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'Fame' and 'Flashdance' singer Irene Cara has died at 63

Coco Hernandez (Irene Cara) performs at a graduation ceremony in a scene from <em>Fame</em>, directed by Alan Parker, 1980.
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Coco Hernandez (Irene Cara) performs at a graduation ceremony in a scene from Fame, directed by Alan Parker, 1980.

Updated November 26, 2022 at 5:53 PM ET

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 account on Saturday. She said a cause of death was "currently unknown."

"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 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 that 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 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."

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Chloe Veltman
Chloe Veltman is a correspondent on NPR's Culture Desk.