Irene Cara

Active - 1980s - 1990  |   Born - Mar 18, 0001 in Bronx, New York, United States  |   Genres - Drama, Action

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From the time she recorded her first solo album at the tender age of eight, it was obvious to all of those who surrounded and supported Irene Cara that she was bound for a fate well beyond that of most young singers. Taking the stages of Broadway by storm two short years later, Cara cemented her status of child prodigy by boldly performing with such musical legends as Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis Jr., and Roberta Flack -- and by confidently holding her own alongside the seasoned showbiz veterans.

Irene Cara was born to a Cuban mother and Puerto Rican father in New York City in 1964. The rising starlet undoubtedly showcased her wild ambitions when, after recording two albums (one in English and the other in Spanish) and making an unforgettable Broadway debut, she turned her attentions to acting with the 1975 interracial relationship drama Aaron Loves Angela. Though she had previously appeared in such television series as Love of Life and The Electric Company, Aaron Loves Angela provided the notable springboard toward more dramatic roles for Cara. The following year's rags-to-riches musical drama Sparkle utilized both Cara's skills as an actress and a dramatist, though it wasn't until after supporting roles in Roots: The Next Generations and Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones that Cara would truly realize her potential.

Cast in the lead of Alan Parker's breakthrough 1980 musical Fame, the film became nothing less than a cultural phenomenon and launched Cara to national stardom. A Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress accompanied her singing of two hit singles on the multi-platinum soundtrack to the film, and both songs -- "Fame" and "Out There on My Own" -- were later nominated for Best Song at the 1981 Academy Awards (with "Fame" ultimately taking home the Oscar). Subsequently Grammy nominated as both Best New Female Artist and Best New Pop Artist and named Top New Single Artist by Billboard Magazine, it seemed that there was little stopping Cara from achieving all of her wildest childhood dreams.

Cara's work on Flashdance just three years later netted the stratospheric starlet two Grammies, an Academy Award, and a Golden Globe, marking the apex of a remarkable career. While Cara's subsequent onscreen appearances through the rest of the '80s and into the '90s may not have yielded anything as astronomically successful as Fame and Flashdance, her work with the band Hot Caramel did show that she was still very much in the game.

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Factsheet

  • Started her career as a child, performing on Spanish television with her father's mambo band.
  • Was a regular on The Electric Company as a kid. 
  • Made her Broadway debut playing an orphan in the musical Maggie Flynn (1968).
  • In her teens, she worked as a background vocalist for famous recording artists.
  • Like her character Coco on Fame (1980), she got into New York's High School of Performing Arts as a singer, dancer and actor. However, she dropped out of the school to become a working actor.
  • Performed two nominated songs from Fame during the 1981 Academy Awards telecast.
  • Formed the all-female band Hot Caramel, with whom she performs (she's also the production manager of the band). In 2011, they released the album Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel.