Trump Appoints Handbag Designer And Mar-A-Lago Member As Ambassador To South Africa

Lana Marks in a gold dress at the CFDA awards
Larry Busacca / Getty Images

President Trump nominated a luxury handbag designer and member of his Mar-A-Lago club to be the new U.S. ambassador to South Africa. Lana Marks is the founder and CEO of Lana Marks, Inc., a fashion accessories company based in Florida, reports Business Insider. The appointment raises further questions about whether or not the president is showing favor to those who are members of his pricey club.

Marks was born and raised in South Africa, and she speaks Xhosa and Afrikaans. The 65-year-old has no previous political experience, though about a third of those appointed to ambassadorships are from the private sector in general. She attended the University of Witwatersrand and the Institute of Personnel Management in Johannesburg. She has served on the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard Kennedy School and at the Women’s International Forum, according to the White House.

Marks is known for her high-end fashion accessories, some of which are made out of animal skin like alligator and ostrich. One clutch made out of alligator skin and trimmed in diamonds sells for up to $400,000 and has been carried on the red carpet by Kate Winslet, Angelina Jolie, Li Bingbing, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

The handbag designer has been called similar to Trump in that she is a “relentless self-promoter.” Also like Trump, she has been accused of “stiffing” her employees and people who work for her.

“In more than a dozen past lawsuits against her in Aspen, New York, California and South Florida, Marks has repeatedly been accused of stiffing her attorneys, accountants, landlords and employees. She is also embroiled in bitter, international legal battles in South Africa and Israel with her siblings over a family trust and the care for their 89-year-old mother,” reported the Palm Beach Post.

The entrepreneur declined to respond to the reports, which include a Fort Lauderdale firm that claimed Marks failed to pay $15,430 in legal fees and a boutique in Monaco who sued Marks in 2008 claiming that they couldn’t sell her bags after the designer failed to provide permits for the exotic skin-made bags.

Marks is the fourth member of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club to be appointed to an ambassadorial position. The club, which costs $200,000 to join, has also seen members Robin Bernstein, Patrick Park, and Brian Burns tapped for roles in the Dominican Republic, Austria, and Ireland.

The position of ambassador to South Africa has been vacant since Trump was elected, causing some to criticize the president for letting the relationship between the two countries flounder. Her nomination will be reviewed by the Senate before a confirmation vote.