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If you’ve followed her career for the past 60 years, you may be wondering how Raquel Welch died and what caused her death.
Welch—whose full name was Jo Raquel Tejada—was born on September 5, 1940, in Chicago, Illinois. She rose to prominence in the 1960s in movies like Fantastic Voyage, Bedazzled, Bandolreo!, 100 Rifles One Million Years B.C. which she became known as an international sex symbol for due to the movie’s posters of her in a doe-skin bikini. Welch went on to star in movies like Myra Breckinridge, Hannie Caulder and The Three Musketeers, which she won a Golden Globe Award for in the Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical or Comedy in 1974. She was also nominated for a Golden Globe Award in the Best Actress in Television Film category in 1987 for the movie Right to Die.
In an interview with The Los Angeles Times in 1986, Welch opened up about becoming known as a sex symbol and her struggles with the term. “Every time I left the theater, there would be a crowd of women waiting to ask me questions, such as: ‘What do you eat?,’ ‘What kind of exercises do you do?’ and ‘How do you look like that?,’” she said. “Well, I wasn’t about to stand there and explain my daily hour-and-a-half exercise routine or what I had for breakfast.” She continued, “Being a sex symbol was a tremendous responsibility and a constant battle. It used to bother me at first, but I now know you can have that and be respected as well. You can have both.”
After more than six decades in Hollywood, Welch died on February 15, 2023. She was 82 years old. So how did Raquel Welch die and what was her cause of death? Read on for what we know about how Raquel Welch died and what her cause of death was before she passed.
How did Raquel Welch die?
How did Raquel Welch die? Welch died on the morning of February 15, 2023, at her home in Los Angeles. She was 82 years old. In a death certificate obtained by TMZ, Welch’s cause of death was cardiac arrest. The document also lists Alzheimer’s Disease as an underlying cause of the veteran star’s death. The actress did not reveal her Alzheimer’s diagnosis when she was alive.
Welch “Raquel Welch, the legendary bombshell actress of film, television and stage, passed away peacefully early this morning after a brief illness,” her manager Steve Sauer and management, Media Four, said in a statement to The Los Angeles Times at the time. The statement continued, “Her career spanned over 50 years starring in over 30 films and 50 television series and appearances. The Golden Globe winner, in more recent years, was involved in a very successful line of wigs. Raquel leaves behind her two children, son Damon Welch and her daughter Tahnee Welch.”
Welch’s death was also confirmed by her son, Damon Welch. Welch shared Damon and her daughter, Tahnee Welch, with her first husband, James Welch, whom she was married to from 1959 to 1964. Welch was married to her second husband, Patrick Curtis, from 1967 to 1972. She was married to her third husband, Andre Weinfeld, from 1980 to 1990. She was married to her fourth and final husband, Richard Palmer, from 1999 to 2004.
After the news of her death, several celebrities reacted to Welch’s passing. Reese Witherspoon, who starred with Welch in 2001’s Legally Blonde, tweeted a photo of Welch in the movie with the caption: “So sad to hear about Raquel Welch’s passing. I loved working with her on Legally Blonde. She was elegant , professional and glamorous beyond belief. Simply stunning. May all her angels carry her home. 🕊️ Sending love to her family and her many fans ❤️”
Director Paul Fieg, who worked with Welch in the TV series Sabrina the Teenage Witch, tweeted, “This is so sad. I had the great pleasure of working with Ms. Welch when I was a regular on Sabrina the Teenage Witch and she was awesome. Kind, funny and a true superstar whom I was pretty much in love with for most of my childhood. We’ve lost a true icon.” Law & Order: Special Victims Unit alum Christopher Meloni tweeted, “Raquel Welch dying is a very weird feeling.”
What was Raquel Welch’s cause of death?
What was Raquel Welch’s cause of death? Welch’s manager, Steve Sauer, and management company, Media Four, confirmed to The Los Angeles Times that Welch’s cause of death was a “brief illness” she was diagnosed with soon before she died. Welch’s family members also confirmed to TMZ that Welch’s cause of death was a brief illness, though the exact illness hasn’t been confirmed.
In an interview with Observer magazine in 1984, Welch—who was promoting her workout book Raquel: The Raquel Welch Total Beauty and Fitness Program at the time—opened up about her diet and the foods she included and avoided. “The fact is that the mind and the body are interrelated,” she said at the time. “When they hear that I have given up salt, sugar, oil and processed food, they are aghast.”
Welch also told The Daily Mail in 2001 about how she stayed fit well after her 50s. “I am 5 foot 6 inches and, at my peak, my vital statistics were 37-22-35,” Welch, who was 61 years old at the time, said. “I didn’t even think about my weight—but now I work hard at keeping healthy. Fortunately, my husband Richie is as much of a fitness buff as I am. I get up at 6am and do yoga, stretches and breathing. Then, six days a week, I go to the gym. I’m there at 7am and I do an hour of cardiovascular work and then 30 to 45 minutes of weight training.” She continued, “I inherited good skin from my mother, and I stay away from soap which dries it out. Now I’m 61, I have some wrinkles around my eyes but I earned every one of them.”
As for her diet, Welch told The Daily Mail that she ate starches and proteins, but avoided them together. “My housekeeper, Jean, has been with me for 15 years. She’s a fabulous cook and her food’s all completely non-fat,” she said. “With her help, I practice food combining. I eat proteins with vegetables, and starches with vegetables, but no starches with proteins. I eat grains in the morning with fruit and no sugar. I have four ounces of protein at each of the other two meals—grilled or broiled with lemon and herbs and no salt. I also take vitamins A, C, D and E along with selenium and a calcium tablet every day.”
Welch also told The Daily Mail at the time that she did yoga to exercise both her body and mind. “My family was very conservative and I had a traditional upbringing. I was not brought up to be a sex symbol, nor is it in my nature to be one,” she said. “The fact that I became one is probably the loveliest, most glamorous and fortunate misunderstanding. I’m a hard worker, very driven, and have never expected anything to come easily. My yoga, a great rejuvenator, helped me to live down my image—this sex symbol thing. It helps me connect with myself.”
Welch also told Men’s Health in 2012 about an injury she sustained on the set of CSI: Miami at the time. “It wasn’t really that bad. The story was picked up by the National Enquirer, so of course it got blown out of proportion. Right before I was about to do the show, I broke my foot. It was just after Christmas and I was at home and I swear I hadn’t been drinking all that much,” she said. “It’s the truth! Anyway, I ended up falling and broke my foot. All I could think was, oh my God, I’ve got this shoot coming up and it’s going to be weird.”
When asked why the shoot would be weird, Welch told Men’s Health, “Well, what if I couldn’t stand up on my own? I didn’t want them to have to put my character in a wheelchair or hobble around with a crutch. But I healed very quickly and made it just under the wire. We’d been shooting, I don’t know, maybe two days, and we were on location outside of this big beautiful house in Pasadena. I got called to the set, and I had to walk across this area that was all gravel, and I’m wearing these very high-heeled sexy shoes. I’m kinda’ wobbling around and the guy who was escorting me to the set, who’s a big muscular guy, he says to me, ‘Let me carry you.’”
She continued, “And I said ‘Great, thank you.’ Because I really didn’t need to fall down, especially with my broken foot just barely healed. So he picks me up and carries me, and we’re just past the gravel when he starts to lose his balance. We’re starting to fall, and I’m thinking, oh come on! This can’t be happening to me!”
For more about Raquel Welch, read her 2010 memoir, Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage. Written in her own words, Beyond the Cleavage takes readers through Welch’s life and career, from her childhood with a volatile father to her divorce and her struggles as a single, working mother in Hollywood. The book also dives into Welch’s struggle for respect as an actress after her title as a “sex symbol” the 1960s, and her decision to never lie about her age. “Looking forward, she offers women a compass to guide them at every crossroad of life, from menopause through the empty-nest years, to dating younger men and beyond,” the publisher’s description reads. “Deeply personal (Welch wrote every word herself—no ghostwriter), Beyond the Cleavage is Raquel Welch’s gift to every woman who longs to look and feel her best, and be at peace with herself.”
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