By Rami Amichai
TEL AVIV (Reuters) - Once part of a faceless crowd of foreign workers who clean homes and tend to Israel's sick and elderly, a Filipina caregiver has shot to stardom on a popular TV singing contest.
Rose Fostanes, 47, surprised viewers of Israel's X-Factor talent show and swept its judges off their feet with soulful renditions of pop songs by the likes of Lady Gaga and Christina Aguilera. And she has rocked her way to Tuesday's live final.
Fostanes hopes her popularity on the show will shine a spotlight on Israel's low-paid foreign workers, who include about 20,000 Filipinos.
For many Israelis, the word "Filipino" has become synonymous with caregiver, and Fostanes' appearance and success on X-Factor could help break the stereotype.
"I think I will be a leader for them because of what I did and I think also they will be proud of me," she told Reuters on Sunday. "Everybody in the world will know that Filipinos, even working as a cleaner ... can also share their talents."
Fostanes, who came to Israel four years ago, has been working for about 20 years across the Middle East. She had always wanted to be a professional singer and the X-Factor gave her a shot at her dream.
At first she thought Israelis would not vote for a foreign worker, and that she would be an underdog in the competition, where viewers and a panel of four Israeli musicians determine at different stages which contender moves up and which gets dropped.
"I feel that everybody is looking at me like I was an alien," she said on one of the early audition episodes of the show. "A Filipina working here, cleaning houses."
Then Fostanes - who cares for an ailing woman in Tel Aviv - got on the stage and sang Lady Gaga's "You and I", winning a standing ovation from her competitors. To her surprise, the votes, cast via text messages and the show's website, kept on coming and catapulted her to celebrity status.
"I get from them a lot of good compliments, especially when I'm on the street, when I'm on the bus. I get from them love, from all the Israeli people who saw my videos and saw me on the television," Fostanes said.
Fostanes has been compared to the Scottish singer Susan Boyle, 52, who shot to fame in 2009 after appearing on the TV show "Britain's Got Talent" and performing a powerful rendition of "I Dreamed a Dream" from the musical "Les Miserables".
Boyle's giddy rise from unknown to multi-million-selling recording artist has been made into a musical.
"My dream is to win this competition, but I have to go back to my work as a caregiver," Fostanes said before getting up on the arena stage to rehearse one of the numbers she was due to sing at the finals, Frank Sinatra's "My Way".
(Writing by Maayan Lubell; Editing by Matthias Williams)