Raquel Welch is a pop culture icon. If her name doesn’t ring a bell, perhaps this film poster featuring the starlet clad in a fur bikini that only barely clings on to her curvaceous frame will. The movie in question is One Million Years B.C., and although Welch barely speaks in the classic flick, it shot her to absolute superstardom in 1966.
The Chicago-born Welch revealed in her autobiography, Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage, that she was drawn to performing as a child, and enrolled in ballet upon moving to California (via Oprah.com). While her hopes of becoming a classical ballerina were dashed, the training « didn’t go to waste » as the « classes had shaped a near-perfect body » by her mid-teens … something that would certainly come in handy in her career. Marrying her high school sweetheart and giving birth to two children, nobody would have thought Welch would become such a sex symbol in the Swinging Sixties — until she did.
It’s been nearly 60 years since the ’60s, so keep on scrolling to find out what’s happened to Raquel Welch since. To start, this nearly 80-year-old star is as gorgeous as ever.
Raquel Welch truly did enjoy her first ‘booby trap’
It’s funny that One Million Years B.C. put Raquel Welch on the map as a silver screen star — considering it doesn’t really showcase her acting chops. She even admitted in her autobiography, Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage, that the fame that followed was something that surprised her: « I had no other credentials as an actress outside of that one laughable line of dialogue: ‘Me Loana … You Tumak.’ It felt like I’d stumbled into a booby trap — pun intended » (via Oprah.com). She went on, « I am living proof that a picture speaks a thousand words. »
Although you’d think she’d resent the movie that turned her into, well, eye candy, Welch has no regrets. While speaking to Piers Morgan years later on his Life Stories show, the starlet revealed that she liked the attention that blew up from the film. « I thought that this was going to be one of those movies that was going to make me a laughing stock — well it did that too — and it’s a breakthrough, » Welch said. « Every single person seems to know who I am. »
The flick was so iconic, in fact, that no matter how much time passes, Welch’s impression on Hollywood has been eternal. In 2013, she graced the No. 2 spot on Men’s Health‘s Hottest Women of All Time list, proving that age is just a number and pop culture icons never fade.
Hugh Hefner called Welch ‘boring’ but they remained pals
The fur bikini Welch wore in 1966’s One Million Years B.C. solidified her status as a Hollywood « It Girl. » According to Time, she was even dubbed the « most desired woman » the following decade by Playboy. Although Hugh Hefner and the mag approached the actress countless times asking her to pose nude, the starlet kept denying them, regardless of the payout.
« I am my father’s daughter and that’s just not the way you behave, » Welch explained to Piers Morgan on Life Stories. When Morgan pointed out that she did eventually end up doing a shoot for Playboy, she clarified that she accepted their offer because she had an upcoming movie to promote — and because it was agreed that there wouldn’t be any full nudity. Apparently, this didn’t sit well with Hefner: « I said, ‘What’s the problem, Hugh?’ and he said, ‘Well there’s no t**s, and there’s no a**.’ I said, ‘Isn’t that the deal we made?’ He said, ‘Yes, but it’s boring.' » At this, Welch declared that although he didn’t have to use the photos, he still had to pay her.
Thankfully, there wasn’t any bad blood between the two. When the iconic media mogul passed away in 2017, Welch posted a tribute on Instagram with the caption, « I’m gonna miss you Hef. You were always a standup guy! XX Rocky. »
That bikini bod takes work!
It’s no secret that Raquel Welch is known for her fantastic shape. Although genetics definitely play a role, the actress has always made sure to keep busy with her workouts, too. In fact, one Google search of the starlet’s fitness videos from her heyday will bring back numerous exercises — all with Welch donning hilariously colored unitards. Ditching the ’80s workout gear for something less visually abrasive, Welch turned to yoga in her late 30s, and has even practiced the exercise every day for over three decades!
As for her face, which miraculously still looks flawless to this day? Welch once admitted that her trick is, well, kind of bizarre. During her Life Stories interview with Piers Morgan, the diva dished, « Bag Balm is kind of a silly thing. It’s used when they milk cows on their udders » (via The Sun). Wait, what? She went on, « It is something you can put on overnight and when you wake up you don’t have a dry, cracking mouth. Believe me, there are a lot of mummies walking around with Bag Balm. »
After decades of being coveted by many, she’s still single
Wondering how four lucky husbands let Raquel Welch slip away? Don’t worry, us too. These days, the actress is remarkably single — and she likes it that way. « I’m too set in my ways, » Welch told Piers Morgan on Life Stories. « I like what I do, I actually enjoy being me and I make a very good living at it and I’m happy, » she said, explaining that she doesn’t need a man to support her. Welch went on, « [Men] like the whole attraction and the sort of dance that we all do, but they don’t really like the fact that when we go someplace together I become the person that’s focused on. It just doesn’t work well with the male/female relationship. »
As it turns out, being a silver screen starlet comes with some woes, too, as some former beaus have apparently tried using her for her fame, as well. Still speaking to Morgan, Welch mused, « Sometimes it was because people were with me because of who I was and what I could bring to the table. While I’m away working they like to start controlling the finances and all kinds of other things, and when I find out about that, I’m not happy. » Totally understandable.
Raquel Welch is a makeup icon
With her notoriety as a pop culture icon spanning decades, Raquel Welch was dubbed a Mac Cosmetics icon in 2007 — when she was 67 years old. Sitting pretty with other legends, such as Brooke Shields and even Marge Simpson of The Simpsons, Welch has earned her status among the elite. According to Glamour, the collection « was inspired by [her] movie star image; strong and wild, sophisticated and exotic. » With the packaging featuring a « retro tiger-striped » theme and with the products dubbed « Tiger Tiger lipstick » and « Amazon eye shadow, » for example, it’s easy to tell that Welch’s movie roles still continue to inspire people today.
While her good looks have certainly contributed to her success, Welch also has Allan « Whitey » Snyder to thank. Marie Claire reports that Snyder was Hollywood’s go-to makeup artist during the starlet’s prime and also ensured Marilyn Monroe, Katharine Hepburn, and Doris Day all looked flawless.
Immaculate makeup certainly helps, but what does the One Million Years B.C. actress think of her looks? « I don’t find myself even the littlest bit sexy, but I can pretend, » Welch confessed on Piers Morgan’s Life Stories. « I’m not in love with myself, or anything close to it. I always think I could do something with this. It’s more like every other woman in the world, I come in and I think, ‘Oh, it’s you again.' »
This gorgeous star is also a wig aficionado
Just like her ’60s Tinseltown peers, Raquel Welch was iconic for her big hair. Teaching countless women that bigger is certainly better, the bouffant was a signature look for the era, with copious amounts of hairspray and backcombing.
Of course, in more recent years, Welch has ditched the groovy ‘do and is now a different kind of hair icon. Pivoting to the world of fake hair, the starlet has found herself in the position of being a premium wig designer. Making her wigs in collaboration with HairUWear, Welch’s styles are countless — and she’s usually seen modeling most of them, too.
The Chicago-born diva certainly wears wigs in her everyday life, even admitting in her 2010 autobiography, « With the aid of a wig, I have more versatility in my life, and so can you! » (via Slate). In fact, she even showed up for her 2012 Slate interview donning one of her wigs, affectionately patting it in the process. Welch’s tips to optimize the look of the wig? As she told her interviewer, « I hang mine up overnight, upside down. Clip it to a coat-hanger. By the morning it is perfectly fluffed. »
Raquel Welch is finally showcasing her Latina heritage
After almost 40 years of playing Anglo roles and having her own Latin father dismiss his heritage upon moving to America, Raquel Welch finally began embracing her Latina side in the early 2000s. In an interview with The New York Times, the actress revealed, « I’m happy to acknowledge it and it’s long overdue … There’s been kind of an empty place here in my heart and also in my work for a long, long time. »
That emptiness started when Welch was a little girl. « Dad seemed indifferent to his heritage, » she wrote in Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage (via Oprah.com), adding, « This made me feel like there was something wrong with being from Bolivia, ‘a third-world country.' » As Welch grew up and her star rose with her, different people attempted to stifle her roots. As one of Tinseltown’s biggest pinup girls of the ’60s, Hollywood execs tried getting Welch to dye her hair blonde and change her first name. While she did change her hair color, she refused the latter.
« [People in Hollywood] said, ‘Nobody would remember that name, Raquel … We think you should be called Debbie, » the diva told Piers Morgan on Life Stories. « I was a little bit ornery and I felt, ‘I’m not giving it up. If I’m worth anything they’ll remember it. » It turns out, they most definitely did.
Yes, Raquel Welch still loves getting noticed
If Raquel Welch is known for one thing, it’s strutting around in a fur bikini in One Million Years B.C. So iconic is the look, in fact, that even Kim Kardashian once decided to channel the ’60s starlet with her own rendition of the skimpy yet fuzzy ensemble.
Another starlet that directly paid homage to the industry vet? Emily Ratajkowski. Recreating this distinctive look for Halloween in 2018 with the help of a costumer at Jimmy Kimmel Live!, the model’s imitation was flawless. On the Shoot it Now podcast, she gushed, « I’m obsessed with reference images, and that image, that poster of her in what they called ‘mankind’s first bikini’ — I love that » (via The Wrap). Ratajkowski added, « It’s just fun and kind of quirky. »
As for Welch? That same year, she explained to The Sunday Post, « It is nice to be noticed. I think it is much better than not being noticed! » Smiling, the actress went on, « My whole career has been about being noticed … so I am grateful that people are still interested. » So, is Welch bored with talking about that fur two-piece? « I’m often asked if I get sick of talking about that bikini but the truth is, I don’t, » she said. « It was a major event in my life so why not talk about it? » Amen.
Her surprising connection to Khloé Kardashian
Raquel Welch seems to have left quite the impression on a member of the Kardashian clan. Wait, what? In a twist that nobody saw coming, it turns out that the youngest of the Kardashian sisters, Khloé, is inspired by the ’60s icon. While giving her website subscribers a peek into her home in 2016, the reality TV star shared a bizarre piece of artwork that hangs at the top of her staircase: a black-and-white copy of a Terry O’Neill photograph featuring a crucified Raquel Welch, complete in her fur bikini from One Million Years B.C. (via Glamour). The media outlet notes that it was ultimately deemed « too scandalous for promotional use at the time. »
So, why did O’Neill create such a controversial image? According to Glamour, the artist explained, « I wanted to symbolize the dilemma facing Welch as the female sex symbol of the decade — crucified for her sexuality by the movie industry and the wider public who did not take her seriously as an actress. »
As for Kardashian? « I love old Hollywood, love Raquel Welch, and especially love the meaning behind the piece, » she gushed to her fans at the time (via Glamour). « It was way before its time! It’s just a dope piece of feminist art. I’ll probably get a lot of s**t for having this because people will say it’s sacrilegious, but it’s my house, so f**k off, LOL. »
What’s the most attractive thing to this gorgeous star?
In her heyday, Raquel Welch was the queen of low-key sexuality. Never one to cross the line into vulgar, she always maintained a flirtatious air of subtlety. Men’s Health‘s Eric Spitznagel had a fangirl moment while gushing to the diva about the opening sequence of her 1967 flick, Fathom, during a 2012 interview. Calling it « understated erotic, » the scene consists of the beauty putting together a parachute. Laughing in response, Welch explained, « I remember Jimmy Coburn once said to me, ‘You know what’s the sexiest thing of all? A little mystery’ … When you put it all out there, there’s nothing left to the imagination. »
As for her thoughts on more direct sexuality, such as the adult film industry today, the star doesn’t approve. « It just gets to be so plastic and phony to me, » Welch told Men’s Health. « Maybe men respond to that. But is it really better than an experience with a real-life girl that he cares about? »
Being such a sex symbol in the past, Welch now identifies as a strong feminist. She once gave an interview after the release of her autobiography and declared, « Do we really have to go so far where nothing is happening unless we’re getting graphic? » (via National Review). Welch added, « A woman is a wonderful thing … It’s not an easy role to play, but a beautiful and powerful one. »
Raquel Welch: Hollywood’s own ‘Mama Duck’
Having been in the Hollywood biz for decades, Raquel Welch is a veteran at dodging paps and now enjoys helping out younger actresses who are new on the block.
Affectionately dubbing herself « Mama Duck, » the ’60s celeb discussed her peculiar nickname with GQ in 2012. Painting the picture of a young and beautiful actress having dinner at the same spot she was, Welch dished, « She wanted to leave out the backdoor of a very uncelebrated restaurant because there were a few paparazzi in the front. And I said, ‘You’re going to have to go all the way down the back alley? … Just go out that door, get into your car and leave.’ … And she said, ‘You’re just going to walk out the front like that?’ And I said, ‘Well, I have to. My car’s out there.' »
This wasn’t the first time Welch was around to give advice, either. Her close friend, the late Burt Reynolds, once approached her for help after he posed nude for a centerfold in Cosmopolitan, according to People. Becoming an inside joke between the two, Reynolds apparently had mixed feelings about the centerfold, while Welch offered her own two cents: « There’s one thing about public image and the press. And there’s another thing about what you really do. Sometimes they’re not exactly in sync but it’s okay because it’s just the way the game goes. »
Raquel Welch’s daughter is just as gorgeous
Raquel Welch [pictured, left] already had two kids from her first marriage when she started her career in Tinseltown: son Damon and daughter Tahnee. As it turns out, Tahnee [pictured, right] actually followed in her mother’s footsteps and pursued acting. She’s mostly known for her role in the 1985 sci-fi flick, Cocoon.
Unfortunately, Raquel shared a strained relationship with her children while they were growing up. Amid her skyrocket to fame, the A-list celeb admittedly put her career first and her marriage and children second. She elaborated on this notion to Piers Morgan on Life Stories, getting teary-eyed in the process and saying she regrets « the many, many other times I wasn’t there for Damon and Tahnee. » She added, « I can’t replace those times and it hurts me and it’s hurt them probably worse because that’s their childhood and I’m their mother. »
Now that she can objectively look back at her past, Raquel Welch has been trying to make amends. « I wasn’t impossible before, but in the past 10 years, I’ve made a concerted effort to think about what I have to do for other people, what I owe, what my part is in whatever relationship or situation I find myself in, » the former Hollywood diva told AARP in 2011. Putting it perfectly, Welch added, « It’s getting older, I guess, that makes you think that way. »