Dirt under the Nails: A Tammy Taylor exposé

Tammy Taylor filed a R1.9 billion lawsuit against Peet and Melany Viljoen over a nail salon trademark in South Africa.

Tammy Taylor filed a R1.9 billion lawsuit against Peet and Melany Viljoen over a nail salon trademark in South Africa.

Published Apr 19, 2024


What began as a promising venture turned sour for hopeful franchisees as the South African nail and beauty industry was rocked by legal turbulence and the Tammy Taylor brand became synonymous with scandal.

In the latest developments, the CEO and founder of Tammy Taylor Nails, announced the initiation of a landmark $100 million (around R1.9 billion) lawsuit against the two South Africans responsible for the brand locally — Peet and Melany Viljoen.

Tammy Taylor is an American high-quality nail product that is synonymous with celebrities like Billie Eilish. Tammy Taylor, 61, opened her first nail salon in 1981, at age 18 with $400 (around R7,672) in her pocket.

Two years later, she launched her namesake product line, which has become a global player in the professional space.

Tammy Taylor, 61, opened her first nail salon in 1981and launched her namesake product line two years later. Picture: Supplied / Tammy Taylor Facebook

Tammy Taylor Strikes Back with $100 Million Lawsuit

The once promising venture was first announced in 2016 by Melany Viljoen.

It eventually culminated in Tammy Taylor's termination of the licensing agreement with the Viljoens amid ongoing allegations of trademark misuse and questionable business practices. A claim the couple denied.

In an unexpected twist of events, Taylor published a video on her social media platforms on March 28, alleging that the Viljoens had illegally used her name to sell franchises, counterfeited and sold her products, forged her signature and that many more infractions had been documented.

Taylor also indicated that she had been threatened and harassed by the Viljoens and that she would no longer be a victim of their abuse.

Taylor followed this up with another announcement that she had filed a lawsuit for $100 million (around R1.9 billion).

IOL confirmed that the lawsuit had been filed on April 2, with the US District Court for the Southern District of California against Melany Viljoen, Peet Viljoen, and Tammy Taylor Global Franchising — a company registered on CIPC in Melany Viljoen’s name.

The Viljoens lashed back with a series of videos on social media. The videos claim Taylor did not own the Tammy Taylor trademark or have a product to licence.

Peet Viljoen released a video on Instagram where he briefly referred to a document that he alleged demonstrated that he owned the Tammy Taylor trademark in South Africa.

The claims made by Viljoen on the ownership of the trademark were previously debunked in the October 30, 2022, Carte Blanche episode.

Karel Bredenkamp, an intellectual property lawyer from Bredenkamp IP, had highlighted that the trademark in South Africa was owned by Tammy Taylor Inc. in the United States.

In response to a question regarding the lawsuit in an interview on 94.7 Drive with Thando from April 11, the Viljoens indicated they were suing Tammy Taylor and that there was no lawsuit against them.

Peet and Melany Viljoen. File picture: Supplied / Facebook

IOL’s inquiry to Taylor regarding the lawsuit was referred to Patrick Kelly, the legal representative of Tammy Taylor Nails Inc. in this lawsuit.

In an e-mail, that included a copy of the complaint that was filed against the Viljoens in the United States, Kelly indicated the following:

“After April 2022, the Viljoens had no right to use the Tammy Taylor Nails name in any respect and had no affiliation with Tammy Taylor Nails.

“But the Viljoens continue to use Tammy Taylor Nails to promote their business and products. They are selling salons and using the name Tammy Taylor Nails to do so,” Kelly wrote.

“They are also selling products with the name Tammy Taylor Nails, which are not manufactured by Tammy Taylor Nails. They have also created an entity called Tammy Taylor Global Franchising to allegedly sell franchise nail salon stores under the Tammy Taylor Nails name.

“They have no right to do so.”

“Moreover, they are repeatedly misleading the public by claiming to own Tammy Taylor Nails and/or the rights to the name Tammy Taylor Nails. All of these acts amount to trademark infringement and are damaging the Tammy Taylor Nails name, brand, and image in amount believed to be no less than $100,000,000.”

In response, the Viljoens told IOL they had filed an application with the High Court in Pretoria to declare they are the rightful owners of the Tammy Taylor trademark.

“The only litigation between us, and the Americans have been sent to you just now. Also proof that [the] same was served on the lawyers of Tammy Rae Taylor,” Peet Viljoen told IOL.

“On the Instagram of Melany we have published a full statement. Also on my Instagram,” he said.

“The trademark was registered in [the Republic of South Africa] RSA. The franchise concept was designed in RSA. There is no Tammy-salons in [the US]. There never was.”

Viljoen also supplied IOL with the court application to prove they own the trademark to the Tammy Taylor brand.

In response to the claims that franchisees had gotten a raw deal, Peet Viljoen told IOL that salons break the promise they have to the public.

“As far as disgruntled franchisees go, we can only comment that our brand is a promise to the public. We build nails that will not lift or break or discolour,” he said.

“We treat clients like queens. Salons that break that promise have been the architect of their own demise. Statistically only 30% of franchisees are superstars, regardless of the franchisor,” said Viljoen.

“The first Tammy Taylor (Moreletapark) is still thriving 10 years after inception. I think the economy or Covid-19 or load shedding separated the good from the average.”

Tammy Taylor brand launches in South Africa

In 2016 there was great excitement for nail and beauty enthusiasts when Melany Viljoen announced that Tammy Taylor nail products would be available in South Africa.

Peet and Mel Viljoen. Picture: Instagram

Melany Viljoen, 38, one of the cast members on Season 1 or the Real Housewives of Pretoria with her husband, Peet Viljoen, 55, a businessman with a controversial history, were issued with the rights to sell Tammy Taylor products in Africa and Australia.

In 2018, there was further excitement when the Viljoens received the rights from Tammy Taylor Inc. in the US, to develop Tammy Taylor Nail salons in Africa.

On a SABC 3 Expresso Show interview on November 12, 2018, Tammy Taylor and Melany Viljoen announced the opportunity to train South Africans without formal education as Tammy Taylor nail technicians and for South Africans without business experience to become franchise owners.

The Viljoens would be the master license holders for the development of Tammy Taylor nail salons in Africa. This was a dream come true for many South Africans who had never thought it would be possible to own and run their own beauty salons.

The harsh reality of hopeful Tammy Taylor Franchisees

Exposés aired by eNCA’s Checkpoint and M-Net’s Carte Blanche between 2019 and 2022 showcased how the initial euphoria was short-lived for a number of Tammy Taylor franchisees when their dreams turned into nightmares.

Besides allegations of questionable business dealings and bullying tactics employed by the Viljoens, there were also the heart-wrenching personal accounts of people losing their investments, that included their cashed-out pension funds, and their salons.

Tammy Taylor Terminates Licensing Agreement with the Viljoens

On October 30, 2022 startling revelations were made in the Carte Blanche story titled Tammy Taylor franchise fracas.

According to an announcement by Tammy Taylor on Instagram, the Viljoens no longer held the master licensing agreement for the development of Tammy Taylor salons in Africa or the distribution license for Tammy Taylor products.

In the programme it was also alleged that the Viljoens were purchasing their nail products from Keystone Cosmetics in the Netherlands and then packaging the products in Tammy Taylor branded containers in South Africa.

According to an article in the Citizen on September 22, 2022, James McQueen, Taylor’s lawyer, indicated “…as a result of the termination of the relationship between the parties, Viljoen no longer has a right to use the trademarks as part of her business name or domain name or to otherwise suggest that she is still affiliated with or endorsed by Tammy Taylor Inc.”

The Viljoens disputed the allegations made in the media during an interview on eNCA on May 21, 2023.

During this interview Peet Viljoen said: “Mel and I were bullied by some people in the media. You will find that Tammy Taylor has never spoken to the media. We initially had only a distribution agreement and then she insisted on a license agreement, which she couldn’t do because she did not invent the product. The nail products, she did not invent it. She just found the best of some of it and many of the products we developed together.”