Irene Cara began performing on stage at the tender age of five; her professional debut on stage was in Maggie Flynn, a Jack Cassidy-Shirley Jones Broadway musical. By the time she was 10, she had starred on and off Broadway. Her first national TV series was on the “The Electric Company” (1971), playing a member of the Short Circus, the in-house band, delivering musical grammar lessons through the educational program. The series starred Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno, and a very young Morgan Freeman. As a teenager, she had begun embarking into films, her first role was playing lead in the motion picture Aaron Loves Angela (1975), which led to the title role in the cult-classic drama Sparkle (1976).
Television brought her serious dramatic roles in two life-inspiring mini series, the critically acclaimed adaptation of Alex Haley’s novel “Roots: The Next Generations” (1979) (mini), and Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones (1980) (TV), but it was playing Coco Hernandez in the 1980 box office smash Fame (1980) that catapulted her to stardom. She sang both the top-ten title song Fame and the film’s second hit single “Out here on My Own,” resulted in a multi-platinum soundtrack that shot to the top of the charts. Fame’s impact brought her a 1980 Grammy nomination for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocalist, as well as a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical.
In 1982 Irene starred opposite Diahann Carrolll and Rosalind Cash in the NBC Movie of the Week Sister, Sister (1982) (TV), which earned her the NAACP Image Award for Best Actress. She also recorded her first international album, “Anyone Can See.” Further demonstrating her diversity and versatility, she portrayed Myrlie Evers in the PBS drama For Us the Living: The Medgar Evers Story (1983) (TV), a movie about the Civil Rights Leader. 1983 was the year Irene had it all, when she was requested to sing and co-write the theme song for the motion picture Flashdance (1983), which premiered with a runaway success and later became a major American pop-culture influence. The song “Flashdance…What a Feeling” (6 weeks at # 1) won her major awards: at the American Music Awards she took home Best R&B Female Artist and Best Pop Single of the Year. At the Grammys, she swept away with Best Pop Female Vocalist. As a songwriter, her talent earned her the 1983 Oscar for Best Original Song at the Academy Awards, a Golden Globe, a second Grammy, and a People’s Choice Award. She also lost out on a BAFTA award, the British version of the Academy Awards.
Following the success of “What a Feeling,” Irene released a second album under the same title, earning the hits “Why Me?” and “Breakdance.” She scored another hit with a third movie theme song, “The Dream (Hold on to your Dream)” from the Mr. T comedy D.C. Cab (1983). In 1985 she starred opposite Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds, and Madeline Kahn in the Warner Bros. gangster comedy City Heat (1984). She has toured throughout Asia and Europe, and has made major appearances in Atlantic City and on all the top television shows in Europe, Latin America, and Japan. A final album, “Carasmatic,” was released in 1987, after which Irene took her record managers to court accusing them of breach of contract and money issues. After a bitter 8-year battle she received over US$1 million in damages.
In 2000, she enjoyed a top-five hit duet throughout Europe with Swiss-German Star DJ Bobo in an enhanced remake of “What a Feeling.” In 2003, Irene took part in the ABC music special The Disco Ball… A 30-Year Celebration (2003) (TV), once again performing the song that shot her to fame. She performs occasionally on invited performances but spends much of her time helping out her new protégés–an all-girl group she calls Caramel.Cara has never stopped performing, touring in Europe and Asia throughout the 1990s, scoring several top ten dance hits on non-US charts.