The next U.S. ambassador to SA is from East London and speaks Xhosa and Afrikaans

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Lana Marks attends the 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall on June 4, 2012 in New York City
Lana Marks attends the 2012 CFDA Fashion Awards at Alice Tully Hall on June 4, 2012 in New York City

Lana Marks, born and raised in South Africa, grew up in East London. She learned to speak Xhosa when she was four years old and is fluent in Afrikaans.

As we have heard from News24, she may be back in the country she left at 22 years old to serve as the U.S. ambassador to South Africa. She currently lives in Palm Beach, Florida, where one of her namesake luxury stores are located.

According to the Council of Fashion Designers of America (CDFA), Lana has now lived in Palm Beach for more than 30 years.

Lana is an internationally renowned luxury handbag designer and according to a Business Day Live article, when Lana was younger she attended Clarendon High School and did ballet at the Royal Academy in East London, then went on to play tennis and compete in Wimbledon.

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The website reports that Lana studied a commerce degree at the University of the Witwatersrand but cut her studies short when she married Neville Marks, a British psychiatrist, and subsequently left the country. 

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When she eventually settled in Palm Beach, she started her handbag business.

“I researched all top factories, persuaded them to do business with me and teach me. I’m extraordinarily persistent and love people and fortunately I have good taste,” she told Business Day.

Lana is no stranger to political life and working for the U.S government – which she has represented in a few occasions. According to the Lana Marks website, she was selected twice to represent the U.S. at a business forum in Helsinki, Finland.

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The website also states that in 2001 she was one of 50 Americans invited to the White House for the Women Business Leaders’ Forum, and later she was appointed to the Women’s Leadership Board at Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government. 

And now, Lana is to be nominated as the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to South Africa, as announced by U.S. president this week. Patrick Gaspard left the office in 2016 so it's been some time since the position has been filled.

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The stature of the exotic leather designer does not end with the U.S. high office. Lana is also a member of the prestigious CDFA.

Her fashion brand is also highly respected and has been seen on many high profile public figures and celebrities such as Oprah Winfrey, Princess Diana, Charlize Theron and Lucy Liu, among others.

So no, she's not just a handbag designer who's stumbling into the position.

We look forward to hearing more about what she has planned for her return.

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