Inara Serra was born in the late 25th century on Sihnon, Inara is a Companion, a high-society courtesan licensed by the Union of Allied Planets (the "Alliance"). In Alliance society, Companions are part of the social elite, often accompanying the wealthy and powerful. There is considerable ritual and ceremony surrounding their services, which appear to extend beyond sex to nurturing psychological and emotional well-being.
As of the end of the original Firefly series, most of what is known about Companions is derived from Inara herself and incidental discussions with and about other Companions and Companion-trained individuals. These sources suggest that Companion training includes social and physical grace, at least some performing arts, and psychology. Companions choose their own customers, and can have ungracious customers banned from any Companionship. Inara has a number of frequent clients throughout the Allied worlds, and takes both male and female clients, although most of her clients are male.