When a real estate mogul-turned-reality TV star is the President of the United States of America, no one is surprised when a handbag designer is nominated (by said president) to be an international ambassador.
On Wednesday evening, Donald Trump nominated South African-born Lana Marks, founder and designer of her eponymous luxury handbag label, to be the U.S. ambassador to South Africa. According to a White House press release, Marks does have a considerable tie to the country, though she currently resides in Palm Beach near Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort, where she is a member.
If you’ve forgotten his track record when it comes to all things Africa-related, Trump once reportedly referred the nations of the continent as “shithole countries,” and perpetuated a theory about South Africa in particular regarding the “large scale killing of farmers,” which was then “rejected” by the South African Government (and the New York Times, and pretty much every other outlet following the story).
According to her own website, Marks’s reach extends not just to South Africa, but across the pond as well. Yes, we’re talking about the royal fam. Read on for everything you need to know about Trump’s new nominee.
Lana Marks is a 65-year-old designer best-known for bejeweled clutches and evening bags made of exotic (and expensive) leathers that have become a favorite among the Hollywood set and the one percent alike. Most of her bags hover in the $15,000-$20,000 range, however the priciest options can retail for as much as $400,000. The brand operates stores in New York, Beverly Hills and Palm Beach, and is expanding its presence in China, the Middle East and Singapore.
Marks is also a member of the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CFDA), as well as the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government.
What is her connection to Trump?
In addition to sharing a similar taste for the opulent (read: gilded, shiny, exotic), Trump and Marks’s connection goes a bit further: She is a club member at the President’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida. CNN reports that her daughter was wed at the Palm Beach club as well.
Like Trump, Marks’s father was a real estate developer. However, instead of New York, the designer grew up in East London; according to her website, she was a keen tennis player (even once making it to the French Open), and she also studied with the Royal Academy of Ballet.
Another interesting quirk she shares with the President: The letter “J.” Like Donald J. Trump, Lana is referred to on her website as “Lana J. Marks,” likely to distinguish herself from mentions of her company as a whole. (No word yet on what Lana’s “J” stands for.)
What is her connection to South Africa?
In addition to being born in South Africa and speaking Afrikaans and Xhosa, two of South Africa’s 11 official languages, she attended the University of the Witwatersrand and the Institute of Personnel Management in Johannesburg, according to a White House statement.
What’s this about the royals connection?
According to her website, the idea for a handbag collection came to Marks in 1984 while she was preparing to attend a birthday function for Queen Elizabeth on a royal yacht. Apparently, she couldn’t find a red clutch to match to the red suit she had picked out for the occasion — so she launched an exotic leather handbag line specializing in bright colors so that no woman would ever have to face such calamity again!
She also writes that the late Princess Diana was a fan of her collection, choosing her bags for special occasions.
… and Hollywood?
Marks’s bags have been worn on red carpets by numerous celebrities, according to her website, including Jennifer Aniston, Reese Witherspoon, Madonna and Helen Mirren, who was carrying a Lana Marks bag in 2007 when she picked up her Oscar.
So is this all official?
Not quite. Marks still needs to be confirmed by the Senate — though things are looking good for her, given the Republican majority.