Irene Cara is best known as a beloved triple threat icon and one of the most awarded artist of her generation.
Born in 1962 in New York City, she first dazzled audiences at the tender age of five performing with her father’s mambo band.
She made her first album at the age of eight in Spanish for the Latin music market before transitioning to the American entertainment industry co-starring in the original Sesame Street spin off, “The Electric Company” which starred a legendary cast namely Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno and Morgan Freeman.
Miss Cara was featured in various off and on Broadway productions as well as television movies starring opposite such notable stars as Diahann Carroll, James Earl Jones, Telly Savalas and a guest spot on the popular sitcom, “What’s Happening”.
Her first starring role in a film where she played the title role was “Aaron Loves Angela”. It was a small budget type “Romeo and Juliet” love story of two youngsters living in the hood and was directed by Gordon Parks Jr, the son of the legendary African American pioneer and director, Gordon Parks Sr. with music by Jose Feliciano.
She then landed the title role of the original 1976 classic “Sparkle” while she was still in junior high school. This was her first Hollywood movie and featured such illuminous stars as Philip Michael Thomas, Lonette McKee and Mary Alice with music by the late great Curtis Mayfield. Long before ‘Dream Girls” this film told the story of three sisters from Harlem during the 1950’s and their struggle for fame and success as a singing group. The critics and reviewers praised Irene’s performance calling her “the classic ingénue”. It has remained such a beloved film among black audiences that it was recently remade by the late Whitney Houston.
During her teens she was honored to have been cast in the ground breaking and Emmy award winning mini- series “Roots, The Next Generation” playing the role of Alex Haley’s mother from adolescence through adulthood. This series was the continuation of “Roots” which pioneered the mini-series genre for television.
While growing up in New York City, she worked as a background vocalist when she wasn’t acting for such great recording artist as Evelyn Champagne King, Vicki Sue Robinson and Lou Reed. It was during her breakout role in the original acclaimed 1980 dramatic musical ‘Fame” that she became a recording artist in her own right. The Alan Parker hit movie and platinum selling soundtrack featured Miss Cara’s vocals on mostly all of the main songs from the film notably the title song, “Fame” and “Out Here on My Own” which made Oscar history by being the first time two songs from the same movie were nominated for an Oscar.
She also garnered a Golden Globe nomination for best supporting actress for her performance in the film. The song “Fame” went on to win on Oscar night and went to number 3 on the Billboard Charts. Then came the popular film “Flash dance” in 1983. Although Miss Cara was not in the film, she sang and co-wrote the theme song “Flash dance, What a Feeling”. This would become her biggest hit with the soundtrack going multi-platinum and the single going to number one around the globe. The song “Flash dance” garnered her two Grammys awards including best pop female vocalist, a Golden Globe award and an Academy Award for best original song in a movie. She would become the first bi-racial Hispanic to win in any category and the youngest recipient to win an Oscar as a songwriter.
Since then Miss Cara has won countless awards for her contribution to the performing arts from a People’s Choice award, and Obie award for her theatre work as a child, an Image award, and most recently a Citation of Merit by the president of the borough of the Bronx and an induction to the Bronx Walk of Fame where they named a street after her.
Her solo effort “What a Feeling” produced two top ten hits with ‘Why Me” and’ Break dance’ but her third solo effort “Carasmatic” was plagued by an ongoing lawsuit against her original record label she was handed over to by the “Fame” film producers. Being that Miss Cara had two of the biggest hits of that decade and was not receiving her royalties, she had no other recourse but to file a lawsuit for monies owed her. “Carasmatic” was Irene’s attempt to finally be on a record label of her choice and was assured that the new label would stand by her through the lawsuit and promote this new effort. Unfortunately they reneged on their promise, pulled the single which was out for barely a week and did not release or promote the album. It would be thirteen years after her 80’s hits before she would receive any royalties due her but Miss Cara did win her lawsuit and now owns the masters of “Carasmatic”
She would go on to co-star in movies such as “City Heat” with Burt Reynolds and Clint Eastwood in which she again wrote the theme song sung by jazz legend Joe Williams.
She starred as Myrlie Evers in the PBS television movie,” For Us The Living” opposite Howard Rollins JR, about the slain civil rights leader Medgar Evers.
She has toured through-out Asia, Europe, Australia and Latin America and in 2001, she teamed up with Germany’s star rapper, DJ BoBo for a re-make of “Flash dance” “ which went to number one in seventeen European countries.
She has formed her own music production company and is currently promoting a double set CD featuring female musicians and singers called “Hot Caramel” as an independent artist.
Her main influences are Carol King, Gladys Knight and Valerie Simpson.