Fri 3 February 2023 0:03, UK

Amid news that Flashdance and Fame singer Irene Cara’s cause of death was hypertension and high cholesterol, here’s a brief look at one of the first photos anyone took of the singer, and one of the last.

Born Irene Cara Escalera in the Bronx, New York City to a Puerto Rican father and Cuban mother, Cara began to play the piano at a young age, and by ear.

Age five, she started dancing. Her performing career took root on Spanish-Language television at first; she told Cosmopolitan Magazine in 1985 that she “never had any doubt” that she would be successful.

Photo by Chad Buchanan/Getty Images

The last publicly viewable photo of Irene Cara was taken 15 years before she died

On April 26, 2007, a photographer snapped what would be one of the last photos of Irene Cara. 

She was attending the Covenant With Youth Awards Gala at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, California, and wore large hoop earrings, a matching necklace and pendant, gold bands on her left wrist, and a smart black jacket.

The event celebrated “those who gave through their generous acts of service to the community and their daring artistic decisions,” according to Organizing LA, which was one of its key supporters.

Honorees included Smashbox Enterprises’ Dean and Shannon Factor; Todd Black and Jason Blumenthal, who produced Pursuit of Happyness; and actor Andy Garcia.

One of the earliest photos of Irene Cara is from 1975 when she was just a teenager

Aaron Loves Angela came out on Christmas Day 1975. It starred Kevin Hooks as a gifted ballplayer in Harlem, New York, by the name of Aaron. 

Irene Cara played Angela, a Puerto Rican girl from Spanish Harlem, living with her mother. It’s a modern adaptation of William Shakespeare’s Romeo And Juliet. The young lovers’ intercultural relationship causes their parents to balk.

Aaron Loves Angela came out midway between Cara’s first two studio albums, Ésta es Irene and Anyone Can See. Fame followed five years afterwards.

In the photo, from left to right, are Kevin Hooks, Wanda Velez, Leon Pinkney, and Irene Cara.

Photo by LMPC via Getty Images

What happened to Irene Cara after the last photo of her was taken in 2007?

In the years before Cara died in November 2022 at the age of 63, she became reclusive, and “didn’t talk to anyone,” one of her neighbors told the New York Post in December last year.

“I didn’t even know it was her living there until a few years ago. It was the best-kept secret ever.”

Another, who lived next door to her for years, said she regularly invited Cara to socialize with her. 

“But I wouldn’t hear back for days,” she reportedly said. “And she’d never call back using her cellphone. She called from her computer because she was worried about privacy. She didn’t look well and she said she had health issues.”

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