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Few have ever achieved the pop culture icon status of Raquel Welch, whose “bombshell” looks made her one of the breakout movie stars of the 1960s and 1970s. The Chicago-native first came to prominence with a role in “Fantastic Voyage” (1966), and became a sex symbol with “One Million Years B.C.” (1966). The movie put Welch in a prehistoric version of a bikini, and posters of her in the outfit became the stuff of legend. The poster plays a prominent role in the 1994 film “The Shawshank Redemption.”
In the 1960s, she continued to see success in more mainstream projects, including “Bedazzled” (1967), the controversial “Myra Breckinridge” (1970) and “The Three Musketeers” (1973), which earned her a Golden Globe nomination. She also appeared in “The Last of Sheila” (1972), “The Wild Party” (1975) and “Bluebeard” (1972). In later years, she made a cameo appearance in “Naked Gun 33 1/3: The Final Insult” (1994) and played a pivotal role in the Reese Witherspoon comedy “Legally Blonde” (2001). Her last movie, “How to Be a Latin Lover,” co-starring Selma Hayek and Rob Lowe, was released in 2017.
On television, Welch was an early host on “Saturday Night Live,” appeared on “Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In,” “The Muppet Show,” “Mork & Mindy and “CSI: Miami,” and had a recurring role on the sitcom “Spin City.” She was also nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the television film “Right to Die” (1987).
Welch also tried her hand at singing, racking a spot in the top 40 Billboard Dance chart in 1987 for “This Girl’s Back in Town.” On stage, she appeared in productions of “Woman of the Year,” “The Millionairess” and replaced Julie Andrews in the 1997 Broadway show “Victor/Victoria.” She also performed one-woman shows in Las Vegas.
Welch also had her own fitness and beauty books and videos, a jewelry and skincare line, and at age 66 in 2007, became a face for MAC Cosmetics.
“Once you get rid of the idea that you must please other people before you please yourself, and you begin to follow your own instincts – only then can you be successful,” Welch once said.
Welch was married four times and had two children, Damon and Latanne “Tahnee,” both with her first husband James Welch. She died on Feb. 15 at the age of 82.
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