She was born Jo Raquel Tejada in Chicago, Illinois, the oldest of three children born to Armando Carlos Tejada and Josephine Sarah Hall.
In 1942, Armand Tejada was transferred to San Diego. The family moved to the suburb of La Jolla, California, where Raquel grew up. She took dancing lessons as a child, and was winning beauty pageants by the time she was a teenager. Among her titles were "Miss Photogenic," "Miss La Jolla," "Miss Contour," and "Miss San Diego." In 1957, she was named "Miss Fairest of the Fair" at the San Diego County Fair.
After high school she entered San Diego State College on a theater arts scholarship. The following year she married a high school sweetheart, James Welch.
Welch became a weather forecaster at a local San Diego television station. Because of her heavy schedule, she decided to leave college. Her marriage broke up and she moved with her two children to Dallas, Texas, where she modeled for Neiman-Marcus and worked as a cocktail hostess, entending to move on to New York City from there.
Instead, she moved back to California. She found a place in Los Angeles and started making the rounds of the movie studios. She was cast in bit parts in a few films, including Roustabout starring Elvis Presley.
On loan out to Hammer Studios in Britain, she starred in the remake of One Million Years B.C After her appearance as Lust incarnate in Bedazzled she returned to the United States and appeared in a Western with James Stewart titled Bandolero, which was followed by Lady in Cement with Frank Sinatra.
Despite box office disappointments, Welch became one of the leading sex symbols of the 1960s and 1970s. Her most memorable publicity still, where she was clad in a furry animal-skin bikini for One Million Years B.C, became a bestselling poster.
In 1975, Raquel Welch won a Golden Globe for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical Comedy for The Three Musketeers. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe for her performance in the TV drama Right to Die (1988).
She has been married to James Welch (1959)-(1962), publicist and agent Patrick Curtis (Who played the baby of Olivia de Havilland in Gone With The Wind.) (1967)-(1972), writer Andre Weinfeld (1980-1990), and Richard Palmer (1999).
She is the mother of Damon Welch and actress Tahnee Welch.
Her television appearances include the series Hollywood Palace, the made for TV movies The Legend of Walks Far Woman and Right to Die, in which she turned in a stirring performance as a woman with Lou Gehrig's disease, and in the PBS series American Family, about a Mexican American family in East Los Angeles. She has also appeared in the night time soap opera CPW and made infomercials and exercise videos.
Raquel Welch is one of the most famous sex symbols of all time, and she is still considered one of the most beautiful women in the world.
She has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame at 7021 Hollywood Boulevard.