Singing Los Angeles homeless woman stuns social media

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Emily Zamourka singing Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro. Credit: @LAPDHQ

When a Los Angeles police officer stopped to film a homeless woman singing operatically in a subway, little did they know that the video would go viral.

Emily Zamourka is seen in the video singing Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro.

The Los Angeles Police Department posted the video on its Twitter account where it has been viewed a million times.

The dulcet tones of the 52-year-old have also captured the hearts of many.

One user tweeted: "Her voice is amazing! I hope for her a great life. Thank you to the fantastic police officer who recognized the beauty in her voice and shared it on social media. This story just made my day!"

Another user tweeted she had seen her on the streets before: "I had notice[d] this lady several times while riding Los Angeles Metro train and seeing her feeding birds on the streets. Never in a million years I would [have imagined] she has such beautiful voice."

But some people on social media had questioned whether Ms Zamourka was homeless because of her neat appearance. One person tweeted: "Her bags and clothing are spotless and her hair is clean. It looks like she went shopping and is lugging it back home in a cart."

However, a spokesman for Los Angeles City Council Branimir Kvartuc said that she had been homeless for three years.

Recording contract

Ms Zamourka told the Los Angeles Times that she moved to the US when she was 24, from Russia, where she learned to play the violin and piano, as well as to sing by mimicking opera performers on television.

The US celebrity website TMZ has reported that she has been offered a recording contract by a Grammy-nominated music producer.

But the transition to possible overnight stardom may not be an easy one.

A number of crowdfunding pages have emerged to help Ms Zamourka find housing, and to replace a violin she used to play on the streets to earn money that was stolen and destroyed.

One page was started by a viewer who had seen her story on local news and "felt inspired to help".

Another fundraiser said he wanted "to help Emily because unlike so many people out there she doesn't need a hand out, she needs a hand up."

The GoFundMe pages have raised thousands of dollars and have been backed by Los Angeles City Council.

City councillor Joe Buscaino has offered to pay Ms Zamourka to perform this weekend at the opening of Little Italy in San Pedro to celebrate Italian heritage.

Bird lover

Council's spokesman, Branimir Kvartuc, said: "We saw the video and as she was singing in Italian we thought it would be appropriate for her to sing for us and so we thought, let's give her a job.

"By Monday morning I found her and spoke to her and offered her the gig and she excitedly accepted."

But Mr Kvartuc is worried that she might not take up the offers of help.

"We have offered her a couple of nights in a hotel and an Airbnb but we found out that she looks after birds and so she may want a place where she can keep them," he said.

"She has been on the streets for a few years so it may take a while for her to adjust.

He said there was a "homelessness crisis" in LA at the moment. "We are trying to house people, but there is a gross deficiency of housing available," he added.

"Some people think that the homeless are just drug-takers or a bunch of losers, but we want to change the narrative of what a homeless person is."

They could have hidden talents just like Emily Zamourka.

As one Twitter user put it: "Everyone has a story... this woman does too. I don't know why she's been homeless all these years, but she's a human being... that's all that matters."