The Slatest

Trump to Nominate Mar-a-Lago Club Member and Handbag Designer to be Ambassador to South Africa

Lana Marks smiles for cameras at a fashion event
Lana Marks at the 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards on June 4, 2012 in New York City.
Larry Busacca/Getty Images

President Trump plans to nominate Lana Marks, a handbag designer and Mar-a-Lago Club member with no diplomatic experience to become the next U.S. ambassador to South Africa.

The White House announced the choice in a statement Wednesday. Marks, from Palm Beach, Florida, will still need approval from the Senate. The position has been vacant since December 2016.

The White House statement emphasized Marks’ business experience and her language skills, as she speaks both Afrikaans and the Xhosa language. She is originally from South Africa.

According to the Wall Street Journal, Marks has represented the U.S. at a business forum in Finland, and her website claims she served on the Women’s Leadership Board at the Harvard Kennedy School of Government.

But Marks, whose handbags can sell for six figures, has been the subject of a dozen lawsuits in several states accusing her of underpaying attorneys, landlords, accountants, and employees, according to the Palm Beach Daily News. The paper described her as “like, Trump…a relentless self-promoter.”

If confirmed, Marks will become one of several Mar-a-Lago club members to take a position in the president’s administration. Members pay a $200,000 fee, annual dues of $14,000, and at minimum $2,000 on food annually, according to the Daily News.

Robin Bernstein, a founding member of Mar-a-Lago, was confirmed in July as ambassador to the Dominican Republic. Three civilians operating out of Mar-a-Lago played a prominent role shaping the Trump Administration’s Veterans Affairs, ProPublica reported in August. Trump nominated two other men with connections to Mar-a-Lago to ambassador roles in Austria and Ireland, but both men turned down the offer, citing personal reasons, according to the Daily News.