Lana J. Marks
Ambassador Lana Marks was sworn in as U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa in 2019, and served until 2021. South African-born, she possesses a deep knowledge of South Africa and its diverse peoples, cultures, languages, customs, and politics. Growing up in the Eastern Cape, Marks learned isiXhosa and Afrikaans, and eventually attended the University of Witswatesrand. Marks’ skills, knowledge, and accomplishments gave her rare insight into serving as the U.S. Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa.
While serving as ambassador, Marks championed womens’ and youth rights, while pursuing an apolitical agenda of advancing the American cause in South Africa. While leading a complex mission that included three consulates and over 1,400 staff, Marks helped further cultivate the bilateral relationship between South Africa and the United States, with groundbreaking achievements in the realms of agricultural trade, automobile production, alternative energy, water reclamation, and multi-billion dollar infrastructure projects, to name a few.
Prior to her appointment, Ambassador Marks served as the Chief Executive Officer of the LANA MARKS fashion brand, which she founded in 1987. Over the course of 30 years, she developed the label into an international brand, operating throughout the United States and across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East. Ambassador Marks is a member of the prestigious Council of Fashion Designers of America, and, in 2000 and 2002, was selected as the handbag and accessory consultant to the Academy Awards. In 2001, she was one of 50 American CEOs – and the sole fashion representative – invited to the White House for the Women Business Leaders’ Forum.
A longtime advocate of women’s empowerment, Ambassador Marks has served on Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government's Women's Leadership Board and as a distinguished speaker at Georgetown University's Women's Leadership Initiative. She represented the United States twice for the Women Business Leadership Summit in Helsinki and is a supporting member of the Council of Women World Leaders. In 2002, the Star Group selected her as one of 40 businesswomen to be honored as a leading woman entrepreneur of the world. Ambassador Marks has joined forces with dozens of charities to advance breast cancer research and support children and the arts.
A former competitive tennis player, she is married with two children and is the proud grandmother of three grandchildren.