She was born as Jo Raquel Tejada on September 5, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois. Her father was an immigrant aeronautical engineer from Bolivia and her mother was an Irish American. Her father was transferred to San Diego, California in 1942. Hence, the family shifted to California.
As a child she was interested in dancing and so Rachel Welch took dancing lessons. She won many beauty pageants as a teenager. She won the Maid of California 1958 title in California State Fair. She entered San Diego State College on a Theater Arts Scholarship in 1958 after passing from La Jolla High School. She married her high school sweetheart James Welch in 1959.
She played a title role in Ramona Pageant, a year long outdoor play, at Hemet, California in 1959 which was a success. She also became a weather forecaster for local TV station. She could not cope up with studies. Hence, she dropped out from college. Her marriage broke up too. She shifted with her two kids to Dallas, Texas, where she did some modeling assignments. She shifted back to California started looking for openings in movies. Initially she did some small parts in TV shows. Her first break in films came with ‘A Swinging Summer’ which got her a contract with 20th Century Fox. Her next role was in a science fiction movie ‘Fantastic Voyage’ (1966), which made her a star.
She was the star in the movie ‘One Million Years B.C.’, for this she posed in an animal skin bikini. She became a sex symbol of 60s and 70s. Playboy called her the ‘Most Desired Woman’ of the 70s.She won a Golden Globe for best actress for ‘Three Musketeers’ in 1974. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe for TV drama ‘Right to Die’ in 1987. She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in Hollywood Boulevard. She has been married 4 times and presently separated from her fourth husband Richard Palmer.
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