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I'm glad those days are over. But I was wrong about the dinosaur movie; it wasn't a leap into obscurity. By the time we wrapped and I boarded a flight for London, unbeknownst to me, my life was already changing. When I stepped off the plane in Heathrow Airport, I was greeted by a swarm of press and paparazzi. What was the deal? No one could be more surprised by this than I was! Suddenly, I had become famous! I had to pinch myself. Was it really happening? It was a once-in-a-lifetime break for me and my kids.

So Mommy became the reigning sex symbol of the swingin' '60s and '70s, at the height of the sexual revolution—with one hitch. A sex symbol in the Age of Flower Children didn't sit very well with the hardline feminists of the time. They dismissed me as nothing more than a sex object. They didn't look beyond the poster image to see what I was made of. It felt like a slap, until I realized that official feminism had a political agenda that is not inclusive of all women. It's only for those who fit a criterion, which does not include a bikini. So be it.

I don't want to fall into the cliché of the protesting sex symbol, but I have to supply a context so you know who it is that's talking to you here. Although this book is not intended to be an autobiography, I feel the need to let you in on who is lurking behind the loincloth. It's me, Raquel: a woman not unlike you in many ways and singular in others. Like we all are. Hello there! Nice to meet you.

In the movie The Shawshank Redemption, my poster from One Million Years B.C. was one of a series of posters used to cover the escape tunnel Tim Robbins was digging. I was flattered when the director, Frank Darabont, asked permission to use my image to represent the passage of time from Rita Hayworth in the '40s to Marilyn Monroe in the '50s to Raquel Welch in the '60s.

In the film, it takes Robbins twenty-odd years to dig himself out of captivity and into freedom. There were times when I wondered if I, too, would ever dig myself out from behind that image and into the liberating light of day. But I've grown fond of my former alter ego—cave girl Loana. She and I get along just fine now. After all, we're basically different sides of the same personality. And if I ask her nicely, she steps aside and gets out of my way. Nevertheless, the loincloth is in mothballs now. When I look back at that poster today, I have to smile and say, "Who is she?"

FROM: Legendary Sex Symbol Raquel Welch on Aging Brilliantly
Published on March 29, 2010

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