The post on Cara's official website said she died at her home in Florida. Her cause of death was not immediately known.
"It is with profound sadness that on behalf of her family I announce the passing of Irene Cara," the note, from her publicist, Judith Moose, read. "Irene's family has requested privacy as they process their grief. She was a beautifully gifted soul whose legacy will live forever through her music and films."
Cara was born in New York as the youngest of five children. She began her career as a child, recording music in both Spanish and English before appearing in a number of Broadway musicals.
In 1980, she burst onto the public spotlight with her role as Coco Hernandez in the movie "Fame," singing the film's titular track.
That performance earned her a Best Actress nomination at the Golden Globe Awards.
In 1983, Cara co-wrote and sang the vocals for "Flashdance... What a Feeling" from the movie Flashdance. That song won her a Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
Many fans will remember her star turn in the 1976 musical film Sparkle, inspired by the story of the Supremes.
The article originally appeared here.