American actress and international sex symbol Raquel Welch has died at the age of 82 after a short illness, her manager has confirmed.
Steve Sauer told CNN she died Wednesday morning in Los Angeles after a “brief illness.” Her son also confirmed her death to the Washington Post, but would not name 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 for her consecutive roles in Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C. in 1966.
She became a sex symbol for her role as a cave woman in One Million Years BC – which was promoted with a poster featuring the actress in a skinny deerskin bikini. With the role, she broke the mold of a “blonde bombshell.”
From there, Welch appeared in a slew of movies and TV shows, earning a Golden Globe for her role as Constance de Bonacieux in the 1974 remake of The Three Musketeers.
Even as she got older, Welch was named one of the 100 Sexiest Stars in Movie History and was ranked No. 3 on Playboy’s 100 Sexiest Stars of the 20th Century in 1995.
Raquel Welch was cemented as an international sex symbol with her role in One Million Years BC
Raquel Welch, who achieved international fame in the 1960s, has passed away 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 oldest of three siblings, James and Gayle Tejada.
The family moved to San Diego, California when Welch was only 2 years old, where she regularly attended church with her mother.
Welch began studying ballet at the age of 7, but gave up 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 such 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 prettiest in the fair – at the San Diego County Fair.
In the end, she was even called Maid of California.
After 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 television station in San Diego and retired from acting for a while – having only earned roles in local theater companies.
After her divorce from her first husband, Welch earned 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 movie
Welch’s first foray into Hollywood came with guest starring roles on hit TV shows before landing her breakout roles in Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C.
In 1963, Welch decided to move to Los Angeles to pursue her lifelong dream of becoming a movie star.
There she met one-time child star Patrick Curtis, who became her personal and business manager. He had suggested that she continue using her ex-husband’s name to avoid being typecast as a Latina actress.
Her first foray into Hollywood came with small roles in two movies, A House is Not a Home and Elvis Presley’s Roustabout. She also landed on hit TV shows like Bewitched, The Virginian, and McHale’s Navy.
Welch’s first starring role was in the 1965 beach movie A Swingin’ Summer. That same year, she also received some attention for her photo in Life magazine, including from producer Saul David’s wife, who recommended her for a contract with 20th Century Fox.
She agreed to a non-exclusive seven-year 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 who is shrunk and injected into a wounded diplomat in an attempt to save his life.
From there, the studio loaned its contract to a UK studio to produce One Million Years BC.
She also took on roles playing the deadly sin Lust opposite Peter Cook and Dudley Moore in the 1967 comedy Bedazzled and played the titular secret agent in the spy comedy Fathom.
Welch also had roles in the 1969 western 100 Riles and played the transgender titular character Myra Breckinridge in the 1970s film.
In the 1970s, Welch made the rounds on television, appearing in Robin Williams’ comedy Mork and Mindy as his nemesis, as well as television movies The Girl’s Back in Town and Right to Die, for which he earned a Golden Globe.
More recently, Welch has appeared in Lois & Clark, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Seinfeld, Spin City, and CSI: Miami.
Welch is pictured here after donating $1 million worth of wigs to the American Cancer Society for her 65th birthday
Welch was named one of the 100 sexiest stars in movie history in 1995
Welch was married to James Welch from 1959 to 1964, to Patrick Curtis from 1967 to 1972, to Andre Weinfeld from 1980 to 1990, and to Richard Palmer from 1999 to 2004, with whom she has two children, Tahnee and Damon Welch.