Actress Raquel Welch dead at 82 Welch is best known for her roles in Fantastic Voyage and One Million Years B.C. She is survived by her son and daughter.

Raquel Welch, actress and Hollywood sex symbol, dead at 82

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Raquel Welch has died at 82. As NPR's Chloe Veltman tells us, the movie and TV star worked hard over her long career to move beyond being pigeonholed as a sex symbol.

CHLOE VELTMAN, BYLINE: Raquel Welch's appearance in the 1966 sci-fi adventure "Fantastic Voyage" in a skintight white bodysuit certainly got moviegoers' attention.


RAQUEL WELCH: (As Cora) Open it. Open it before they get here.

STEPHEN BOYD: (As Grant) I can't till the hatch is flooded.

VELTMAN: But it was the film "One Million Years B.C.," made that same year, that sealed the actress's reputation as an international sex symbol.


UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: See her as Loana the fair one, who deserted her tribe and risked her life to follow Tumak of the Rock people.

BOB MONDELLO, BYLINE: There was a poster for "One Million Years B.C." where she was in a - guess you'd call it a fur bikini, and she's standing there looking fierce.

VELTMAN: That's NPR movie critic Bob Mondello. He says Welch wasn't required to act very much in her early movies. It was all about her visual appeal.

MONDELLO: And she rode that to enormous fame.

VELTMAN: Over a career spanning more than 50 years, the actress worked hard to eschew the bombshell stereotype. Mondello says she was brilliant at comedy.

MONDELLO: She knew she had comic chops, and she wanted to show those off. And so when she got cast in "The Three Musketeers," she was very funny.


WELCH: (As Constance de Bonacieux) Sir, you must help me. You are young and gallant. My husband is just a weak man troubled with wind.

VELTMAN: Welch won a Golden Globe Award for her performance in that film in 1974. One of her most hilarious roles was playing a heightened version of herself on the hit show "Seinfeld."


WELCH: No. No, I told you, I don't want to do that. If you bring it up again, I'll feed your genitals to a wolf.

VELTMAN: Raquel Welch was born Jo Raquel Tejada in Chicago, Ill., to a Bolivian father and an American mother. She didn't discuss her Latina heritage during her early career. Film critic and Entertainment Weekly editor Yolanda Machado says the actress had to hide her identity to succeed.

YOLANDA MACHADO: And despite what a heavy weight that may have been to conceal, she triumphed in memorable performances that stand as a portal into an entire generation.

VELTMAN: But the actress eventually embraced her roots in public. Starting in the early aughts, Welch began to speak openly about her background in interviews. And she played Latina roles, like Aunt Dora in the PBS show "American Family," about a Latino family in Los Angeles.


WELCH: (As Aunt Dora) Jess, this is wheatgrass, OK? You squeeze the grass for the juice, and then you drink it for strength and vitality.

EDWARD JAMES OLMOS: (As Jess Gonzalez) You're drinking grass.

WELCH: (As Aunt Dora) It's really quite delicious.

VELTMAN: TV writer and political cartoonist Lalo Alcaraz says Welch's Latino identity came as a surprise to many, including himself. Like many young men of his generation, he says he originally just ogled her up there on screen.

LALO ALCARAZ: I just was like, wow, look at Raquel Welch. She's beautiful.

VELTMAN: Learning about the actress's Latina heritage eventually turned him into a mega fan.

ALCARAZ: We don't have that many stars, so Raquel Welch is viewed as one of our stars. And I'm happy and proud about that.

VELTMAN: Alcaraz says one of his personal highlights was getting his picture taken with Welch at the wrap party for "American Family." He was there as a friend of the directors.

ALCARAZ: I brought a disposable camera - you know, those little yellow ones - with the express purpose of getting a photo with Raquel Welch.

VELTMAN: When the news broke about Raquel Welch's death, he posted that photo on social media. Alcaraz says the star was very gracious, and he was very giddy.

Chloe Veltman, NPR News.


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