her 65th birthday
Jimmy Stewart is pictured meeting Welch for the first time at the premier of The Flight of the Phoenix in 1966
Welch is pictured here with her second husband, Patrick Curtis, at a bullfight in Spain in 1968
Welch is survived by her son, Damon Welch, pictured here at the 46th annual Academy Awards in 1974 with his mother
In 1994, Welch received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for her years of work, and in 2001, she was awarded the Imagen Foundation Lifetime Achievement Award for her positive promotion of Americans of Latin heritage throughout her career.