Irene Cara was an American singer and actress who rose to prominence for her role as Coco Hernandez in the 1980 musical film Fame, and for recording the film’s title song, Fame, which reached No. 1 in several countries.
In addition to her role in Fame, she was also known for co-writing and performing the 1983 hit Flashdance… What a Feeling.
Cara’s recording career was blighted by a protracted legal wrangle with her record label, Network, which took eight years and cost her future as a recording artist.
In the 2000s, Cara opted for semi-retirement.
Irene Cara early life
Cara was born on March 18, 1959, in the Bronx, New York City, the youngest of five children.
Her father, Gaspar Cara, was Puerto Rican and her mother, Louise Escalera, was Cuban and French.
Her father was a steel factory worker and retired saxophonist, while her mother worked as a movie theater usher.
Cara began to play the piano by ear when she was five years old and started taking dance lessons at the same age.
She studied music, acting, and dance, and by age eight, she recorded a Latin-market Spanish-language record and an English Christmas album.
Cara attended the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan and became a regular on the PBS program The Electric Company, where she often sang in Spanish.
She also made multiple appearances on Johnny Carson’s The Tonight Show and the original Amateur Hour.
By age 11, Cara had a recurring role in the daytime serial Love of Life and a title role in the movie Aaron Loves Angela.
She continued to perform in theater and made her Broadway debut in 1976 in the musical The Me Nobody Knows.
Irene Cara cause of death
The Pinellas County medical examiner’s office confirmed that her official cause of death was arteriosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease.
This means Cara had a hardening of the arteries and stress on her heart as a result of high blood pressure.
Diabetes was also listed as a contributing factor in her death.
Irene Cara career
Cara began on Spanish-language television as a child, where she professionally sang and danced.
She recorded a Latin-market Spanish-language record at the age of 8, and an English Christmas album soon followed.
Cara appeared in on-and off-Broadway theatrical shows, including the musicals Ain’t Misbehavin’, The Me Nobody Knows, Maggie Flynn and Via Galactica.
She was the original Daisy Allen on the 1970s daytime serial Love of Life, and her first national exposure was in the educational series The Electric Company, playing a member of the band The Short Circus.
Cara’s most famous role was as Coco Hernandez in the 1980 film, Fame, which earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical, as well as two Grammy nominations for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Artist.
She also sang the film’s title song, Fame, which won an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Billboard Magazine named her the Top New Single Artist, and Cashbox Magazine awarded her with the Most Promising Female Vocalist and Top Female Vocalist honors.
Cara released three albums in the 1980s: Anyone Can See in 1982, What A Feelin’ in 1983 and Carasmatic in 1987.
She also released a compilation of Euro-dance singles in the mid to late 90s entitled, Precarious 90’s.
In 2005, Cara won the third round of NBC television series Hit Me Baby One More Time, performing Flashdance (What a Feeling) and covering Anastacia’s hit, I’m Outta Love.
She was also honored for her outstanding contributions as a performer by the Council of the City of New York in 2007, and the Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival presented her with the Trailblazer Award.
In 2011, she released a new album titled, Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel, and her name was unveiled on a street sign in the Grand Concourse of the Bronx Walk of Fame.
After her worldwide acclaim, Cara suffered a career spiral, a victim of what she described as industry blacklisting.
She was semi-retired from the industry that filled every corner of her life for decades, but she continued to entertain audiences via her music.