Irene Cara, Oscar-winning 'Flashdance' singer and actress, dies at 63: 'Beautiful genius'

Irene Cara, the voice behind Oscar-winning original song and era-defining hit "Flashdance ... What A Feeling" has died. She was 63.

News of her death was announced on her official Twitter account by her publicist, Judith A. Moose. Cara died in her Florida home of an unknown cause, the announcement said.

"It is with profound sadness that on behalf of her family I announce the death of Irene Cara," Moose wrote. "She was a beautifully gifted soul whose legacy will live forever through her music and films."

Born in New York City, Cara possessed an early talent for music and performance as a finalist in the "Little Miss America" pageant when she was 3 years old. When she was in third grade she appeared on the "Ted Mack Amateur Hour" singing "Ola, Ola, Ola."

Before landing an Oscar and Grammy Award for her work on "Flashdance," Cara laid the foundation for her career in the Short Circus band on the 1970s children's show "The Electric Company." Her Broadway debut came at 9 in the original 1968 production of "Maggie Flynn" where she appeared alongside fellow actors Stephanie Mills and Giancarlo Esposito.

"Sparkle" was Cara's breakout movie role when she played the title character of the 1976 film. In 1980 she received her first award nominations for her voice and acting as striving dancer Coco Hernandez in Alan Parker's 1980 movie "Fame" alongside co-stars Debbie Allen, Paul McCrane and Anne Mear. Her performance and singing led her to a Grammy nomination for best new artist and a nod for best pop vocal performance for the title song.

Allen remembered Cara on Twitter calling her a "gifted and beautiful genius."

She wrote: "Her talent and her music will LIVE FOREVER! FOREVER REMEMBER HER NAME!"

In a 2012 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Cara said her work in "Fame" marked her pivot from child actor to an independent adult.

"I left home ... I got an apartment near where we were filming. I wanted to be my own woman and all of this," she said. "I started hanging out in nightclubs, and I was sowing my oats.”

Three years later after "Fame," Cara got her next go at the awards cycle as the voice behind the hit from 1983's "Flashdance" starring Jennifer Beals. Cara won the Academy Award for "Flashdance ... What A Feeling" along with songwriters Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey for best original song. The song also won two Grammy awards.

During her career, Cara had three Top 10 hits on the Billboard Hot 100, including “Breakdance,” “Out Here On My Own,” “Fame” and “Flashdance ... What A Feeling,” which spent six weeks at No. 1. She was behind some of the most joyful, high-energy pop anthems of the early ’80s.

Beals presented the Oscar to Cara at the 56th Academy Awards. The singer called it "the most precious honor" before thanking her parents, teachers and fellow musicians.

"Thank you brilliant Irene for your open heart and your fearless triple threat talent," Beals wrote remembering Cara on Instagram."It took a beautiful dreamer to write and perform the soundtracks for those who dare to dream."

Cara's music career continued as she made appearances on NBC's "Hit Me Baby One More Time," formed her own all-woman band Hot Caramel and released a 24-track album in 2011: "Irene Cara Presents Hot Caramel."

Many actors and singers remembered Cara on Twitter.

Yvette Nicole Brown wrote Saturday that Cara was "one of the first women I saw singing, dancing & acting in color not B&W who looked like me" adding that seeing her in "Fame" "changed my life."

On Instagram Questlove wrote: "Goodbye Irene Cara. I’m Sad About This."

NBC analyst Stephanie Ruhle wrote: " 'What A Feeling' & 'Fame' bring back memories of pure joy. I am so sad to learn about @Irene_Cara's passing."

"Irene Cara, you inspired me more than you could ever know," Lenny Kravitz wrote on Twitter Saturday. "Your songwriting and vocals created pure energy that will never cease. You also defined an era that is so close to my heart."

Contributing: The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Irene Cara dead: 'Flashdance' and 'Fame' singer dies at 63