Born Jo Raquel Tejada on September 4, 1940 in Chicago, Illinois, Raquel Welch is the oldest of three children of Armando Carlos Tejada Urquizo and Josephine Sarah Hall. In 1942, her family moved to San Diego, California, where she was raised. At a young age, she began taking dancing lessons and was already winning beauty pageants by the time she hit her teen years. She soon entered San Diego State College on a theater arts scholarship.
In 1959, Welch played the titular role of Ramona Pageant in a yearly outdoor play at Hemet, California. She later became a weather forecaster at KFMB, a local San Diego television station, and soon decided to leave college due to her hectic schedule. She then moved to Dallas, Texas, where she did some modeling until she moved to Los Angeles, California to work on films and television shows such as Bewitched, McHale's Navy, The Hollywood Palace, and The Virginian.
The role that landed her a contract with 20th Century Fox was on A Swingin' Summer. She later worked on the hit Fantastic Voyage in 1966. She also starred in the remake of One Million Years B.C., after which she appeared in Bedazzled, Badolero! and Lady in Cement. Her first starring rile was in Myra Breckinridge with Mae West, where she played a transsexual heroine.
By the 1960s and 1970s, Welch became one of the leading sex symbols in America and was named by Playboy as Most Desired Woman of the 1970s. Her television work includes The Hollywood Palace, TV movies The Legend of Walks Far Woman and Right to Die, and the PBS series American Family. She also appeared in the soap opera Central Park West. In 2007, Welch was cast as Charlene Van Ness in the CBS series, Welcome to the Captain.
Aside from acting, Welch also released a book entitled “The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program” in 1984, which featured a Hatha Yoga program and her insights on health and beauty.
Charlene Van Ness of CBS' Welcome to the Captain is played by Raquel Welsh. Charlene is one of the eccentric residents of the Hollywood apartment building, El Capitan or The Captain. She is a vixen who welcomes newbie resident Josh Flug in her own seductive way. A writer whose filmmaking career hit a wall, Josh moves into The Captain after his friend Marty Tanner convinces him to stay.
(Photo courtesy of CBS)