The White House has announced its nominee to be the next ambassador to South Africa: handbag designer Lana Marks.
In the announcement, the administration noted Marks, a native of South Africa who now lives in Florida, “speaks Afrikaans and Xhosa.”
She also “served on the Women’s Leadership Board at the Harvard Kennedy School and the Women’s International Forum for more than a decade,” the administration said.
Marks is the founder and CEO of her eponymous luxury handbag company, which sells handbags that retail up to $20,000.
Her bags are made from ostrich and alligator, among other materials.
What led Marks to start a handbag company? I’m glad you asked!
Here it is, straight from her website:
The idea for a luxury exotic leather fashion brand came in 1984, when Lana Marks and her husband were invited to a birthday celebration for Queen Elizabeth II aboard the royal yacht Britannia.
A fruitless search for a red alligator handbag to match her suit led Marks to conclude that a niche existed in the marketplace for luxury, exotic leather fashion handbags in fabulous colors.
In her free time, Marks is a member of Mar-a-Lago, where, according to the Palm Beach Daily News, she held her daughter’s wedding reception.
The 300-person wedding included “pyrotechnics, two cocktail receptions, a six-tiered wedding cake in six different hues and an ice sculpture inlaid with the Tiffany-blue initials of the new couple — all orchestrated by the detail-conscious mother of the bride,” the newspaper reported.
Here’s some more info about Marks I got from her Instagram account. She was friends with Princess Diana and often posts in remembrance of her.
In fact, Hello! magazine even called her Diana’s “best friend” in a story about a charity auction Marks held for a bag she named after the princess.
Marks also appeared in The Last 100 Days of Diana special earlier this year.
In fact, Marks has said she wonders if she could have saved Diana, as she claims the two were supposed to be on a trip together when the princess was killed.
Marks told the Sun she had to cancel their planned trip because Marks’s father had died. Diana went to Paris instead, and was killed in a car crash.
“For a few years I was in shock. I still feel the pain of it all,” Marks told the newspaper in 2017. “I constantly think, ‘What if she’d been with me?’ All that might not have happened.”
Marks has said her father died just two days before the trip was planned. However, the Palm Beach Post reported Marks’s father actually died five weeks prior.
The newspaper also reported that Marks has faced legal trouble in Florida, where she has lived since 1987.
According to the Palm Beach Post, Marks was evicted from her office in 2015 after failing to pay almost $26,000 in rent. She also has faced lawsuits in recent years for failing to pay $117,342 for ads in magazines and failing to pay contractors in Aspen, Colorado.
She and her husband also got a tax lien for $360,641 in back taxes, which, according to the newspaper, they paid off in 2017.
When Trump’s nomination of Marks was announced, some people were confused.
Although some were not surprised.
“So her experience of picking out colors & fabrics for handbags has prepared her to find solutions to issues that affect the wellbeing of millions of people?” asked one person.
There is no current ambassador in South Africa.
The highest-ranking US official in the country is currently Chargé d’Affaires Jessye Lapenn, who has been serving in the post since December 2016.