Flashdance Irene Cara, the singer-actress best known for starring in and belting the title tracks from the 1980s movies Fame and Flashdance, has died. She was 63.
Cara died at her home in Florida, said her publicist, Judith Moose, who announced the news on Cara’s social media accounts on Saturday. She said the cause of death was “currently unknown.”
” Flashdance Irene’s family has requested privacy as they process their grief,” Moose wrote. “She was a beautifully gifted soul whose legacy will live forever through her music and films.”
Cara was born into a working-class Flashdance Puerto Rican and Cuban family in the Bronx neighborhood of New York City. As a child actor, her credits included a regular stint on the 1970s children’s show The Electric Company.
But it was Fame, the 1980 movie about a group of talented young hopefuls in New York trying to launch their careers in the cutthroat performing arts world, that launched Cara to stardom. She sang on the title track, which was nominated for an Academy Award for best original song.
Fame co-star Laura Dean Koch remembered Cara as “a dynamo who could sing, dance, and act, the definition of a triple threat. Irene was a role model and someone I aspired to be like.”
Three years later, Cara accepted the Oscar for best original song for “Flashdance … What a Feeling,” along with the songwriting team of Flashdance (1983) — music by Giorgio Moroder, lyrics by Keith Forsey and Cara — for which she sang the jubilant title song. She also won two Grammys for her work on Flashdance.
Cara influenced a future generation of artists. Broadway conductor and radio host Seth Rudetsky says watching Cara on screen as a kid helped shape his career ambitions.
“Irene Cara Flashdance represented making it in the arts and gave us so much excitement and hope and enthusiasm to pursue the arts,” he said.
In a follow-up statement on Twitter, Moose said that she and Cara had been working on “amazing projects that would have made her and her fans incredibly happy.”
“Her manager and I will finish them,” she said. “She’d want that.”
In addition to singing the movie’s title number, “Fame,” Ms. Cara also sang another single on the soundtrack, the ballad “Out Here on My Own.” Both songs were nominated for an Oscar in 1981. The film was nominated for several awards, and “Fame” won for both best original song and score.
In 1980, a journalist with People magazine asked Ms. Cara to recount the achievements of her young career. “You’re obviously not from New York,” she replied. “Everyone in New York knows what I’ve done.”
Some commentators shared her lofty sense of herself. “Move over Streisand, Ross and Summer. Make room for Irene Cara,” Ebony magazine wrote in 1981. “Since co-starring in the Oscar-nominated movie ‘Fame,’ her career has taken off like lightning.”
Ms. Cara was born Irene Escalera on March 18, 1959, in the Bronx. She repeatedly disputed reports about her birth year, at times describing it as 1964. Her official Twitter account says she was born in 1962. Her mother told The New York Times in 1970 that a young Ms. Cara, already a busy performer by then, was 11 years old.
Her mother, Louise Escalera, was a cashier, and her father, Gaspar Escalera, was a saxophonist who worked at a steel factory. She told Ebony that she, her two brothers and two sisters belonged to a musical family, with a grandmother in Puerto Rico who could play five instruments.
Information on Ms. Cara’s survivors was not immediately available.
Ms. Cara grew up in New York City and attended music, acting and dance classes as a child; she was said to be able to play the piano by ear at age 5. She attended the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan, a school for child performers and children studying the arts.