She started her career as a singer in Japan, but became best known for her dancing, first introducing herself to American audiences as one of the original Fly Girls on the sketch comedy series In Living Color. She has appeared as one of three judges on the ABC television seriesDancing with the Stars (DWTS), a show that pairs celebrities with professional dancers as they train and then compete in front of a studio audience.
Inaba, who speaks Japanese, lived in Tokyo from 1986 to 1988 and was a popular singer. She released three singles, "Party Girl" (backed with "China Blue"), "Be Your Girl" (backed with "6½ Capezio"), and "Yume no Senaka" (backed with "Searching") and hosted weekly radio and television series.
The two women are not related, but when Mizota had been cast for her role, she was asked if she knew any actresses who resembled her and suggested Inaba. Inaba, who had appeared briefly in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, was given the role and the two women were made up to appear as identical twins. Inaba and Mizota would later reprise their roles with Mike Myers in a commercial for Motorola.
Inaba has acted (usually as a dancer) in the movies Monster Mash: The Movie, Lord of Illusions, Showgirls, Boys and Girls, Flintstones II,Freak and American Virgin and the television series Jack & Jill and Nikki.
Inaba is the founder and President of EnterMediArts, Inc., a video production company. She directs, writes, and edits films. Her work includesE! Behind The Scenes Miss America Special, 7th Festival of the Pacific Arts, A Portrait of IVI and Beyond the Dancing Image, along with the short feature film, Black Water. She also appeared in the first season of So You Think You Can Dance during the audition stages where she provided choreography for the "choreography round".
Also, Inaba guest stars as Tina, Hannah's choreographer, in the Hannah Montana episode, "Papa's Got A Brand New Friend". In the episode, Tina is seen teaching Hannah new dance moves. However, she is accidentally pushed out of the window when Hannah does the electric slide, and becomes incapacitated in a full-body cast. Hannah pleads her to keep her job, but Tina refuses, forcing Hannah to hire a new choreographer.
TV Guide Network announced that Carrie Ann has been signed on to anchor its live red carpet coverage, beginning with the 2009 Primetime Emmy Awards.
According to the January/February 2009 issue of American Dancer magazine, Inaba will be an honorary judge at the 2009 USA DANCE National DanceSport Championships in Baltimore, April 3–5 USA Dance, which is the national governing body for DanceSport in the United States, as recognized by the IDSF (International Dancesport Federation) and the US Olympic Committee, of which USA Dance is a member organization. Inaba will be assisting in the first stages of the review by USA Dance of competitive ballroom dancing "in the modern era" as they explore a new major initiative in the critique of DanceSport and its public appeal. Her input to USA DANCE will provide additional critique outside that of the traditional judging panel and will be focused on aspects of performance and personality that may escape normal judging standards. USA Dance, along with Inaba, will present the first-annual Star Quality no Award to 12 DanceSport championship level couples being judged in their divisions.
While sitting in as guest host on Live with Regis and Kelly on March 31, 2011, Regis was "answering" a letter asking for advice on how to propose. The lights dimmed just before her boyfriend, Jesse Sloan, appeared on stage. With violinists playing behind, Sloan, bent on one knee, asked for Inaba's hand, to which she responded "Yes! I will marry you!"