Lana Marks

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Lana Marks
Lana J. Marks official photo.jpg
United States Ambassador to South Africa
Assumed office
January 28, 2020
PresidentDonald Trump
Preceded byJessica Lapenn (Acting)
Personal details
Born (1953-11-18) November 18, 1953 (age 66)
East London, South Africa
Political partyRepublican

Lana J. Marks (born November 18, 1953) is a South African-born American handbag designer who founded the eponymous fashion brand Lana Marks. She is the current United States Ambassador to South Africa. She presented her diplomatic credentials to the South African government on January 28, 2020.

Early life and education[edit]

Lana Bank was born in East London, South Africa. Her father, Alec Bank, had immigrated from Lithuania as a child; he was an affluent property developer and a leader in the Jewish community.[1] She attended Clarendon High School for Girls in East London, and speaks Xhosa and Afrikaans.[2]

Marks is an avid tennis player, having played for Bermuda, having won bronze medals for the United States in the Maccabiah Games in 1985, playing in the South African Open, and also made it to the qualifying rounds of the French Open.[3][1][2][4][5]


Marks was the CEO and designer of Lana Marks, a fashion accessories brand that specializes in exotic leathers and is known for creating some of the world's most expensive handbags.[6][7][8] When Helen Mirren won an Academy Award in 2007, she carried a handbag designed by Marks to the stage.[1] Her daughter currently runs the brand.[9] The Lana Marks company has stores in Palm Beach, New York, Beverly Hills, and Dubai.[5]

Ambassador to South Africa[edit]

On November 14, 2018, President Donald Trump nominated Marks to be the United States Ambassador to South Africa. Marks had known Trump for more than two decades and was a member of his Mar-a-Lago club.[10] She was unanimously confirmed by the Senate on September 26, 2019.[11] She was sworn into office on October 4, 2019,[12] and arrived at her posting on November 9, 2019, presenting her diplomatic credentials to President Cyril Ramaphosa on January 28, 2020.[13][14]

Marks forced out her deputy from the post, veteran career foreign service officer David Young. Though this was allegedly related to attempting to place her son in a senior role in the embassy, a senior embassy official called this "patently ridiculous," and Marks issued a statement complimenting Young, clarifying that their management styles were different.[15]

In September 2020, anonymous U.S. intelligence sources claimed that Iran was planning an assassination attempt on Marks in South Africa. The plot, claimed the sources, was in retaliation for the US drone strike in Baghdad, Iraq, that killed the former commander of Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani, and deputy leader of Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis on January 3, 2020.[16][dubious ]

Personal life[edit]

Marks has been married to Dr. Neville Marks, a practicing psychiatrist affiliated with JFK Medical Center, since 1976.[17] Marks and her husband later lived in Bermuda before moving to Florida in 1987.[1][5] She has two children.[18]

Marks was a personal friend of Diana, Princess of Wales.[19] According to Marks, the two women had planned a four-day trip to Italy for the end of August 1997. Marks canceled at the last minute when Marks's father had a heart attack. Diana went to Paris with her partner Dodi Fayed where they were killed in a car accident.[20]

Since 2010, Marks has been a member of Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago resort. According to Marks, she joined because other country clubs in Palm Beach did not admit Jewish members.[21][22]


  1. ^ a b c d Sommer, Allison Kaplan (November 22, 2018). "The Long, Strange Journey of Lana Marks, Trump's Pick for South African Ambassador". Haaretz. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  2. ^ a b Gaouette, Nicole; Landers, Elizabeth (2018-11-04). "Trump picks handbag designer, Mar-a-Lago member to be envoy to South Africa". CNN. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  3. ^ Sommer, Allison Kaplan (November 22, 2018). "The Long, Strange Journey of Lana Marks, Trump's Pick for South African Ambassador" – via Haaretz.
  4. ^ Munzenrieder, Kyle (October 22, 2018). "Lana Marks: The Handbag Designer Trump Reportedly Wants to Make Ambassador to South Africa". W. Retrieved December 1, 2018.
  5. ^ a b c Bleby, Michael (October 1, 2018). "We spoke to handbag designer and soon-to-be US ambassador to SA: this is what she said". BusinessDay. Retrieved 2018-11-19.
  6. ^ Puri, Madhu (3 December 2006). "Now Gifting - Bespoke Bags". Retrieved 4 April 2018 – via
  7. ^ Prabhakar, Hitha. "World's Most Extravagant Handbags". Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  8. ^ Burt, Sharelle (November 15, 2018). "Trump Nominates Handbag Designer As Ambassador To South Africa". Travel Noire. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  9. ^ Donnelly, Shannon. "Call her 'Madame Ambassador'". Palm Beach Daily News.
  10. ^ "Officials: Iran weighs plot to kill U.S. ambassador to South Africa". Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  11. ^ "President Donald J. Trump Announces Intent to Nominate and Appoint Individuals to Key Administration Posts | The White House". The White House. Retrieved 2018-11-15.
  12. ^ @USEmbassySA (October 6, 2019). "Go, Lana! Congratulations on your swearing-in! Countdown to welcoming you here in South Africa!" (Tweet) – via Twitter.
  13. ^ [1], Lana Marks Returns to South Africa as US Ambassador.
  14. ^ Fabricius, Peter (2020-01-31). "The Interview: US ambassador's ambition: Lift SA into top 20 of US trade partners". Daily Maverick. Retrieved 2020-02-07.
  15. ^ Gramer, Robbie (February 5, 2020). "At Embassies Abroad, Trump Envoys Are Quietly Pushing Out Career Diplomats" – via
  16. ^ Toosi, Nahal (September 13, 2020). "Officials: Iran weighs plot to kill U.S. ambassador to South Africa". Politico. Retrieved 2020-09-14.
  17. ^ "Dr. Neville MarksMD".
  18. ^ Durkin, Tish (February 3, 2019). "Talking With Lana Marks, Who's Ready to Ditch Palm Beach for Pretoria". Intelligencer.
  19. ^ "Time, February 2 1998". Archived from the original on 30 April 2009. Retrieved 4 April 2018.
  20. ^ Feitelberg, Rosemary (2018-11-15). "Lana Marks: The Makings of a Fashion-Focused Ambassador nominee". WWD. Retrieved 2018-11-16.
  21. ^ Durkin, Tish (February 3, 2019). "Talking With Lana Marks, Who's Ready to Ditch Palm Beach for Pretoria". Intelligencer.
  22. ^ Roberts, Roxanne (January 8, 2019). "Palm Beach used to be a nice town for billionaires. Then Trump came along". The Washington Post. Retrieved March 21, 2020.

External links[edit]

Diplomatic posts
Preceded by
Jessica Lapenn
United States Ambassador to South Africa