Cara, 63, passed away at her Florida home, her publicist Judith Moose said in a statement posted on Twitter, and the cause of death is currently unknown.
"She was a beautiful gifted soul whose legacy will live forever through her music and films," the statement read.
Cara's career in show business began at an early age and spanned theater, television, music and film. The artist got her big break in 1980 when she was cast to play Coco Hernandez in the iconic movie-musical "Fame," which chronicled the vicissitudes of a group of New York City high schoolers.
The musical drama's title song, sung by Cara, would go on to win an Academy Award for Best Original Song and earned the artist two Grammy Awards nominations, among other recognitions.
Cara's rise to Hollywood stardom continued in the following years. In 1983 she co-wrote and sang the title song for the blockbuster movie "Flashdance," which landed Cara the coveted Academy Award for Best Original Song and became one of the defining songs of the decade.
Moose, the publicist, said a memorial for Cara's fans "will be planned at a future date," and funeral services for the artist are pending.
Tributes to Cara poured in on social media on Saturday.
"Irene Cara, you inspired me more than you could ever know. Your songwriting and vocals created pure energy that will never cease," musician Lenny Kravitz said on Twitter.
(Reporting by Maria Caspani; Editing by Leslie Adler)