First captivating audiences, specifically her family, sometime after her fifth birthday playing piano by ear, Irene soon moved into serious studies of music, acting, and dance. She began performing professionally embarking on an impressive stage debut in Maggie Flynn, a Jack Cassidy-Shirley Jones Broadway musical. Her first national TV series was by way of a year’s stint on the Electric Company, playing a member of the rock group, The Short Circus delivering musical grammar lessons through the educational program.The series starred Bill Cosby, Rita Moreno, and a very young Morgan Freeman. Ms. Cara had already recorded her first record in Spanish for the Latin Market by age 8 and a Christmas LP in English soon after.
By the time she was 10, she had starred on and off Broadway, she had appeared in a major concert tribute to Duke Ellington with Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis Jr. and Roberta Flack.
As a pre-teenager, she starred in the title role of her debut motion picture Aaron Loves Angela which lead to the title role in the cult-classic musical drama Sparkle.
Ms. Cara is one of the select group of mega-talented performers who have successfully made the transition from theater-to television, -to records, -to feature films, having combined the latter with a recording career. Television brought Irene international acclaim for serious dramatic roles in two outstanding mini series, Roots: The Next Generation, the critically acclaimed adaptation of Alex Haley’s moving novel and The Guyanna Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.
However, it was the box office smash Fame, in 1980, which catapulted Irene to stardom. As Coco Hernandez she sang both the title song Fame and the film’s second hit single Out Here On My Own, resulting in a multi-platinum soundtrack that shot to the top of the charts. She went on to make Academy Award history that year when, for the first time, two songs from one film were nominated in the same category. Additionally, Irene is the only performer ever to sing two Academy Award nominated songs, Fame and Out Here On My Own in one evening. It would be Fame that would go on to win the coveted award that year.
Fame’s impact, provided largely by Ms. Cara, brought her 1980 Grammy nominations for "Best New Female Artist" and "Best New Pop Artist," as well as a Golden Globe nomination for "Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical." Billboard Magazine named Irene "Top New Single Artist," while Cashbox awarded her both "Most Promising Female Vocalist" and "Top Female Vocalist."
In 1982 she received the Image Award for Best Actress when she co-starred with Diahann Carroll and Rosalind Cash in the NBC Movie of the Week, Sisters. Further demonstrating her diversity, Irene portrayed Myrlie Evers in the PBS movie about Civil Rights Leader Medger Evers.The film called For Us the Living, cast Irene opposite Howard Rollins of A Soldier's Story fame.
In 1983, for her success with Flashdance, She was presented with five major awards, including "Top Female Vocalist-Pop Singles,""Black Contemporary Female Vocalist-Pop Singles,""Top Pop Crossover Artist-Black Contemporary Singles," and "Pop Single of the Year." As a songwriter Irene’s talent earned her an Academy Award, two Grammy’s, a Golden Globe and a People’s Choice Award for Flashdance…What a Feeling.
In 1885 she starred opposite Clint Eastwood, Burt Reynolds and Richard Roundtree in the Warner Brothers gangster comedy City Heat in which Irene played a speak easy night club singer. Ms. Cara co-wrote the movie's theme song sung by the legendary jazz vocalist Joe Williams.
She has toured throughout Asia and Europe and made major appearances in Atlantic City and on all the top television shows in Europe, Latin America and Japan. She is currently working on a new cd with an all female band of the most talented musicans very aptley called Hot Caramel. Recently, she has enjoyed a top five hit duet throughout Europe with the Swiss/German Star DJ Bobo.She has also written her first screen play entitled A Waltz with Destiny, a dramatic musical film of which she has also composed the music.