Irene Cara Net Worth (Updated 2024)

What Was Irene Cara’s Net Worth?

Irene Cara, a talented American actress and singer, had a net worth of $2 million when she passed away in November 2022. She became famous for her role in the 1980 movie “Fame” and her hit song “Fame.” In 1983, she wrote and sang “Flashdance… What a Feeling” for “Flashdance,” winning an Academy Award and a Grammy in 1984. Before “Fame,” she played Sparkle Williams in the 1976 film “Sparkle.”

Here’s the breakdown of her net worth:


Irene Cara

Net Worth:

$2 Million

Date of Birth:

Mar 18, 1959 – Nov 25, 2022


$200K Per Year

Source of Wealth:

Actor, Singer-songwriter, Record producer, Pianist, Dancer, Musician

Irene Cara Net Worth

Learn more: richest singers in the world

Early Life

Irene Cara Escalera was born in the lively Bronx, New York City. She was the youngest of five siblings. Her father, Gaspar Cara, worked hard in a steel factory and was a former saxophonist of Puerto Rican descent. Her mother, Louise Escalera, worked as an usher at a movie theater and was originally from Cuba. Irene grew up in a bustling family with two sisters and two brothers.

From a young age, Irene showed a natural talent for music. She began playing the piano by ear and immersed herself in the worlds of music, acting, and dance. Her passion for dance began at the age of five when she started taking dance lessons. She began her journey in the world of performance by singing and dancing professionally on Spanish-language television. Irene made notable appearances on TV shows like “The Original Amateur Hour,” where she sang in Spanish, and even appeared on Johnny Carson’s “The Tonight Show.”

Between 1971 and 1972, Irene became a regular on PBS’s educational program “The Electric Company” as a member of the Short Circus, the show’s resident band. As a child prodigy, Irene also recorded a Spanish-language record aimed at the Latin market and an English-language Christmas album. Her impressive resume included participating in a significant concert honoring the legendary Duke Ellington, where she shared the stage with luminaries such as Stevie Wonder, Sammy Davis Jr., and Roberta Flack.

Despite her growing career, Irene didn’t neglect her education. She attended the Professional Children’s School in Manhattan, ensuring she balanced her artistic pursuits with academic growth. In a 1985 interview with Cosmopolitan, Irene confidently stated, “I don’t mean to sound immodest, but I’d never had any doubt that I’d be successful, nor any fear of success. I was raised as a little goddess who was told she would be a star.”


Cara’s career began on Broadway and off-Broadway stages. She made her debut in “Maggie Flynn,” acting alongside Shirley Jones and Jack Cassidy. She also stood out as a finalist in the “Little Miss America” pageant and appeared in productions like “Via Galactica,” “Ain’t Misbehavin’,” and “The Me Nobody Knows,” which earned her an Obie Award.

In the world of television, Cara took on significant dramatic roles in “Roots: The Next Generations” and “Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones,” gaining international recognition. She was recognized as one of the “Promising New Actors of 1976” by John Willis’ Screen World and won the Top Actress title in a readers’ poll in Right On! magazine.

Fame and International Success

Cara’s major breakthrough happened in 1980 with the movie “Fame.” Initially cast as a dancer, her exceptional voice led to a rewrite of her role as Coco Hernandez, which she portrayed. In this role, she sang the hit songs “Fame” and “Out Here on My Own,” both of which were nominated for Academy Awards. The movie’s soundtrack became a top-charting, multi-platinum album, making history as the first time two songs by the same artist were nominated for an Oscar in the same category. Cara performed both songs at the Oscar ceremony, and “Fame” won the award for Best Original Song. She also received Grammy nominations, a Golden Globe nomination, and recognition from Billboard and Cashbox magazines.


After her success in “Fame,” Cara continued to pursue her career in various entertainment fields. In 1980, she briefly played Dorothy in “The Wiz” on tour. In 1981, she appeared in the sitcom “Irene,” and in 1983, she played herself in the film “D.C. Cab.”

Cara gained more acclaim with her song “Flashdance… What a Feeling” in 1983, which she co-wrote with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey. This song won an Academy Award, making Cara the first black woman to win an Oscar for songwriting. She also received a Grammy and a Golden Globe for her performance.

Throughout the 1980s, Cara took on various roles in both film and music, including the comedic thriller “City Heat” and several chart-topping songs.

She released three studio albums: “Anyone Can See” in 1982, “What a Feelin'” in 1983 (her most successful), and “Carasmatic” in 1987. Cara also collaborated with the Hispanic charity supergroup Hermanos in 1985 and toured Europe and Asia in the 1990s.

Challenges and Achievements in the 1990s

In the 1990s, Cara encountered challenges, including a lawsuit against record executive Al Coury and Network Records. This legal battle ended with a $1.5 million settlement. Unfortunately, this situation led to her being unfairly labeled as “difficult to work with” in the music industry.

21st Century

In the 21st century, Irene Cara received various honors, including induction into the Ciboney Cafe’s Hall of Fame and a Lifetime Achievement Award. She made appearances on the NBC series “Hit Me, Baby, One More Time” in 2005 and performed at the 2006 AFL Grand Final in Melbourne.

Cara also contributed a dance single called “Forever My Love” to the compilation album “Gay Happening Vol. 12” in 2005. She formed the band Hot Caramel in 1999 and released an album titled “Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel” in 2011. In addition, she appeared on CMT’s reality show “Gone Country” during season 2.

Personal Life and Death

Irene Cara was married once but did not have any children. She married stuntman and film director Conrad Palmisano in Los Angeles on April 13, 1986, but unfortunately, their marriage ended in divorce in 1991.

At the time of her passing, Irene Cara was living in Florida, specifically in Largo, with a secondary address in New Port Richey, where her company, Caramel Productions, was based. Tragically, she passed away at the age of 63 on November 25, 2022, at her home due to arteriosclerotic and hypertensive heart disease.

Awards and Achievements

Here are Irene Cara’s awards and nominations:

  • Academy Award (1984): Won for Best Music, Original Song for “Flashdance… What a Feeling.”
  • Golden Globe (1984): Won for Best Original Song – Motion Picture for the same track.
  • Golden Globe Nomination (1981): Nominated for Best Actress in a Motion Picture – Comedy or Musical for her role in “Fame.”
  • Grammy Nominations (1981): Nominated for Best New Artist and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for her work on “Fame.”
  • Grammy Wins (1984): Won two Grammy Awards for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or Television Special for “Flashdance” and Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female for “Flashdance… What a Feeling.”
  • Grammy Nominations (1984): Nominated for Album of the Year for “Flashdance (Original Soundtrack From The Motion Picture)” and Record of the Year for “Flashdance… What a Feeling.”
  • National Music Publisher’s Association Award (1984): Won for Best Song in a Movie for “Flashdance… What a Feeling.”
  • BAFTA Award Nomination (1984): Nominated for Best Original Song for her contribution to “Flashdance.”
  • NAACP Image Award (1982): Won for Best Actress in a TV Movie, Miniseries, or Drama Special for her role in “Sister, Sister.”
  • Ciboney Cafe Hall of Fame (2004): Inducted in 2004, recognizing her significant contributions to the entertainment industry.
  • Prestige Awards Lifetime Achievement Award: Honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award, acknowledging her enduring impact on the world of music and film.

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