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January 15, 2014

Philippine Caregiver Wins Israel's X-Factor

by Michael Lipin

Rose Fostanes, a Philippine caregiver who has worked in Israel for several years, is the first season winner of a popular Israeli television singing contest called The X-Factor Israel.
 
She beat a series of Israeli performers during a dramatic rise to fame with her soulful renditions of classic tunes.
 
Her vocal talents captured the votes and admiration of Israelis and also sparked an outpouring of pride from Filipinos who flooded social media sites with messages of congratulations.
 
First place finish
 
The X-Factor Israel host and Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli declared Fostanes the winner in the show's live, televised finale at Tel Aviv's Nokia Arena late Tuesday.
 
The victory made her the first Philippine domestic worker to triumph in a reality TV show in the Jewish state.
 
The 47-year-old drew loud cheers from the audience, which included Filipinos as well as Israelis.
 
"Thank you so much to those people who voted for me and who believe in me," she told the arena. "Thank you so much to all the Israelis who like my voice and who like my songs, and to all the Filipinos that support me. Thank you so much to [the Philippine] ambassador who came here to witness [the event] and to my sister and to my partner [for being here]," Fostanes continued.
 
Earlier in the finale, Fostanes serenaded the audience with her interpretation of Frank Sinatra's 1969 hit "My Way", with an Israeli orchestra backing her up.
 
It was one of several commanding performances of classic songs that helped her to win enough text-message votes from Israeli TV viewers to surpass her Israeli X-Factor rivals.
 
Israel's Philippine migrants
 
Before she auditioned for the show in October, Fostanes was just one of more than 30,000 Philippine migrants in Israel, holding unglamorous jobs like cleaners and caregivers for the elderly and disabled.
 
Their role in Israeli society has become so deeply rooted that for many Israelis, the Hebrew word for "Filipino" is synonymous with "caregiver."
 
Fostanes, who covered British band Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody in a previous round of the contest, has been an overseas caregiver for about 20 years.
 
After stints in Egypt and Lebanon, she moved to Israel several years ago, sending money back to the Philippines to support her family.
 
Fostanes had been leading a relatively uneventful life in south Tel Aviv, sharing a small apartment in a low-income migrant neighbourhood, until a friend persuaded her to compete in The X-Factor to try to fulfill her dream of becoming a professional singer.
 
Caregiver's fateful choice
 
In a recent interview with Reuters, she described how that decision changed her life.
 
"Before, I had a very low self-esteem. And now I got a good confidence for myself and I got friends and people love me on the street and I got many compliments from them, good compliments," said Fostanes.
 
Fostanes also expressed hope that some of the millions of other Filipinos who perform domestic work abroad will draw inspiration from her success.
 
"Being in this competition, I think that I… will be a leader for them because of what I did," she said. "So I think also they will be proud of me, and… everybody in the world will know that Filipinos, even [those] working as a cleaner... can also share their talents and they can also be a part of a big event like this," she said.
 
New career opportunity?
 
Fostanes' mentor in the competition was Shiri Maimon, an X-Factor judge and Israeli singer who also became a reality TV star years earlier.
 
Speaking to Reuters, the 32-year old Maimon predicted that her elder protégé has a bright future.
 
"I think she made an amazing journey here in Israel and I think the Israeli people gave her so much strength, and now she believes in herself," she said. "She knows that she can be a singer, she needs to stand on a stage, to perform, that's what she needs to do and hopefully she is going to be one of the best singers in Israel.''
 
Stardom also could await Fostanes in the Philippines, where many Filipinos expressed pride in her achievement and sent her messages of encouragement.