Inaba was born and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, graduating from Punahou School in 1986. She is of Chinese, Japanese, and Irish descent. She studied at Sophia University and the University of California, Irvine before graduating from the University of California, Los Angeles with a B.A. degree in World Arts and Cultures.
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. Most notably, Inaba appears as one of three judges(the only female judge) on the hit ABC television series Dancing with the Stars (DWTS).
Inaba has worked with the Entertainment Industry Foundation’s iParticipate campaign, an American volunteer advocacy group, and Drea’s Dream, a dance therapy initiative for children who have cancer. She’s also a founding member of Nigel Lythgoe’s dance education organization, the Dizzy Feet Foundation. After her mother’s battle with cancer in 2008, both women began to participate in the EIF Revlon Run/Walk for Women.