Fran Drescher to be Named U.S. Public Diplomacy Envoy

"The Nanny" star to promote U.S. image abroad.

ByABC News
September 5, 2008, 1:33 PM

Sept. 5, 2008— -- Fran Drescher, star of the 1990s sitcom hit "The Nanny," is taking on a new role, this time on a global stage.

On Monday, Sept. 8, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice will name the Emmy and Golden Globe winner the newest member of the State Department's Public Diplomacy Envoy program. Drescher will join the ranks of figure skater Michelle Kwan and baseball legend Cal Ripken Jr.

Like the other envoys, Drescher will travel the world promoting America's image. The State Department, which oversees the program, says she will focus her energy on issues close to her heart, namely women's health and cancer awareness and prevention.

Drescher, herself a cancer survivor, founded Cancer Schmancer, a nonprofit organization that works to ensure women's cancers are diagnosed in their early stages, when they are most curable.

Her first trip abroad will be to eastern Europe later this month. The State Department says Drescher will travel to Romania, Hungary, Kosovo and Poland. She is also expected to take a trip to the Middle East.

The actress, known for her trademark nasal voice, Queens accent and staccato laugh, also appeared in the movies "Saturday Night Fever," "This Is Spinal Tap," "The Beautician and the Beast" and "Jack."

Kwan, and Ripkin who were named as envoys in 2006 and 2007, respectively, have been traveling the world using the universal language of sports to promote understanding among young people.

Drescher, who will be the first nonathlete envoy, was offered the job over a year ago by then undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs Karen Hughes, a former White House adviser to President Bush.

Hughes, who has since left Washington to return to her native Texas, described the Special Envoy program in a 2007 speech as an attempt to "reach out to that vital audience of young people" and provide a way "to counter extremism and foster greater tolerance and respect for diversity and differences."

Some in the diplomatic community reportedly expressed doubt about the chance of the program making a real difference. In response, Hughes told The New York Times in 2007, "What does that mean, that we shouldn't try? Of course we should. We need to engage, even if people don't always agree with us."