- Started her career as a child, performing on Spanish television with her father's mambo band.
- Was a regular on The Electric Company as a kid.
- Made her Broadway debut playing an orphan in the musical Maggie Flynn (1968).
- In her teens, she worked as a background vocalist for famous recording artists.
- Like her character Coco on Fame (1980), she got into New York's High School of Performing Arts as a singer, dancer and actor. However, she dropped out of the school to become a working actor.
- Performed two nominated songs from Fame during the 1981 Academy Awards telecast.
- Formed the all-female band Hot Caramel, with whom she performs (she's also the production manager of the band). In 2011, they released the album Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel.
- 1981, Golden Globe — Best Performance by an Actress in a Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy: Nominee
- 1983, Oscar — Best Achievement in Music (Original Song): Winner
- 1984, People's Choice Awards — Favorite Theme/Song from a Motion Picture: Winner
- 1984, Golden Globe — Best Original Song - Motion Picture: Winner
- 1984, BAFTA Film Awards — Best Original Song Written for a Film: Nominee
- 1983, Grammy — Best Pop Vocal Performance - Female: Winner
- 1983, Grammy — Best Album Of Original Score Written For A Motion Picture Or A Television Special: Winner
- Louise B. Escalera — Mother
- Conrad E. Palmisano — Ex-husband
- Antoinette Greer — Sister
- Gaspar Cara — Father
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