President Trump van Amerika het sy keuse vir nominasie gemaak vir Ambassadeur in Suid-Afrika. Lana Marks is ‘n eks Suid-Afrikaner met Afrikaans en Xhosa sprekend. Sy is ‘n besigheidsvrou van handsakke ontwerp, maar sy is ook lid van sy privaat klub Mar-a-Lago wat ‘n duur en eksklusiewe klub is, wat nie vir die gewone man op straat is nie. Dus ‘n ware rykmanslewe. Dit gaan nie oor die pos as sulks nie maar oor ‘n groter prentjie. Haar handsakke is baie duur en ook bekend aan die “elites” en “royals”. Sover bekend was die pos van Ambassadeur vir 2 jaar vakant. Daar is ook vasgestel dat sy Joods is.
Jewish South African-born Lana Marks, a bespoke handbag designer to the world’s rich and famous, has been pinpointed in world media as the future United States ambassador to South Africa.
However, the US Embassy in South Africa says it has not been informed about her, despite international media reports saying that this East London-born businesswoman was handpicked for the job by US President Donald Trump.
This week Robert Mearkler, US Embassy spokesperson, told the SA Jewish Report that “the White House has not announced a nominee”.
Marks, born Lana Bank, left the sleepy town of East London about 40 years ago with her British psychiatrist husband, Neville Marks, and has lived a life less than ordinary ever since. She is the owner and Chief Executive of Lana Marks Collections, and has built an internationally-recognised fashion accessory empire. She has up-market stores in Palm Beach, New York, and Beverly Hills. Most recently, she opened an exclusive store at one of Sol Kerzner’s spectacular hotels, Atlantis The Palm in Dubai.
Her coveted leather handbags are, according to her website, made from alligator, crocodile, ostrich, and lizard.
Marks, 65, who lives in Palm Beach, has come a long way from East London, known as “slum town” and its residents as “slummies”. Having attended Stirling Primary School and Clarendon High School, she counts the late Diana, Princess of Wales, as one of her dearest friends, and even named a bag after her. She has designed exotic leather bags for Hollywood’s A-list stars attending the Academy Awards. The late Elizabeth Taylor, Charlize Theron, Angelina Jolie, Dame Helen Mirren, Kate Winslet, and Jennifer Aniston, are just some of her clients.
Many of them adore Marks’ most expensive red-carpet classic, the well-known, diamond encrusted Cleopatra Clutch, which goes for up to R1 million. Other bags will set you back anything from $10 000 ( R147 818) to $400 000 (R5.9 million).
Mearkler puts the media reports down to “chatter on Twitter”, and insists that while he is aware of the recent media reports about Marks, no announcement has been forthcoming from Washington.
“We have no update on a nominee for US Ambassador to South Africa. It is our White House, and not the Department of State, that begins the process, and it will be the White House that will make an announcement if/when a nominee has been selected,” he said.
Despite this, the dwindling, yet close-knit East London Jewish community is abuzz that one of its own might be considered for the high-ranking position – a post that has been vacant since Patrick Gaspard resigned in 2016.
Lifetime resident and former friend of the Bank family, Louis Robinson, told the SA Jewish Report that the Banks were very well known and involved in the local Jewish community. He described them as socialites, saying that the family loved the movies, which might explain Lana’s taste for Hollywood and the lifestyles of the super-rich and mega famous.
The family lived on a large property with all the lavish suburban trappings, including a tennis court, swimming pool, and bar. The home even boasted a movie theatre, which in those days was “quite something”, said Robinson. Lana played tennis, he recalled. He did not know how far she went with it, but remembered her being “quite good”.
Marks has said she played international tennis, gracing the courts at the South African Open, Wimbledon, and Roland Garros. However, according to an article in Business Day in 2006, the details of her tennis playing days are sketchy.
Her childhood also included ballet. Both extra murals, she has claimed, instilled in her a strong work ethic and discipline, which helped her career.
Although his memory is hazy, Robinson said the late Alec Bank was a property developer and builder who owned many blocks of flats in the town. He was a member of the Hebrew Order of David, and the former president of the Chaim Katz Lodge No 25.
Said Robinson, “On Sundays, Alec Bank liked to show movies in his specially built home cinema with a reel projector. He could seat up to 40 guests.”
It is believed that the family owned the drive-in at Beacon Bay, and that Lana’s mom, Blanche, had a movie rental business and hired movies and projectors.
Robinson’s mother, Zahava, 91, told the SA Jewish Report that she played bridge with Lana’s mother Blanche for many years, and that “Blanche was very good at flower arranging”.
Marks often recounts the story of where it all began. In numerous interviews, including a recent Hello Magazine spread, she tells how she became a handbag designer after she was invited to a birthday celebration for Queen Elizabeth II aboard the royal yacht Britannia.
After searching in vain for a red alligator handbag to match her suit, she concluded that “a niche existed in the market place for luxury, exotic leather, fashion handbags in fabulous colours”.
If President Trump has made his choice, it will still have to be approved by the Senate. It is common practice that before the nomination of an ambassador is announced, the host country, in this case South Africa, is informally consulted. The SABC has reported that President Cyril Ramaphosa is said to be “considering the nomination”.
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Die Mar-a-lago klub
The mansion dates to the 1920s, when Palm Beach’s wealthiest visitors were forsaking luxury hotels for their own digs, says Debi Murray, chief curator of the Historical Society of Palm Beach County. Post herself explored the site of her future home, on 17 acres of scrub between Lake Worth and the Atlantic. (Mar-a-Lago means “Sea to Lake” in Spanish.) Construction began in 1923 and kept some 600 workers busy, even though, as Murray notes, “Florida entered the Depression earlier than the rest of the country.” The mistress ensured that her workers wouldn’t go hungry.
Even by Palm Beach standards, Mar-a-Lago was grandiose: 58 bedrooms, 33 bathrooms with gold-plated fixtures (easier to clean, Post believed), an 1,800-square-foot living room with 42-foot ceilings. Its 110,000 square feet glinted with gold leaf, Spanish tiles, Italian marble and Venetian silks. All told, Post spent $7 million—somewhere north of $90 million today.
It was finished in 1927. That March, Post and her second husband, Edward F. Hutton, had a few score guests over for dinner before the annual Everglades Costume Ball. The hosts wore costumes evoking the reign of Louis XVI. But there was also noblesse oblige: In 1929, when she hired the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus to perform for a charity fund-raiser, she invited underprivileged children to attend. In 1944, she offered her grounds to World War II veterans who needed occupational therapy. In 1957, she opened Mar-a-Lago to the International Red Cross Ball, and the gala event has been held there many times since—but not this year. It was one of more than 20 charity events that were relocated from Mar-a-Lago or canceled after the president’s remarks on violent protests in Charlottesville, Virginia, in August.
As the social seasons came and went, however, Palm Beach tastemakers’ tastes changed. The grand houses they built in the 1920s were seen as “white elephants,” Murray says, and were razed in the ’50s and ’60s.
Except that isn’t how Post saw Mar-a-Lago—or Hillwood, her estate in Washington, D.C., or Camp Topridge, her retreat in the Adirondacks. She arranged to donate all three properties to government entities. The state of New York added some of Topridge’s acreage to a forest preserve but sold most of its 68 buildings to a private owner. The Smithsonian Institution, citing maintenance costs, returned Hillwood to the Post Foundation, which now runs it as a museum.
And the original Mar-a-Lago proposal, the one bound in red leather, was to donate it to the state of Florida for a center for advanced scholars, but state officials also balked at the maintenance costs.
By 1968, according to other papers in the archive, Post had turned to Plan B: Mar-a-Lago as winter White House, property of the United States. After she died, in 1973, at age 86, the Post Foundation pursued the idea. But in 1981, the federal government declined, for the same reason the Floridians and the Smithsonian did.
Thus Mar-a-Lago went on the market. Three potential sales collapsed before Donald Trump bought it in 1985, paying a reported $8 million for the estate and its furnishings—a small fraction of the original cost, no matter how you calculate it. And after three decades and the most confounding presidential election in living memory, Marjorie Merriweather Post’s wish for her mansion came true.
After a (probably less than exhaustive) nearly-two-year search, President Trump has chosen someone for the U.S. ambassadorship to South Africa.
And sometimes the right person has been in front of you all along: As the White House officially announced on Wednesday, the nominee is Lana Marks, a Palm Beach-based luxury handbag designer and-perhaps most importantly-a member of Trump’s private club, Mar-a-Lago.
Marks was born, raised, and educated in South Africa and she speaks two regional languages, Afrikaans and Xhosa. Her eponymous handbag line has been worn on the red carpet by the likes of Helen Mirren, Jennifer Aniston, and Angelina Jolie, and the bags go for between $6,000 and $40,000.
She runs in elite circles, in and outside of Mar-a-Lago, and even claims to have been close with Princess Diana. Trump and Marks also both have daughters named Tiffany-Tiffany Marks got married at Mar-a-Lago on Valentines Day in 2010.
Marks is only the latest of several Mar-a-Lago members that have received important political roles in Trump’s America. Founding member Robin Bernstein was confirmed as ambassador to the Dominican Republic, and there’s of course the triad of Mar-a-Lago-ians shaping policy at the VA.
Mar-a-Lago has a $200,000 initiation fee, though Marks became a member before Donald Trump’s election, so she would have paid much less. The club doubled its $100,000 membership fee beginning in January, 2017. The club’s annual dues are $14,000, and there’s an annual food minimum of $2,000. It’s been a lucrative investment for Trump, who made $15.6 million from the club in 2014.
In another article …
The mainstream media in both the USA and South Africa are angry because President Donald Trump has appointed an ex-South African woman, Lana Marks, as the American ambassador in Pretoria. In contrast to previous American ambassadors, Marks is white and an entrepreneur who has managed a successful luxury-goods company.
Associated Press and Reuters labelled her as a “handbag designer” and suggested that she had been appointed because she was a member of the Mar-a-Lago holiday and golf resort developed by Donald Trump in Florida. According to Associated Press, up to 30 percent of US ambassadors are usually not appointed from the ranks of professional diplomats, which hardly makes an exception of Marks.
The same media did not object when Barack Obama appointed the Congolese-born Patrick Gaspard to the post of South African ambassador. Gaspard was an anti-white activist and black nationalist that Obama got to know in his Chicago days.
Mrs Lana Marks was born in East London, South Africa and attended Clarendon High School for Girls. Apart from English, she also speaks Xhosa and Afrikaans. Previously there were French, Dutch and Russian ambassadors able to speak Afrikaans, but Mrs Marks is the first American ambassador fluent in the language.
Apart from Hollywood celebrities whom she counted among clients for her handbags, Mrs Marks was a friend of the deceased Princess Diana of the United Kingdom, who equally owned a Lana Marks handbag.
She emigrated from South Africa at the age of 23, after getting married to a British psychiatrist who had worked at the Groote Schuur hospital in Cape Town.
In her youth, she was an avid tennis player who participated in various professional tournaments, such as the French Open. Because the media are disputing the fact that she played tennis professionally, she has released the above photograph of herself at Roland Garros in 1978.