knows a thing or two about fame. The actress/singer, who started in showbiz as a kid, finally hit it big by starring and singing in 1980's Fame
. Shortly thereafter, she topped the pop charts again with "What a Feeling," the theme to 1983's Flashdance
">Flashdance, and even won an Oscar for co-writing the memorable tune. Nowadays, she jams with the all-female group Hot Caramel
. But tonight at 9 pm/ET, Cara revisits her pop-star heyday on NBC's Hit Me Baby One More Time
. Here, TVGuide.com connects with the 46-year-old blast from the past.
TVGuide.com: We haven't heard from you in years. Where have you been hiding?
Irene Cara: I lived in Europe for awhile and had some major hits over there as recently as 2000 and 2001. I got platinum all over Europe, and then I moved back to Florida to be near my mom. I've just been taking care of her and developing this super [band].
TVG: Hot Caramel sounds like fun. How'd that come about?
Cara: I set out about three years ago to put together a super female band. They are phenomenal musicians, as well as singers, writers and producers. They can play. Big time.
TVG: You ladies do hip-hop, Latin, R&B...
Cara: A little bit of everything. There is a lot of jazz because these are seasoned players. We are not really urban hip-hop at all. It is more adult contemporary, pop, R&B and that kind of thing.
TVG: Will they appear on Hit Me Baby with you tonight?
Cara: Yes. We're making our debut tomorrow on this. It was our opportunity to get out of the studio and in front of a national audience. It is literally our first live performance anywhere.
TVG: How'd you end up doing this show?
Cara: It was an opportunity to be seen by the masses. They called me a few weeks before we actually taped. I didn't have much time to put something together, but I think we did alright. You'll have to watch it and see. I'm not that interested in contests, but everything is a bloody contest these days. You can't avoid it.
TVG: Were you interested in the other performers at all?
Cara: Everybody was terrific on my [episode]. They were absolutely lovely. We had a great time. The producers have put together a great environment where it is not really about the competition, it is just about us saying hello to our fans again and letting everybody know what we're up to. It is very celebratory. It is not humiliation TV, which is so pervasive these days. If it was, I would have passed.
TVG: Which modern song are you singing?
Cara: I picked something from Anastacia, which isn't really that new. ["I'm Outta Love"] came out in 1999.
TVG: Are you a fan of hers?
Cara: She has the same sort of international audience that I do, so I thought it would be a good choice. She's got a soulful kind of funky vibe and we made it our own. I didn't want to do anything that was too known because I wanted it to really come off like it was our own. I think I accomplished that.
TVG: Any Irene Cara fans in the audience?
Cara: There were tons and that was great! They came from all over to see me.
TVG: Ever get tired of being recognized for Flashdance or Fame?
Cara: No. That doesn't bother me. I'm proud to have been part of that whole era. Performing arts schools sprung up all over the world because of those films. I got to be a major part of that and to have been a kind of representative for the performing arts.
TVG: What do you think of shows like American Idol">American Idol? Is that a good way to break into the music industry?
Cara: Unfortunately, it is the only way these days. It would be nice if there were some other options. Having to be judged like that at such a young age in front of the world... I don't think that's always the healthiest thing to do. But if that's your only option, it's your only option.