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Raquel Welch: Aging Beautifully

Sex symbol reveals what’s behind the glitter: career highs and lows, helping cancer patients and more

En español | The signature leopard-print clothes and decor hint at the sexy side of Raquel Welch. But she's also funny, entrepreneurial and a self-proclaimed prude.

That last bit of news might come as a surprise as you chat in her home high in the hills of Los Angeles. But the camisole she's wearing under the sheer leopard-print blouse barely camouflages the famous attribute headlined in The New York Times best-seller Raquel: Beyond the Cleavage. Today she's focused on redecorating.

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"I moved in before going on tour with the book," says Welch. "I took everything I had from another house. I have different ideas now about where I want everything. I'm having fireplaces, a staircase and window shades put in. That's just the beginning!"

Welch, born Sept. 5, 1940, is settling in but not settling down — personally or professionally. Unlike most celebrities, she wrote every sentence of her book, a combination of memoir, observations and beauty advice. "It was girl talk for me," she says. "I felt like people had me on a pedestal, and they didn't know there was this other person. They saw the poster but they didn't really know the story behind it."

She's referring, of course, to the poster from her 1966 movie, One Million Years B.C., the one with a voluptuous, long-legged Welch swaddled in a doeskin bikini that struggles to keep her decent.

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She hadn't expected much from the movie — she may have been its heroine but she uttered only a single line: "Me Loana, you Tumak." But the poster catapulted her to instant fame as America's reigning sex symbol.

"I was a bigger-than-life persona before I was anyone in my own mind," she says. Just 26 at the time, the single mother of two toddlers was separated from their father, her high school sweetheart Jim Welch. "I regret that I didn't give that marriage more of a chance," she says.

Fifty years, three more husbands and scores of TV, movie and theater roles later, Welch still seems larger than life. Today she's wearing Dolce & Gabbana leopard-print sandals with serious heels. Hoops the size of bracelets dangle from her ears and twinkle with diamond chips. She has the gleaming skin of a 30-year-old and a soft voice, both melodic and patrician. Her upbringing in La Jolla, California, didn't prepare her for Hollywood. "They used to say, 'La Jolla is full of nearly-deads, newlyweds and damned old geraniums,'" she says. "It's a pretty affluent community, but when I left, I learned how protective and insular it was. I wasn't exposed to the big, bad cruel world."

From beauty queen to movie star. »

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