Cara was best known for singing and co-writing the track Flashdance… What A Feeling, for which she won an Academy Award as well as two Grammy Awards.
She also portrayed the character of Coco Hernandez in the 1980 musical film Fame.
Her publicist Judith Moose announced the news in a statement released on Cara’s official Twitter account on Saturday morning.
Ms Moose said Cara passed away in her Florida home and the cause of death is not yet known.
“It is with profound sadness that on behalf of her family I announce the passing of Irene Cara,” she wrote.
“The Academy Award winning actress, singer, songwriter, and producer passed away in her Florida home. Her cause of death is currently unknown and will be released when information is available.
“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. Funeral services are pending and a memorial for her fans will be planned at a future date.”
The publicist also asked people to share their thoughts and memories of the singer, adding: “I’ll be reading each and every one of them and know she’ll be smiling from Heaven. She adored her fans.”
Cara, who was born in the Bronx, New York City, in 1959, worked in television and theatre before landing the lead role in the 1976 musical drama Sparkle.
She was then catapulted to international fame for her performance in Fame, for which she garnered a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.
Her famous Flashdance song also won her an Oscar for Best Original Song and two Grammy awards for Best Album of Original Score Written for a Motion Picture or A Television Special and for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.