Born in New York City, Cara began her career as a child performing on Spanish-language television. She appeared alongside Rita Moreno, Bill Cosby and Morgan Freeman on the PBS children’s program “The Electric Company” from 1971 to 1972, as a member of the show’s band, the Short Circus.
As a teenager, she played Sparkle Williams in the 1976 musical “Sparkle.” Although the film, about a rising girl group in mid-century Harlem, was a box office disappointment, it developed a cult following among Black audiences and inspired a 2012 remake starring Jordin Sparks and Whitney Houston.
Cara’s mainstream breakthrough came with the role of Coco Hernandez in the 1980 musical “Fame” — a movie about students auditioning for New York’s public high school of performing arts, now called Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts — for which she also sang the Grammy-nominated title song.
A few years later, she co-wrote and performed the song “Flashdance … What a Feeling,” which earned an Oscar for best original song and two Grammys, for best female pop vocal performance and original score for a motion picture.
She also appeared in films including “City Heat,” alongside Clint Eastwood and Burt Reynolds, and “Certain Fury,” with Tatum O’Neal.
Officials in Largo, Fla., where Cara’s home is listed in public records, did not immediately provide details about her death.
Thomas Floyd contributed to this report, which has been updated with new information.
This is the absolute worst part of being a publicist. I can’t believe I’ve had to write this, let alone release the news. Please share your thoughts and memories of Irene. I’ll be reading each and every one of them and know she’ll be smiling from Heaven. She adored her fans. – JM pic.twitter.com/TsC5BwZ3fh
— Irene Cara (@Irene_Cara) November 26, 2022