Idara Victor was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Barbara and Stan Victor, both from southern Nigeria, and she is the middle child of three girls, who grew up in Brooklyn and Long Island. Idara "was probably the loudest of the siblings", and started dancing and playing piano at the age of eight, that led to her singing for the first time at 15 and going singing an opera aria in a state competition and exhibition. At the age of 13 she won the Miss New York Junior Teen contest. She was discovered by an agent at a fashion show commitment, and pushed towards a career in modeling, but she intended to start acting. As a result of her academic achievements, she was enrolled in the undergrad program of the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania, where she studied entrepreneurial management and marketing. With friends she performed plays in parks around Philadelphia and privately studied acting, going to a few professional auditions and booking work while she was home in New York on summer breaks.
At UPENN she still performed Shakespeare readings and danced with the acclaimed dance troupe African Rhythms West African ballet and Afro-Cuban dance on her free time. When Victor graduated, she left a job offer at In Style magazine, started making music with her friend Mike "Double-O" (Kidz In The Hall), and began training at the Lee Strasberg Theatre Institute, a conservatory of the Tisch School of the Arts. She developed her artist community with many friends from the NYU program, and her friend Hyun Kim linked her up with the Nigerian-American actress Adepero Oduye for mentoring support. To finance her studies, Idara provided an online clothing store called Girled-Out, and also trained daily with actors from all over the world. As she watched Cate Blanchett in a movie, "the truth would grip me, I would think, I'm dying - my heart has definitely stopped, and if I don't get to get up there and do it too, I might as well just keep it off permanently." Now in New York City, John Caird introduced her into NY Theatre scene straight out of college, hiring Victor for her first Broadway show that fall, in the revival of Les Misérables – "an amazing thing I learned was that when I went on as Cosette, I was the first African-American woman to ever play the role in the show's 20 years of running". Idara Victor continued training and working in NYC, and soon booked work over the next 2 years at The Public Theater (The Bacchae), Lincoln Center (Happiness), and the Roundabout Theater Company (The Tin Pan Alley Rag), to work with the directors Susan Stroman, Joanne Akalaitis, James Lapine, Stafford Arima and Tina Landau. Idara Victor is a natural operatic soprano, also sang Joplin's ragtime opera Treemonisha, and performed at the 85th Academy Awards.
While still in her studies, Idara Victor first appeared onscreen in the indie film Not Just Yet and her first television role was in the TV series Starved, playing opposite Sterling K. Brown. During her time at Les Misérables, she also played recurring roles on Guiding Light and appeared on the television shows Law & Order, Law & Order: SVU, All My Children and How to Make It in America. After moving to Los Angeles, she appeared in large roles in hit television series including Mad Men, Private Practice, Grey's Anatomy, and Castle. She also played in recurring and lead roles in various television series, among them The Young and the Restless, Unicorn Plan-It, Vegas (3 episodes in 2013) and Issa Rae's The Choir (8 episodes in 2013). Regarding live television performances, her first was in NY in 2008, when she performed in a televised production of Camelot with the New York Philharmonic. In 2013, she performed onstage in the Oscars ( 85th annual Academy Awards), hosted by Seth MacFarlane, with the lead cast of the 2012 film, Les Misérables.
From August 2014 to September 2016, her probably best known role was the series lead character Nina Holiday, crime scene analyst and IT tech of the Boston Police Department, in the US crime-series Rizzoli & Isles. Idara Victor became a member of the regular cast of the season 6, replacing the late Lee Thompson Young. In addition to her role as Nina Holiday, Victor has a recurring role on the AMC drama Turn: Washington's Spies, from 2014-2017, and appeared in the 2016 productions Pure Genius and An American Girl Story. She has joined the cast of the new film Alita: Battle Angel from writer and producer James Cameron and director Robert Rodriguez, playing opposite Christoph Waltz. The film will be released in July 2018.